Thursday, August 08, 2013

WOMAD 2013

8 August 2013

With so much exotic and unusual music from all over the world on show, it might seem surprising to pick a brass band from Manchester as my highlight of the 2013 WOMAD Festival at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. But Riot Jazz are a brass band in the New Orleans tradition of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band or the The Hot 8 Brass Band (reviewed here in January 2013) and their set in the Big Red Tent at WOMAD was thrilling and incredibly engaging. Riot Jazz come with their own irrepressible compere, MC Chunky, whose persuasive patter in a strong Manchester accent had an audience of around two thousand leaping up and down for an hour. Wonderful cover versions of 'Don't You Want Me Baby?' and 'Living on a Prayer' sent us all away smiling (have a listen to Other high points of my weekend at WOMAD included the amazing ethereal Tuvan throat singing of Huun Huur Tu, impressively competitive duets of Indian classical music from Debapriya Adhykary and Samanwaya Sarkar, another chance to see the great Malian singer Rokia Traore (reviewed here in December 2008) and Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino – an excitingly energetic band from the heel on Italy's boot who play (and dance) traditional pizzica folk music with an infectious enthusiasm. I wasn't able to stay to see Brazilian legend (and former Minister of Culture) Gilberto Gil (reviewed here in July 2010) close the festival on the Sunday evening so it was great to have had the chance to see Gil and Peter Gabriel in conversation on BBC Radio 4's 'Loose Ends' on the Radio 3 stage on Saturday. Like going to see BBC Radio Scotland's 'MacAulay & Co' before a day at the Edinburgh Fringe, 'Loose Ends' provided the chance to sample several acts performing at the festival in bite-sized chunks and reminded me of Charlie Gillet's much missed Radio London broadcasts from WOMAD. I saw a total of 18 complete performances over the weekend. I really enjoyed Bwani Junction – an indie rock band from Edinburgh who play with an African guitar sound that makes them seem like a cross between Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys and Big Country. These Scottish lads have some authentic African links – the father of guitarist Dan Muir was the manager of the Bhundu Boys (who played at the very first WOMAD Festival, 31 years ago) and Dan has apparently been playing alongside the Bhundus' Rise Kagona since he was 10 years old (which can't have been that long ago as all four members of Bwani Junction looked about 12 to me!). I should also give a special mention to David Wax Museum from Boston, Massachusetts, who play an upbeat mix of old-fashioned Americana with a Mexican influence. The band, who put out their recordings on their own label and have only just managed to arrange distribution to Europe, were making their first visit to England and played a fantastic set on the Charlie Gillett stage on the Saturday evening just as torrential rain arrived. At any other point in the weekend (which was dominated by glorious sunshine) they would undoubtedly have attracted a crowd numbering in the thousands. Instead, they performed to around 200 people huddling under umbrellas. Nevertheless they put on a magnificent show and deserve a much bigger audience. You can see a selection of my photos from the 2013 WOMAD Festival at:

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