Friday, August 03, 2012

WOMAD 2012

3 August 2012

This year the WOMAD Festival was celebrating its 30th anniversary. It was a glorious weekend at Charlton Park in Wiltshire and there was plenty of fantastic music and more than a little wonderful dance (the ‘D’ in WOMAD). I saw 27 bands including 15 complete sessions – slightly fewer than last year because I left early on Friday to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The highlights for me were:

  •  the amazing young Azerbaijani mugham singer Nazaket Teymurova – haunting classical music from Central Asia (listen at:;
  • the excellent young Cape Breton fiddler Chrissy Crowley;
  • the Alaev Family – a Jewish family from Tajikistan, now resident in Israel who play the music of Tajikistan and the Bukharan region of neighbouring Uzbekistan with enormous exuberance and three generations together on stage, including their 80-year old grandfather;
  • the polyphonic multilingual harmonies of Chet Nuneta, featuring three female vocalists from France, Spain and Italy whose sound reminded me of my favourite Finnish group Värttinä (reviewed here in August 2006);
  • the engaging songs of ‘the Norwegian Kate Bush’, Ane Brun;
  • the Peatbog Faeries – high energy dance beats with Scottish fiddle and bagpipes;
  • and the South African rock group Hot Water, whose breezy guitar-based music would sound familiar to anyone who knows Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album.

But the best gig of the festival was definitely The Correspondents: WOMAD doesn’t feature many British groups and those who make it onto the programme are usually something special. The Correspondents mix swing-era big band records with contemporary electronic beats. The result is cool, serious and ridiculous. Their sound reminded me a lot of the French group Caravan Palace (reviewed here in July 2009) who play the gypsy jazz swing of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli to pounding high-tempo electronic beats and the Greek duo Imam Baildi (reviewed here in May 2009) who take old Greek tunes from the 40's, 50's and 60's (from their father's collection of 78s) and add modern instruments and beats. The Correspondents gave an incredible performance with some of the most energetic and eccentric dancing I have ever seen (try to imagine Doctor Who impersonating Michael Jackson). Frontman Mr Bruce is a fascinating and slightly disturbing performer – see – and his set included the first crowd-surfing I can remember seeing at WOMAD, an experience he recovered from by having a nice cup of tea!

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