Tuesday, August 01, 2017

WOMAD 2017

1 August 2017

I have been writing here about my annual visit to the WOMAD Festival every year since 2006, so regular readers will be expecting a list of my key highlights, a boast about how many bands I saw and some comments on the weather – and I don’t plan to disappoint you! This year it was good to get the chance to see again some old favourites as well as some great new discoveries. It was WOMAD 2009 when I last saw the great Wassalou singer from Mali, Oumou Sangaré (reviewed here in July 2009 and March 2009), and it was wonderful to see her on great form again on the Open Air Stage this weekend. I wrote here in January 2016 about ‘Junun’ – the wonderfully hard-to-categorise album of music by the Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, recorded with a troupe of Sufi qawwali musicians and Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood – and it was great to get the chance to see this music performed live by Shye Ben Tzur & Rajasthan Express on Friday. One of the most bizarre moments of the weekend was watching Dorit Chrysler and Charlie Draper from the New York Theremin Society performing a mixture of classical, jazz and contemporary music on the original electronic instrument – I want a theremin! Talking of bizarre, it was a joy to discover the brilliant Spooky Men’s Chorale from the Blue Mountains of Australia. As their own publicity says “Men. Singing Songs. Some of them are funny.” Their idiosyncratic mixture of dead-pan comedy, pathos and beautiful harmonies felt like a combination of the amazing Chumbawamba performance at WOMAD 2010 (reviewed here in July 2010) and the legendary Flying Pickets. Here’s a flavour of the Spooky Men’s Chorale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiFJL4IrH7Y. And another standout moment in an increasingly bizarre weekend was watching a 28-piece brass band playing Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’. Tubular Brass, arranged and conducted by Sandy Smith, also accompanied the young electronic music experimentalist Hannah Peel in her new work ‘Mary Casio’. But my favourite performances from WOMAD 2017 were all from the Baltic. Estonian fiddler Maarja Nuut and the Estonia folk trio Trad.Attack! both create very modern music from traditional folk sources. It has been eleven years since I last saw one of my favourite bands, the great Finnish folk/rock band Värttinä, live (reviewed here at WOMAD in August 2006) and it was fantastic to see their three female vocalists performing as Värttinä Vocal Trio on Saturday. They were joined by the English folk star Eliza Carthy for a wonderful English/Finnish version of ‘Three Drunken Maidens’. But my favourite song was the beautiful ‘Emoton’ which you can hear at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjsSMIXOnn0. For the record I beat last year’s tally of 22 bands, seeing 23 performances in total last weekend. And the weather was a mixed bag this year – hot, sunny, cold, wet, windy and very muddy by the end of the weekend. You can see a selection of my WOMAD 2017 photos at: https://culturaloutlook.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/WOMAD2017.

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At 12:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review! Evoked memories of a fantastic time. Photos are good too! Here is our review https://bizarreculture.com/lost-in-womad-festival-2017/ which is mostly about the side of the festival apart from the music. Will publish our interviews with Eliza Carthy, !Gubi family, Mamadou Diabaté and Ladysmith Black Mambazo very soon.

Really love this blog and will drop by more regularly. Thank you

At 9:44 am, Blogger Robin Simpson said...

Thanks very much!


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