tue 12/12/2017

WOMAD 2017, Charlton Park review 2 - utopian globalist festival dances through the rain | reviews, news & interviews

WOMAD 2017, Charlton Park review 2 - utopian globalist festival dances through the rain

WOMAD 2017, Charlton Park review 2 - utopian globalist festival dances through the rain

Old-style Senegalese magic, Swedish shamans, Italian trance - and more

Goat: Cosmic rock with shamanic groovesGuy Peterson

Arriving on Thursday for the opening act Orchestra Baobab’s instantly recognisable mellifluous tones spreading out from the main stage over the Wiltshire countryside, it was clear that a high standard had been set for the rest of WOMAD. Whether it's in a small bar in Dakar, the Jazz Café in London, or playing to many thousands here, they are one of the great bands – fabulously musical without being flashy. Old-style Senegalese magic with hints of Latin and radiating immense warmth, they are practically critic-proof.

While hundreds of global acts performed over the weekend, many of the Europeans were at the forefront. The Swedish band Goat attracted an excitable horde at the Siam tent by somehow plugging into Nordic shamanism and mixing it with Hawkwind-esque cosmic jamming: they have unearthed a fertile new hybrid. If anything, they should have had more courage and gone full-out trance for half an hour at a time instead of playing several numbers and disrupting the flow.

Pizzica band Offinica Zoè played folkloric trance music from Southern Italy, to good effect (with a dervish-like dancer). Xaos, a new project started by Nick Page of Dub Colossus fame, started with some splendidly moody ancient Greek sounds mixed with atmospheric electronica before descending into not so interesting jamming.

The whole was a delight, a musical love-in away from an outside world increasingly hostile to the globalism the festival celebrates

Crowd-pleasers included Orkesta Mendoza, even if they were slightly ersatz in their breathless run-through of Latin styles from mambo to boogaloo. The veteran Afro-Celt Sound System also played a blinder. Purists dislike their default four on the floor technoish backbeat but their often basic rhythms are overlaid by some fantastic percussion, with thrilling fiddle and kora solos – they did the business, animating a large crowd, many of who were dancing in the rain in their wellies by this point.

Headliners Toots and the Maytals were impressive, partly because still playing the hits from over 40 years ago with decent conviction. They slightly missed really connecting with an audience that needed cheering up in the pouring rain – Toots spent minutes teasingly introducing probably their best-loved tune, a classic version of John Denver’s “Country Roads”, only to rush it in a minute or two and mangle the end of the song.

Of the new artists, Bokanté (Creole for exchange) showcased their debut album Strange Circles, a satisfying and unusual mix of Led Zeppelinish blues rock with Creole singing from front woman Malika Tirolien from Guadeloupe. The level of musicianship was among the best anywhere over the weekend, although the soloing slowed up some fascinating songs. 

The boisterous Mexican grooves of chicano group Los Cafeterias had the most unlikely people dancing in the woods at the smaller Ecotricity stage, while Sunday’s highlights included the hard-edge otherworldly vocals of Ghana’s King Ayisoba and the comfortingly mellow Bonga from Angola – even if he sounded more Cape Verdean (his duets with the great Cesaria Evora are worth seeking out).

Of course, for many WOMADers the fringe events are the highlights, from the Gong Baths to the Woodland Gamelan sessions and the World of Words with some illuminating talks. For a weekend unlucky with the weather, the whole was a delight, a musical love-in away from an outside world increasingly hostile to the globalism the festival celebrates. And not a single chant for Corbyn or any other politician was heard all weekend, for which we should probably be thankful.

@PeterCulshaw

Not a single chant for Corbyn or any other politician was heard all weekend

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Comments

Actually, there was a chant for Jeremy Corbyn, started by Loyle Carner at the end of his set.

OK - fortunately I missed it.  Personally I find mass chanting for any politician gives me the creeps. And bemused to think the Glasto crowd (estimated 80% plus remainer) chanting for a fundamentally anti-EU leader - who supports the likes of Maduro in Venezuela for one

 

I tend to agree. I once saw Nigerian legend Fela Kuti get the audience to participate in a mass chant during his set on the main stage in 1984 at Glastonbury - without the crowd being told what they were chanting was being used for; this was alarming given the gig was being filmed by his own crew for use back in Nigeria. It was a fantasitcally dynamic set up until then, but whatever the critical or political aims of the artist this felt manipulative and outside the boundaries of artist/audience relationship... in fact it just felt creepy and was a 'walk away' moment...

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