WOMAD is one for the posh crew, as far as festivals go this one is very polite, it's worldy wide and globally aware and does a great job in spreading the word to you too. Neat, tidy and clean, WOMAD attracts quite a smattering of the rather more discerning festival goer who demand a high standard when it comes to the facilities on offer. The WOMAD crew simply don't put up with second best which means that the toilets are clean and well serviced, there is less mess around the site than is typical at any other festival and the food, drink and stalls on offer are just that little bit more interesting and varied.
Attracting the top artists from across the globe the big pull of the WOMAD experience lies in it's ability to seek out the new, the established, the up and coming, the quirky and the edgy, giving artists the world over the chance to show the UK just what's on offer in the global market.
The range of other entertainment on offer here away from the music is broad and allows festival goers the opportunity to experience a wealth of different activities with a huge range of workshops, interactive art installations, films and debate, a focus on world cuisine and much more besides as will become clear as the weekend progresses. There's plenty of opportunity to broaden horizons and an impressive range of charities and other stalls and stands that raise awareness about what's going on around the world. For those genuinely interested in world affairs WOMAD offers a starting point for you to get further involved with the issues that might interest you and certainly offers plenty of opportunity to spark debate about those issues that should concern us all. Global political issues are raised via the music, art and dance on offer and that's clearly the big strength of WOMAD, the artists chosen to perform can genuinely touch you with their ability, their story and the road they've travelled in order to be where they are here and now. Many of these artists haven't had the breaks or the easiest ride to where they are, all have a story to tell and within WOMAD there's a great willingness to listen and learn.
Festivals can reach a very wide audience and WOMAD knows just how to tap into the right market, pitching itself just where it needs to be. WOMAD got into gear today as Lord Suffolk opened the festival telling the enthusiastic crowd that this is the fourth WOMAD to be held at Charlton Park (doesn't time fly!). The great news for WOMAD is that the license has been secured and the festival will retain its place at Charlton Park for the next five years at least. A real coup for Wiltshire placing it right at the heart of this inspirational movement.
The Drummers of Burundi took to the main stage in all their exotic, frenetic beauty, providing an inspiring set. This amazing spectacle had first been brought to WOMAD 28 years ago it was poignant to see them back again getting everyone in the right mood for the treats yet to come.
Popping over to the Siam Tent we then caught up with Calypso Rose who certainly was a woman not to be trifled with, immediately getting into banter with the crowd she called out "look at all the men in the audience - hey baldy" (directing the comment to a follicly challenged man) before launching back into her set of Gospel and Calypso. Certainly earning her title as the Calypso Queen and brought a real flavour of the Caribbean to Malmesbury leaving us all wanting more from this 70 year old diva who is still flirting with her crowd.
Down in the 'Taste the World' food area we discovered an array of fabulous organic food and found them serving tea in proper mugs! So we sat for a while watching the 'garlic platting' whilst deciding on our next move. It didn't take us long - a flick through the program revealed that DAM (who are actually Da Arabian MCs) were about to bring some Palestinian rap to Wiltshire so we hot foot it over to The Big Red tent where we find what is quite probably the set of the weekend. The guys burst onto the stage in full flow and didn't let up; this was an impressive set backed up with thought provoking videos about the situation in Palestine. The guys rap about the injustice and violence that so typifies everyday life for Palestinians, although the rapping is in Arabic there' s so much interaction with the crowd that you really do get the message which is delivered with humor, finesse and style in a sensational set. The banter with the crowd is ceaseless and we are treated to some Arabic 'Hass, Hasse and if I got that right it really means 'wicked and cool' This is protest made proper...and we have learnt that 'fuck the police' sounds the same in any language - from a quiet start these guys had the WOMAD crowd flocking to the tent within minutes. Finishing an astonishing set with 'Who's The Terrorist' and then 'Free Palestine' the political message was given out unequivocally and in style.
