Tuesday, July 30, 2019

WOMAD 2019

30 July 2019

My annual visit to the WOMAD Festival, in Charlton Park near Malmesbury in Wiltshire, was slightly shorter than usual this year as we were attending a wedding in Lancashire last Friday. But I made it to WOMAD for Saturday and Sunday and experienced near perfect weather – dry and warm, not too hot and not a drop of rain. The music was pretty good too. I saw 14 full performances from across the globe. My highlights included the other worldly ethereal sounds of South Saami singer Marja Mortensson from Norway joiking accompanied by electronics, percussion and tuba. The former child soldier turned rapper Emmanuel Jal from South Sudan is a brilliant showman, performing here with his sister Nyaruach from whom he was separated for 20 years. I enjoyed the exuberant set by Balkan brass/klezmer band Lemon Bucket Orkestra from Toronto. And it was great to see ‘Kraftwerk Re:Werk’ - a  symphonic reworking of the classic 1977 Kraftwerk album ‘Trans-Europe Express’ by composers Charlotte Harding and Lloyd Coleman. The performance of this 40-minute, 6-movement piece by Army of Generals and the British Paraorchestra (the orchestra of professional disabled musicians originally formed for the London 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony) conducted by Charles Hazlewood was stunning. I also really enjoyed seeing Orquesta Akokan – a gloriously old-fashioned band from Cuba playing traditional mambo and swing from the 1940s and 1950s. But my pick of the festival was the six piece vocal group San Salvador, from the Massif Central in southern France, who sing in Occitan, mostly a capella but with occasional drums and other percussion. Their scrunchy vocal harmonies (sung by three men and three women) reminded me of my favourite Finnish folk/rock band Värttinä (reviewed here in August 2006) and of the famous Sardinian singing shepherds, Tenores de Bitti (reviewed here in June 2007). I loved how theatrical each of San Salvador’s long and varied songs were, while being performed with a serious intensity. There was no imploring the audience to clap along nor any need to whoop up the crowd – just a hypnotic performance of vocal drones, rapid fire chanting (sounding at times like the auctioneer in a livestock sale) and complex accelerating rhythms. And the massive crowd in the Siam Tent responded with the most genuine and prolonged wave of adulation of the weekend. Take a look at San Salvador performing at Womex 2018 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgUhP9qQYBw And you can see a selection of my photos from WOMAD 2019 at: https://culturaloutlook.blogspot.com/search/label/WOMAD2019

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