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Womad marks 40 years with music from west Africa to South Korea

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“What number of of you have been right here in 1982?” requested Jane Cornwell, compèring onstage at Womad’s fortieth anniversary outing. A forest of palms waved. With out doubting anybody’s probity or reminiscence, let or not it’s famous that had all of them been paying prospects, that unique pageant may not have misplaced a lot cash.

The ghosts of Shepton Mallet, the place the primary World of Music, Arts and Dance was held, have been in every single place — pictured on screens, and taking part in as background music whereas levels have been reset: a snatch of the Royal Drummers of Burundi, The Beat racing by way of “Mirror within the Toilet”, Peter Gabriel debuting “I Have the Contact”. Regardless of its scorched grass, the present pageant, again after a two-year Covid hiatus and regardless of worsening visa hassles, provided a climate utopia, sufficient cloud cowl to maintain the temperature bearable and occasional drizzle to maintain down the mud.

The place 1982 had The Beat, 2022 had The Selecter, Pauline Black’s three-minute two-tone heroes. “It took us 40 years to get right here,” mentioned Black pointedly, earlier than operating by way of a set of sharp singles: “Lacking Phrases”, a bouncing ska model of the James Bond theme (which additionally served as a tribute to its composer Monty Norman, who died earlier this month) with toasting from Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson, and the unarguable climax of “On My Radio” and “Too A lot Strain”, with a few choruses of Toots and the Maytals’ “Strain Drop”. With 4 a long time’ hindsight, the band’s different substances have been clear; guitar soloing straight out of pub rock, vocal geometry as angular as post-punk, the storytelling of Joni Mitchell.

The primary evening’s headliner was Fatoumata Diawara, final seen right here with Lamomali, a west African group convened by French musician -M-. Between the sunny solo acoustic work of her debut and the desert blues of her current soundtrack for Google Arts and Tradition celebrating the heritage of Timbuktu, she has a weak point for relentless loud funk, and this was on show. However her set got here to life with “Negue Negue”, Afrobeat with guitars like rasping wooden; a run by way of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”; and an epic recreation of her breezy early calling card “Sowa” as exhausting rock.

A woman in brightly coloured clothes and turban sings and plays electric guitar on stage
Thursday evening’s headliner Fatoumata Diawara © Julie Edwards/Avalon

Soweto’s BCUC, a self-proclaimed “Afro-psychedelic” combination of South African musics, have been a last-minute addition to the invoice, shoehorned into too-small a tent too early within the day. Jovi Nkosi instantly took cost: an embodiment of restlessness, he scaled the lighting rig, jumped, practised boxing feints, at one level carried out press-ups; he jumped out to perch on the bass bins to ship lectures about balancing respect for folks with the necessity to assert one’s personal independence. A brand new track, “Thonga’ Lami”, prompted a rap on the hyperlink between instinct and the ancestors. Swooping bass and hovering gospel vocals from Kgomotso Neo Mokone, plus thunderous drumming, triggered hysteria. With a warning to be careful for “the elders on the entrance”, Nkosi ordered the gang to mosh.

Angélique Kidjo’s set was billed as her reclamation of the 1980 Speaking Heads album Stay in Gentle — David Byrne and Brian Eno’s new wave imagining of Afrobeat — as west African music. Within the occasion, she wove six of the album’s songs in together with her personal. In “Crosseyed and Painless” she interpolated the chorus from Fela Kuti’s “Girl”; and extra typically, the Speaking Heads songs fitted seamlessly into her music, the brooding intense power of “The Overload” answered after which picked up by her current “Meant for Me”; or “Do Your self”, her collaboration with Burna Boy, flowing into “The Nice Curve”.

After “Homes in Movement”, Byrne’s Sprechgesang reproduced in Fon, she ran by way of a ringing highlife “As soon as in a Lifetime”, then her personal millennium anthem “Afirika”, throughout which she pulled a watching Peter Gabriel in from the wings, and eventually a swaying “Pata Pata” as a nod to the late South African singer Miriam Makeba and a dancing encore of “Batonga”.