Over on the Charlie Gillett Stage there was a gentle, oriental and relaxed air to the proceedings as the London Bon Dancers swayed beautifully and the crowd swayed with them, the Japanese Drummers provided an awesome sound flooding this area of the site, a delightful sight and sound bathing the senses and relaxing the mind.
Nouvelle Vague's version of the Buzzcocks 'Have I fallen in love' got everyone jigging about at The Big Red Tent as the crowds flocked to the area for a spot of unique afternoon covers. Beyoncé's - 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)' followed and we left as they were covering Billy Idols 'Dancing with Myself'. We had to move, on albeit reluctantly, because the legendary Horace Andy was treating the main stage to a spot of his original reggae. It was worth the run across the site, the arena was full with everybody dancing along and Horace clearly enjoying the WOMAD vibe he had generated. Gentle afternoon reggae in the sun is hard to beat.
Gabby Young and Other Animals, on the Charlie Gillett stage, was another surprise act as this stylish and elegant woman sashayed onto the stage carrying a parasol and looking quite stunning. She produced a sound that would be perfectly at home back in the fifties but she did it with a 21st century twist. This young Wiltshire woman has a beautiful voice, is able to hold a large crowd and uses her many talents to full effect, one to watch as we'll be hearing a lot more from Gabby Young and Other Animals... elegance and style at WOMAD, a great choice.
Stornoway seemed to be confused as to where they are, claiming to have worked the festival as Oxfam stewards they dedicated a song to the staff at Wychwood! WOMAD - you're at WOMAD guys! Typically relaxed the Stornoway set provided a nice late afternoon chill out.
Next up were the band that have been creating quite a buzz all day and anticipation for this performance was high. Staff Benda Bilili are a fascinating, triumphant and talented bunch of Congolese street musicians who live in Kinshasa Zoo. The senior members of the troupe have all had to deal and live with the effects of polio, they teamed up with some street kids to form the band and there is an 18 year-old boy who plays guitar-like solos on an electrified one-stringed lute he designed and built himself out of a tin can. These musical maestros could show anyone a thing or two about how talent and determination can triumph over adversity. This bunch of musicians are worthy of much more attention and hopefully their WOMAD slot will help build on the amazing work they've been doing - as they have won this year's Songlines Best Group award which was presented to them on stage just before the end of their electrifying performance. A great award, well deserved and well earnt. There's a film documenting their fascinating story due to be released in October.
Japan was once again represented by the Soil & Pimp Sessions - mmmm death jazz, nice! A huge sound was filling the area as the guys got down and dirty, with viscious saxaphone sounds and certainly a big hit with the audience, the guys had been frenetic and mesmerizing bringing a touch of chaos to The Big Red Tent.
Master Drummer of Afrobeat, composer, and songwriter Tony Allen took to the Siam Tent next, a musicians musician Allen’s jazzy, drummy, inspired, laid back sounds with that beat proved to be music to mooch and move too. Little Axe, meanwhile, had taken over the Charlie Gillet Stage and was last heard telling the crowd that they couldn't feed their children money, as another child tucked into their chocolate coins. Chumbawumba over on the BBC 3 stage were giving out a gentle folksy set. Is it me or have they lost their edge? We only stayed for a couple of numbers but just never got into this one this time around.
LA's Ozomatli have a big stage presence and were a good choice to close the main outdoor stage, an eclectic mix of people playing an equally eclectic mix of music.
Our favourite stage today has been The Big Red Tent, packed full of top performances the closing act was no exception, and at this awfully posh world music festival we got our first glimpse of crowd surfing! Poirier featuring Face-T brought his bassy anarchic mix of hip-hop, grime, dancehall and soca to WOMAD and the WOMAD crowd embraced and reveled in this strong explosive set, it's fair to say it almost ripped the roof off The Big Red Tent.
We left day one feeling uplifted and grateful for all we'd seen and done but mourning all the wonderful performances we'd wanted to see but missed. World music at it's finest - that WOMAD is the master there can be no doubt.
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