WOMAD 2015, Charlton Park | reviews, news & interviews
WOMAD 2015, Charlton Park
WOMAD 2015, Charlton Park
World Music Fest gets muddy but Senegalese and systems folk group shine
Now was the summer of our disco tent. The disco tent in question backstage was not jumping as much as in previous years – somehow strutting your Travolta moves in wellies doesn’t quite cut it. A glam tribute band at Molly’s Bar on Thursday night, knocking out Bolan and Bowie numbers dressed in cheap sci-fi tat were hugely entertaining though.
Friday was a washout, with nonstop rain, but there were gems – like Tinariwen (pictured, below) whose music is more roll than rock, something to do with how the camels move in the Sahara. Though their main man Ibrahim seems to have been replaced by someone who looks like him – a bit like Keith Richards being substituted for his nephew – they have real old-style authenticity, though. You believe what they are saying even if you aren’t sure what it is and even if you did wouldn’t necessarily agree (Secession for the Tuaregs from Mali didn’t pan out so well what with the Islamicists' black flags hijacking the rebellion, did it?) .
More keen to pump up the audience and mostly succeeding were the Dad hip-hop of De La Soul. It must be tricky to keep your enthusiasm for the numbers you have to do like “Me, Myself and I” from 3 Foot High and Rising – now 25 years old. Even if I find it tedious to be instructed to “party” every two minutes, they certainly faked enthusiasm well if it wasn't entirely real. The audience loved them, anyway – partly because they are at the hippy/stoner end of the hip-hop spectrum, and also for their espousal of peace and love against gangster misogyny and glorification of guns.
On Saturday the skies cleared and kicked off with the veteran Senegalese star Cheikh Lo, now pushing 60, to celebrate the sun coming out. His warm voice and funk-tinged West African grooves cheered everyone up, as did Mbongwana Star, a Congolese group who are more rock than roll. It was formed as a spin-off from Staff Benda Bilili, the disabled music group who were famously discovered living in Kinshasa Zoo and subsequently the subject of an excellent film. The two front men, both in wheelchairs, gave it some attitude and the band showed the fiercest energy of the weekend.
One of the warmest responses was for Aurelio, the garifuna singer from Honduras.The garifunas are a particular mix of indigenous Indians and escaped slaves who have their own religious and musical practices. Aurelio’s friend Andy Palacio brought this music to global attention before his untimely death and Aurelio is continuing the fight, with panache.There were significant queues for a CD signed by the man after his show.
As ever, the most interesting new music was waiting to be discovered on the smaller stages, such as the BBC Radio 3 stage named after the late Charlie Gillett. (Alan Davey, the new controller of Radio 3, turned up and managed to avoid the question of why there are no World Music Proms this year.)
Put a great Arabic dance troupe or something in there and it would have been astounding
Ibeyi were a highly anticated group – twin daughters of the late, great Cuban percussionist Anga Diaz who sing mainly in English and Yoruba, their twin empathy vocally a wonder. But their rhythms were mainly simple, North American electronic beats and in the context of WOMAD seemed rather dull. More wacky and brilliant were L’Hijaz Car whose original instrumentation of bass clarinet, oud, percussion, double bass and tarhu (spike fiddle) brought together everything from Stravinsky, to Ethiopian and other jazz.
Also from the more intellectual wing of world music were a group with the fetching name of Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, surprisingly tight and like some kind of unlikely post-modern Soft Machine. The best sound was probably at the Bowers and Wilkins tent – where I caught the enjoyably nerdy electronica of one man and his prepared piano called Klavikon, complete with geometric pulsing black and white images – thank Allah I had refrained from smoking anything stronger than a roll-up. Put a great Arabic dance troupe or something in there and it would have been astounding.
Of course, some of the best fusions were random – sitting having a curry listening to Asha Bhosle on the sound system while some Ghanian traditional drummers bashed out terrific polyrhythms on the next stage worked a treat.
Balancing a certain rigour of systems music and folk were Spiro, who were lapping up the adulation of the crowd at the Ecotricity stage. The good thing about festivals is that it’s a chance to re-assess groups. The last time I saw Spiro, I thought their stage presence wooden and their records better than their live act, but last weekend, perhaps buoyed by a partisan crowd, it was the opposite; they soared amongst the woods, having a ball.
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