Etran Finatawa are not just Niger’s best-dressed nomad band. These turbanned, face-painted tribesmen unite the sounds of the Tuareg and the Wodaabe, two distinct ethnic groups who have often competed for resources but whose musical traditions complement each other in ways hypnotic and magical. Think drums, handclaps and polyphonic choruses; bluesy guitar lines and loping camel rhythms. Once heard (and seen), never forgotten.
Having conquered their home country of New Zealand, seven-piece roots/dub/reggae/jazz/soul outfit Fat Freddy’s Drop have garnered an international, celebrity-laden fan base after racking up some legendary festival appearances. Hi-tek and laid back, served with skanking Pacific swing, each of their live performances is a one-off. “It belongs to the audience on the night,” they say.
Malian diva Oumou Sangare is one of Africa’s great voices. After a few years variously spent setting up a farm, being a UN Ambassador, importing cars from China for sale and performing each weekend at her own hotel in Bamako, the charismatic ‘Songbird of Wassoulou’ has burst back with a dazzling new album, Seya (Joy) and an all-stops-out electro-acoustic live show that has fans leaping onstage to dance alongside her. Prepare to be uplifted.
Grammy-winner Solomon Burke is an entrepreneur of a different sort: he owns a chain of mortuaries. He’s a bishop in the House of God for All People. He’s a father of twenty-one. He’s also an unforgettable performer. Dressed in bespoke sequinned pinstripes, seated on an oversized throne, this former stalwart of Atlantic Records’ ‘soul clan’ – at Womad with his band - blends gospel, grit and refinement with loved-up, low-down ease.
The Ethiopiques unites some of the biggest stars of Ethiopia’s golden age. Mahmoud Ahmed (Africa Award winner, 2007 BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards) is a living legend and the Red Sea’s most seductive soul singer. Gétatchéw Mékurya is a saxophonist with one foot in African tradition and the other in showbiz. Alémayéhu Eshété is has been called the ‘Ethiopian Elvis’. Underpinned by a ten-piece band this is Ethio-jazz as it’s meant to be: funky, defiant and spiritual.
Part Aboriginal soul revue, part civil rights statement, the Black Arm Band present music of the Australian Indigenous experience in an arresting multi-media show. Among the sprawling line-up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists are icons such as bluesman Archie Roach and his wife, Ruby Hunter; didgeridu player Mark Atkins and the ‘Aboriginal Elvis’, Dan Sultan. Music as a symbol of resilience and hope, wrapped up in the spirit of reconciliation.
Winner of Best Artist at the inaugural Songlines Music Awards, Rokia Traoré is a woman at her creative peak. This Paris-based daughter of a Malian diplomat sings her self-penned songs in English, French and her native Bambara, wields a Gretsch in true rock chick-stylee and fronts a band that melds West African rhythms with rock, funk and jazz. “I’m trying to make more respected something old,” says Traoré - who happens to be drop dead gorgeous, too.
From the vast, windblown plateaus of Western China comes singer / songwriter Mamer, who made his name on the Beijing home-grown music circuit. Revitalising ancient songs and Grassland instruments of his heritage, his beautiful sound is described as folk (not folkloric) music with a kick and a twist, with one foot in the past and another in the future.
A true bohemian of Buenos Aires, Melingo, will descend on Womad this year, bringing with him his infamous and fiery tangos. His unorthodox and passionate songs will pulverise the barriers between the sacred and the profane.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble were born into the rich, progressive jazz scene cultivated in Chicago in the 60’s and 70’s. The seven brothers that make up the ensemble have strived to make their musical roots and heritage speak to the modern generation, infusing jazz arrangements with hip-hop sensibility.
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