tue 23/07/2024

WOMAD 2013, Charlton Park - Day One | reviews, news & interviews

WOMAD 2013, Charlton Park - Day One

WOMAD 2013, Charlton Park - Day One

WOMAD first-timer finds the joint full of old hippies but showing much promise

Mozart gets a rerub from L'Orchestre di Piazza VittorioPhotos © Tom O'Meara

I am a WOMAD virgin. “Princey will be here later, he usually frequents this bar,” a man with straggly white hair tells me as I wander aimlessly about. I think he means Prince Rogers Nelson, the diminutive rock star who sang “Purple Rain”, and I grow vaguely animated. He starts telling me about how last year he advised Prince not to shoot civilians and begins a short diatribe about how Prince is falling into the ways of his father and his grandfather. My mind is slow.

The sun and the marijuana has done its work. He means Harry, doesn’t he? My excitement fades.

WOMAD is full of gentle, reasonably well-to-do hippies, traveller hippies, the sort you meet if you hang about South East Asia or India, quite a few retired from that game with families, folks over 45 in batik clothes. There's also a multitude of teenagers called Leaf and suchlike, loads, but there appears to be very few people between 25 and 45. How strange.

Too much marijuana hand-dancing is not what you need when watching the Malmesbury School Project

I am not sneering, incidentally (although my inner punk is bridling a little). This is one of the few festivals where most of the music will be unfamiliar. WOMAD spends a fortune bringing over strange, wonderful and unheard acts from all over the world. On Sunday, for instance, GOCOO perform, a Japanese “tribal groove orchestra” which consists of seven women and four men playing large drums. It’s hard not to admire that spirit on a festival scene where bagging the Kings of Leon as a headliner is regarded as some sort of feat.

And I like the weather. Apparently it pissed down all last night but it’s so bloody hot everything’s dried up now. There’s not much on tonight – Thursday - so this report is really just an introductory taster to get you in the WOMAD mood. And me! I have to wibble about the site for aeons to get my bearings. Happily my pals Finetime and Ted Ted are here. More on them tomorrow. In short, tonight and tomorrow I’ll be paving the way for Peter Culshaw, theartsdesk’s resident expert in global music, who will be capturing Saturday and Sunday’s activities.

So, by six the clouds have dispersed as the evening draws in. The sun is so delicious that my punk contrariness is finding a way to assimilate a stall that states, “Mind, Body & Spirit Books at Bargain Prices” (although I have problems with “Flowery Things for Flowery People”). I walk to a place called The World of Wellbeing – which I know is asking for trouble - and a guy in a high-vis vest with long grey hair (it’s the look here) is teaching a male child of about eight how to chew liquorice wood. “In the end you’ll be left with a fibrous husk,” he explains.

I walk further on and two new agey oldsters are discussing “inversion therapy”. There’s a marquee doing it nearby and it seems to involve being turned upside down. Then staying upside down for a bit. Fair do’s. “The full dangling is the business,” explains one of the two. This sort of stuff is easy to mock but the general feeling of safety, well-being and overwhelming friendliness is entirely likeable. Too much marijuana hand-dancing, though, which is not what you need when watching the Malmesbury School Project, local young people all clad in white, throwing down Middle Eastern sounds to a sizeable crowd on the main stage. It’s like a whacky school fete.

That’s a passable start and Italy’s L’Orchestre di Piazza Vittorio over at the Big Red Tent are causing lots more swaying. They’re performing a version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute that takes in all manner of musical styles from around the world, running the gamut from Africa to the Far East. Some of it’s madly ambitious and exciting but some of it’s a bit forced, perhaps, although it’s difficult to resist the compere clad in Napoleonic gold-trimmed grandeur.

Rachid Taha, the Algerian-French don of punk-Rai (pictured above), meanwhile, is on the main stage for just over an hour. He’s an old hand at this sort of thing. Wearing a top hat, black shirt and white tie, he leads a band that look like a gang of straggly white-haired (of course) Marseilles gangsters. They cook up a storm, throwing in their raucous version of The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” for good measure. WOMAD is brewing something. As a newbie I’m looking forward to seeing what. One thing, though. With all these hippies and their herbal ways, you’d have thought somewhere on site would sell Kingsize Rizlas.

Until tomorrow, then.

WOMAD 2013 promotional film

I walk to a place called The World of Wellbeing – which I know is asking for trouble


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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