WOMAD this year features: Afrocubism , Alpha Blondy, Baaba Maal, Bellowhead, Dub Colossu, Ebo Taylor, Gogol Bordell0, Penguin Café, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Susheela Raman and Taraf de Haidouks
Whoever it was that declared you couldn’t have too much of a good thing was absolutely spot-on. As long as they were talking about the WOMAD Festival, that is. Because, adding to the formidable list of artists already announced, another 20 acts have been confirmed as heading towards rural Wiltshire come late July.
Leading this latest pack –with no small amount of swagger and style – come Alabama 3, Brixton’s finest blues/dub/house/country practitioners, the raggle-taggle brigade who patrol the wide-open territory between Hank Williams and Happy Mondays. There’s blues elsewhere too – the young man known as Bombino is the latest Saharan star to shine in the desert blues firmament and can claim none other than Keith Richards among his fans. Sub-Saharan Africa also makes its contribution: Roland Tchakounte might hail from Cameroon, but his playing owes just as much to Chicago blues. From neighbouring Nigeria comes Asa (pronounced ‘Asha’). She’s not singing the blues, but this singer-songwriter injects her compositions with plenty of pain and passion in a vocal style that’s not dissimilar to that of Erykah Badu or Lauryn Hill.
WOMAD is a celebration of the varied voices of the world, a salute to difference and diversity, an assault on the forces of homogenisation. So it’s no surprise to find plenty of performers on this summer’s bill who are dedicated – nay, devoted – to preserving long-cherished traditions. Although they hail from Havana (and somewhat contrary to their name), The Creole Choir of Cuba are actually flame-keepers of the music of the adjacent island of Hispaniola, specifically the part known as Haiti. This ten-strong choir keenly protect the music of their Haitian ancestors. AnDa Union are doing a similar job for the remote grasslands of Mongolia; this eight-strong acoustic group come armed with region-specific fiddles and flutes. And it’s a similar case in Egypt where El Tanbura are the celebrated guardians of the beautiful acoustic sounds of their hometown of Port Said. Proving that their generations-old music retains its relevancy, this group of elders recently performed to an ecstatic reception in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the recent uprising.
Where El Tanbura bring venerable wisdom to the party, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis bring youthful enthusiasm. Not that they particularly represent the here and now. These siblings are unrepentant throwbacks, serving up a mouthwatering platter of rockabilly and skiffle. Rua MacMillan is another young musician whose playing belies his tender years and this Highlander’s virtuosity on the fiddle has already bagged him a cabinet of awards. Then comes Chapelier Fou (a name which translates as Mad Hatter) – a young Frenchman who performs as a one-man band through the medium of electronica.
There are plenty of other young blades around. One hot tip for the weekend is Smerin’s Anti-Social Club, an 18-legged groove machine from Bristol who come heavy on the funk, ska and dub. Like Smerin’s, Jazz Jamaica also blow heartily into their horns. The venerable, evergreen collective never fail to please with their jazzy versions of ska classics – and, for that matter, their ska readings of jazz standards. While Jazz Jamaica peel back the years, Dub Pistols face forward for their headspinning mix of dub, ska, hip-hop, big beat, techno and punk which they happily describe as “renegade futuristic skank”.
Over in the cool shade of Charlton Park’s arboretum, the remaining artists to grace the BBC Radio 3 Stage can also now be revealed. As ever, it’s a stylistically and geographically diverse selection, one that joins the dots from the chill of the Arctic Circle to the stickiness of the Louisiana swamplands. Ayarkhaan are our Arctic guests, an all-woman trio from northern Norway who accompany their striking vocal gymnastics by playing their local mouth harps. Louisiana is represented by Feufollet, an Elvis Costello-endorsed new-generation Cajun band who mix those familiar sawing fiddles and wheezing accordions with an indie-rock sensibility. The next star-in-waiting off the Malian conveyor belt of musical excellence is Fatoumata Diawara, a honey-voiced former backing singer for Oumou Sangare. Another soulful singer, this time from the Democratic Republic of Congo via France, is Gasandji whose music is simultaneously from both everywhere and nowhere in particular.
Among tomorrow’s starlets come the seasoned collective known as Dissidenten. Hailing from Germany but playing a cross-pollinated sound that leans heavily on North Africa, they’ve been at the forefront of the European world music scene since long before the label ‘world music’ was coined. And finally we look towards London Town for our last two announcements. Playing the Indian veena (a precursor to the sitar), Hari Sivanesan will be playing both solo and with Cuban violinist Omar Puente, while the nine-piece Lokkhi Terra play adventurous jazz that bounces back and forth between Bangladesh and Cuba.
- Adult Weekend Ticket: £135
- Teenager (14-17 Year Olds) Weekend Ticket: £70
- Disabled Weekend Ticket: £135 (carer, with the correct credentials, comes free)
- Thursday Ticket £25
- All Children (13 and under): Free
- Please note that all minors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult