WOMAD 2010, Charlton Park | New music reviews, news & interviews
WOMAD 2010, Charlton Park
An entrancing experience full of wonderful music
“We all come from the same DNA, as Desmond Tutu is always reminding us, and we shouldn’t be surprised that these musical collaborations take place - and work so well.” That was Peter Gabriel's comment on the music at WOMAD last weekend, a festival he co-founded in 1981, now crammed with more and more bands revealing obvious genetic connections.“
Gabriel could have been talking about the entire programme but was, in fact, standing on the Siam stage to present the Songlines Award for Cross-Cultural Collaborations to Justin Adams (UK) and Juldeh Camara (Gambia/UK, pictured below). They had just finished one of the most sensational concerts of the weekend, and guitarist Adams and one-stringed fiddle player (riti) Camara, were still grinningly punch-drunk. “You can hear the links in the extraordinary music we just heard,” Gabriel pronounced. The long set featured a series of explosive build-ups, crescendos of dialogues between the two men, two continents, and melodies which floated in the hot atmosphere and united the audience in a trance-like ecstasy of African rock'n'roll dancing which matched the music.
Gabriel has worked with Justin Adams’s diverse productions for years, and just released a CD of the Adams-Camara project as three long tracks, The Trance Sessions. Created in Gabriel’s Real World studio, the laboratory where cross-cultural experiments took place for over a decade and yielded unexpected results and connections, here involves familiar genetic routes between Adams’s American guitar blues and Camara’s traditional West African Fula instruments, song structures and vocal style. Key to the sound is Adams’s passionate electric blues style; we heard the mighty Bo Diddley beat (think The Rolling Stones’s "Not Fade Away") and sharper, more rooted Delta blues, twangy psychelia and repetitive, trance-like melodies which always fit into Camara’s exquisitely raw, strident fiddle-playing, his long sawing riffs clashing and harmonising with the guitar. Apart from being utterly mesmeric, their performances are lessons in precisely what Peter Gabriel was talking about.
Trance-inducing music permeated many WOMAD sessions - not the Nineties electronic Ibiza trance sound but music by virtuoso players with the skill to raise the mood of a huge crowd towards ecstasy. And not necessarily ecstasy in formal religious definitions but through the energy, intensity and passion of the players which unites the listeners. Even sitting or standing amongst massive audiences and the chaos of cheering and talking, the colours of costumes (for festivals are now stages for guests as well as performers), we can tune into these knowingly transcendental qualities. It's not a new element of WOMAD - it's already happening inside every iPod headphone set.
The master of trance, the late and legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, lives on now through the singing of his nephews, Rizwan and Muazzan. They brought their version of Sufi Qawwali vocalising from Pakistan to Wiltshire, and like their uncle, got a vast audience floating with them towards whatever kind of deity was appropriate. With the two soloists came two harmoniums carrying the extended chordal melodies alongside a piping tabla's beats, and a chorus of five singers supporting their long, emotional, sung dialogues, wordless and sacred phrases, all building intensity as they make connection with god. The mellower love songs, gazals, possess less manic intenstiy but no less religious quality. The harmonium style is sharper and more staccato than Nusrat's and the singers’ hand-clapping approaches flamenco with its crisp tones - the Desmond Tutu link referred to by Peter Gabriel. Their differently percussive quality brings them, like their uncle, into clubland territory through this dervish-like music.
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