We’ve struggled with the idea of World Music for a long time now, and still haven’t managed to come up with anything more than spirited working definitions and tentative suggestions. At this years World Of Music And Dance festival (WOMAD), wild and wonderful collaborations and hybrid sonic journeys stood alongside some of the planet’s top artists in a weekend of appreciation for all things global music.
A highlight for us came in the form of Anoushka Shankar, who drove many to tears through her emotionally charged performance, opening up more questions for Bizarre culture to work through. If the definitions of World Music evade us, then what about the British Music Festivals lack of female artists? We’re still used to seeing male dominated festival line-ups… EVERYWHERE.
At this year’s WOMAD though, we celebrated powerful performances from some of the worlds best artists. While Anoushka reminded us that the Indian sitar is for everyone, the all female Malian supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique stunned everyone with their virtuosic vocal performance. There’s still work to do, but we think British festivals could reassess their embarrassing gender imbalance, and hurry up and follow WOMAD’s lead.
WOMAD is never just about the music. Tucked away in the mosaic foliage, it was easy to miss the new installation,Track, created by artist Graeme Miller which teased our senses and questioned our conceptions of landscape and perception, flipping us 90 degrees on our backs through the wooded canapé of the arena’s pathways, offering a new and immersive way to journey through the festivals forest fringes. We attended lectures about nuclear disarmament, female empowerment, conservation, and more, organised by University of Sussex in Global Voices tent, and learned how to play the African instrument, Kora, in a workshop.
The World of Wellbeing and World of Art yet again boasted a never-ending array of warming vitality and craft work from gong baths to one of a few additions to the Womad village; the cooking tent, a unique chance to learn from the artists and musicians themselves about their home delicacies.
Just like before, BBC 3 had their regular stage in memory of Charlie Gillet, which was absolutely graced by some of the more unusual musical combinations including PUT HERE. Their live broadcast with DJ and Presenter Caryse Mathews breezed through the Sunday morning air in typical Radio 3-style broadcasting.
Rarely are British festivals blessed with beautiful sunsets and sun-drenched fields, yet this weekend, the weather was just as flawless as the warmth and brightness of this year’s musical spectacle. There was a re-invigorated feel to this year’s festival, not a make-over as such, more of a new direction, embracing a fresh recipe of audible and cultural experimentation that left us feeling inspired and energised.
The new main stage position, more central this year, gave the festival a renewed sense of intimacy and as St. Germain graced the congregation on the Sunday night with his acclaimed return to the World Music circuit, WOMAD’s infectious magic ended under a cosy star-lit Charlton Park.
WOMAD Festival is an important event in British festival calendar, promoting multiculturalism through the medium of music. We will certainly be back next year.
Words by Beni J Evans