Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WOMAD 2015

29 July 2015

I may have been tempting fate twelve months ago when I wrote here (in August 2014) that “2014 was the hottest WOMAD I can remember”. This year's WOMAD Festival, at Charlton Park in Wiltshire, was much more reminiscent of the infamous 2007 festival (reviewed here in August 2007), when weeks of rain led to a sea of mud across the festival site. Last weekend wasn't quite that bad – the ground had been very dry before the rain started on Friday, and Saturday's weather was really good – but continuous rain on Friday and Sunday made festival-going hard work. If you have never had the festival liquid mud experience I can assure you it is even worse than you are imagining! Nevertheless I saw some great music (and quite a lot of great dancing too this year). I will particularly cherish the memories of two performances from South Africa – veteran female singers the Mahotella Queens, now in their seventies but still creating glorious vocal harmonies and exuberant dance moves, and, at the other end of the age spectrum, the joyful young a capella trio The Soil who had a similarly engaging stage presence with a very different style of music. Another highlight was the final WOMAD appearance of the English folk big band, Bellowhead, who I first encountered at WOMAD in 2006. About to start their farewell tour, Bellowhead gave a typically rousing performance on the Open Air Stage on Friday evening which drew an enormous crowd, despite the pouring rain. As well as the musical performances at this year's festival I enjoyed a talk by Richard Ranft, Head of Sound and Vision at The British Library, about '125 years of recorded music at The British Library'. I also attended the live simulcast on BBC Radio 3 and 6 Music on Sunday morning, hosted by Cerys Matthews, Mary Ann Kennedy and Lopa Kothari, which featured short performances by a host of the festival's stars. One of my favourite discoveries of the weekend was the French/Egyptian band Orange Blossom who draw on musical influences from around the world to create thoughtful, serious music, blending electronica and Arabic rhythms. I'm really enjoying listening to their new album, 'Under The Shade of Violets'. You can see a selection of my photos from WOMAD 2015 at:

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