The wait is finally over! WOMAD kicks off this Friday in Wiltshire's Charlton Park, dishing up yet another fantastic weekend of art, crafts, dance, food, animation, and of course an excellent diversity of music! It was hard, but we’ve managed to select ten highlights we suggest are not to be missed. From beat boxing to desert blues, ethereal animal sounds to Romanian gypsy music, there’s enough to have you stomping merrily in the front row one minute, and standing amazed, dropping your cup of chai the next – all bases covered!
If our choices don't tickle your fancy (although we expect they will), you can check out all the other artist profiles on the WOMAD website. The World Music Network team will be there manning our very own stall, so come and get kitted out for the weekend in one of our t-shirts (complete with a complimentary 30-track download album), or just say hello and have a chat!
We'll also be giving away download vouchers for an exclusive Introducing Africa album - so if you are there, make sure you stop by!
Malian master of the kora Ballaké Sissokoand eclectic French cellist Vincent Segal’s performance will no doubt reference their beautiful collaborative album ‘Chamber Music’. The duo share a deep understanding of their respective cultures and both have incredible musical virtuoso that allows for superbly sensitive interplay between their instruments. Expect a spellbinding set at the beginning of the end of the first night!
Prepare to be blown away by this all-female vocal group who’ve dispensed with such indulgences as musical instruments. With the core dubstep-esque rumbling bass lines, hi-hats and snares coming from the mouth of world champion female beat boxer Bellatrix, the rest of the quartet create astonishing ‘instrumentation’ using only vocal sound effects, served up with sweetly harmonised melodies and belting solo verses. If watching this video leaves you wowed (it certainly wowed us), then seeing them live is a must! They'll also be holding a World Rhythms workshop on 29 July at 1pm.
Dub Colossusare a heavyweight collective who fuse traditional and contemporary Ethiopian styles with vintage Ethio-jazz and rock-solid Jamaican dub. The vision of composer, guitarist and bass player Nick Page (aka Dubulah), they have become one of the most stylistically intriguing outfits around... so much so that they’re playing twice!
For this weekend's performances, the core of the group - singers Sintayehu Zenebe and Teremage Woretaw (who also plays massinko), tenor saxman Feleke Hailu and piano prodigy Samuel Yirga - bulk out to a thirteen-piece, complete with thrilling horn section. There's also room for singers Mykaell S. Riley (ex-Steel Pulse/Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra) and JP Higgins (ex-Natacha Atlas/Almamegretta) who'll be providing vocals on a couple of reggae classics – ‘Satta Massagana’ and ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ respectively. Ethiopian music has too often been celebrated in the past tense, usually through the decades-old recordings of the Ethiopiques series. Here's your chance to be surprised by the here and now.
On the other end of the all-female vocal group scale from The Boxettes(both musically and geographically) are Ayarkhaan. They come from the Sakha (or Yakutia) Republic, towards the far end of Siberia – a landmass that is only slightly smaller than India but with a population under one million, so this trio is particularly special! Their striking, otherworldly voices combine with expert playing of the khomus, a local variant of the jew’s harp that ranges over three octaves, to create positively trance-inducing, almost electronic-sounding musical marvellousness (this is where the chai-dropping comes in). If ‘discovery is the key’ to WOMAD, then Ayarkhaanare definitely one to watch!
With several members hailing from Clejani, the southern Romanian town famed for producing gypsy music giants Taraf de Haidouks, Mahala Rai Banda are another terrific gypsy outfit to have emerged from Eastern Europe since the Iron Curtain was pulled back. Their live performances are exultant, with a frontline attack of brass and woodwind featuring a hard-blowing hurricane of trumpets, clarinets and flutes. This is music made to accompany every social occasion – weddings, parties, and of course the odd British festival!
Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a young Tuareg guitarist and songwriter from the Niger Republic, raised during an era of armed struggles for independence and violent suppression by government forces. His electrifying jams capture the spirit of resistance and rebellion while echoing with guitar riffs reminiscent of Tinariwenand Ali Farka Touré, not to mention rock and blues icons such as Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Page. For a region that’s known no small measure of hardship and challenges, Bombinois a much needed good-news story. Having earned his stripes in the Tuareg outfit Tidawt, he's equally at home as the intimate singer around the campfire or the diamond-hard desert rocker. We look forward to seeing which persona he’ll bring to his WOMAD performance!
This trio of Nazareth-born brothers recognise: “We have two battles to fight. The first is for our career. The other is for peace in Palestine and the end of the occupation.” This emotional passion and drive can be heard in their music, plucked with prowess by all three on the totem instrument of the Arab world, the oud. Accompanied by percussionists, the siblings play with both neat discipline and wild abandon, their breathtaking technical dexterity clearly handed along the branches of the family tree (they represent the fourth Joubran generation to play the oud professionally). What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than zoning in on some truly expert musicianship, prepare to be dazzled.
Rain or shine this weekend, Bomba Estéreowill definitely be bringing some ‘electro-tropical’ heat to the Big Red Tent on Saturday. They are celebrated practitioners of a recent musical trend in Colombia – fusing age-old traditional cumbia music with electronic beats that bring it booming into the twenty first century. Fronted by energetic vocalist Liliana Saumet, Bomba Estéreo’s bass-heavy sound also incorporates hip-hop, dub, dancehall and flipped-out psychedelia – an exciting blend sure to get anyone bopping!
The Creole Choir of Cuba: Sunday 31 July, 7.15pm, Open Air Stage
Their passports might be Cuban, but for the ten singers who make up the Creole Choir, their musical focus alights on another musically strong north Caribbean nation - Haiti. Back in Havana, they're known as Grupo Vocal Desandann (the Descendants' Choir), acknowledgement that it's the Creole musical traditions of their slavery-escaping Haitian forebears that inform their songs. In fact, they draw from Creole traditions right across the Caribbean, their layered, towering harmonies telling the history of this oft-troubled region. Rarely have songs revealing the depths of human suffering been delivered with such dignity and optimism - expect a moving performance.
Back in the mid-90s when the passports of a handful of Malian musicians en route to Havana to record with their Cuban counterparts got lost in the post, the all-conquering, multi-million-selling Buena Vista Social Club record was born as a fortunate by-product. Fourteen years on, the Cuban/Malian project finally made flesh and the wait was worth it. The result was beautiful - a deliciously slinky record rightfully described by The Guardian as 'an elegant, gently exquisite album'. No surprise, really, considering Afrocubism's protagonists; Stetson-ed troubadour Elias Ochoa leads the Cuban contingent, while Mali is represented by Toumani Diabaté, Djelimady Tounkara, Kasse-Mady Diabaté and Bassekou Kouyate. Together they form a formidable super-group that will have everyone on their feet.