There have been delights within the margins. B. Dance, a terpsichorean troupe from Taiwan with outsize tulle tutus the size of ball robes, twisted and stretched to a up to date classical soundtrack like big fungi. South Korean singer Gonne Choi performed excellent folks songs. Sona Jobarteh performed kora requirements with a forceful band and her son Sidiki on balafon, however in too noisy a nook of the positioning to permit for full focus. Out in a wooden to the south of the positioning the trumpeter Yazz Ahmed performed music as huge and lonely as house beneath Luke Jerram’s seven-metre-wide mannequin of the Moon. Taraf de Caliu, an offshoot of Taraf de Haidouks, performed cimbalom and twin violins at unstoppable velocity. Alban Claudin closed out Saturday evening in a hushed arboretum, beneath timber lit turquoise and coral, with delicate piano miniatures.

Three women in eccentric-looking costumes perform on stage, holding microphones and raising their hands in the air
Korean group ADG7 have been Saturday’s shock hit © Julie Edwards/Avalon

Saturday’s shock hit have been ADG7, a South Korean nine-piece who play a combination of shamanic and folks music from the north-west of the peninsula with a combination of attraction and formidable rock brio. The music discovered its drive within the interaction between Chun Gung-dal’s double-ended conventional drum and Sunwoo Barabarabarabam’s equipment and hand cymbals, a cool syncopation over which Woen Meondongmaru plucked patterns on the gayageum, an extended flat zither, and Choi Byung Hwal bowed a deep undertow from a similar-looking ajaeng. On the prime finish there have been wood flute figures from Kim Yak Dae and piping melodies from Lee Man Wol, whose saenghwang, a type of mouth organ, seemed like an Artwork Deco sculpture. Upfront, the three singers Hong Okay, Myeong Wol and Yoo Wol, their pink, inexperienced, pink and blue garments and headgear a shiny distinction with the austere simplicity of the instrumentalists’, danced and spun, inveigled the gang into chanting the band’s title in each English and Korean, and shook handfuls of metallic shakers the dimensions of dragon scales.

The songs included their signature quantity “Yeong Jeong Geo Ri”, a stomping ritual greeting of the small family gods, the instrumental “The Dance of the Lions”, an opportunity for the musicians to shine, and songs to summon laughter and banish loneliness. In addition they performed a Korean tackle “Hey Hey Rise Up”, the Ukrainian folks track not too long ago reworked by Pink Floyd. They ended with the electro-swing of “Hey, Lonely”, leaving with the gang once more chanting their title.

ADG7 have been a tough act to observe. Nitin Sawhney crammed the Siam Tent with a combination of Spanish-inflected instrumentals, that includes chamber musicians, and skittering drum-and-bass-and-tabla. He closed with the fragile “Nadia”, “Immigrant”, with a craving English folks melody, after which a closing run by way of the slow-building frenzy of “Prophesy”, now twenty years previous however nonetheless totally modern.

The Flaming Lips introduced an arsenal of results that might have challenged a logistics brigade: lasers so highly effective they necessitated the non permanent closure of Womad’s big Ferris wheel; confetti cannons; smoke machines; Zorb balls; and a tiny mechanical chook that singer Wayne Coyne launched in the beginning of “My Cosmic Autumn Insurrection”, which promptly flew into the roof of the stage and obtained caught there, tiny wings beating. The songs, about mortality, the infinite and everlasting recurrence, handed by in a sluggish haze. For “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” a 30ft-high pink robotic glowered over the stage — and that was solely the set’s fourth track.

Osibisa’s “Sunshine Day”, with its infectious climbing brass riff and singalong refrain, had earlier brightened up the primary stage. The Ghanaian-English band’s dancer, Angie Amra Anderson, had earlier had a particular introduction from Gabriel: again in 1982, she was a part of the Ekome dance firm, making her the one performer from the unique Womad to make it again onstage for the fortieth anniversary, nonetheless “a part of what we began there and the dream”.

To July 31, womad.co.uk

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