Five Favorites from WOMAD 2017

A 1982 benefit double LP for the first “World Of Music, Arts and Dance” stated that it was the intention of the WOMAD festival to focus wider U.K. public attention upon the traditional and contemporary arts of non-western cultures as practiced in the U.K. as well as worldwide by playing host to artists, cultural exhibitions, lectures, films, workshops, arts, crafts and food. This broad programming intended to bring together adults and children from different communities within the U.K. in order to explore an “open and varied environment”.

35 years on, it is safe to conclude that WOMAD has stayed true to it’s ethos in diversity in musical programming whilst exponentially expanding the number of artist and guests it plays host to. The population of WOMAD can preemptively be said to consist of rural and urban middle class families with some local kids from the surrounding areas thrown in the mix (for a more accurate survey stay tuned for an ethnography conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester). They could be found intermingling at the late night favourite “Mollys Bar” which served the function of an Irish style music pub during the day and was a sanctuary for boozed out oldies and minors on gurners in the evening. Their voices often joined in unison to chant “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” which could be heard before, during and after concerts as well as around campsites. Although Jezza was nowhere to be seen, he was not missed – thanks to the skilful festival programming. In these turbulent times, the demand for “sounds of resistance” cannot be understated and WOMAD delivered the goods. Special mention goes to the Afrobeat bands: Bixiga 70, Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra and of course the headline act Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 and Roy Ayers whose politically charged lyrics were met by the crowd with great enthusiasm.

Here are five of our editors favourites from the latest edition of WOMAD:

Daymé Arocena

Presented by her band as the next Diva, the 24 year old Cuban artist gave a captivating performance at the intimate Ecotricity stage on Friday Afternoon. Singing in both English and Spanish, Daymé Arocena skilfully moved between songs founded in Cuban rhythms as well as more neo-soul informed numbers. It was a sassy performance ending with what she described as an “adult song” song titled “Don’t Unplug My Body” where her initial scatting turned to full moaning to the confusion of some of the younger attendees. It could not have been a more fitting way to end a performance on a stage hosted by a local electricity company.

Portico Quartet

The band originally formed of musicians that met whilst studying at SOAS made us proud with their Saturday afternoon performance at the Bowers & Wilkins stage. The British speaker company has hosted a stage the last four years at WOMAD to test their prototype speakers. It has grown exponentially in size each year, playing host to more electronic and experimental acts. To our great delight, Portico Quartet have recently reformed and gave a packed tent a magnificent live performance. Alternating between old songs and new material from their upcoming album Art in The Age of Automation, the quartet’s musicianship shone through on the B&W surround system as their richly layered ambient textures provided a feast for the ears and complete immersion in sound as they utilized the system, elegantly panning the sound which had ours necks turning in search of the source of their magic.

Zhou Family Band

At 11am on Saturday morning, the World Rhythms Tent at WOMAD was already buzzing with energy. The Zhou Family Band from Anhui, central China kicked off day 2 with a music workshop. The band started with a piece called “A Hundred Birds Saluting the Phoenix” (百鸟朝凤), a well-known Chinese folk tune which demonstrated their virtuosity and the versatility of their many shawms, flutes, mouth organs, drums and cymbals and voices through the imitation of different birds. The ensemble’s main performance began later in the day in the Siam tent, where they played repertoire from funeral, birth, wedding and ritual celebrations, some of which has been performed by their family for over 600 years. The Zhou Family Band’s intoxicatingly energetic and melodic music has been warmly welcomed and celebrated by audiences all over the world and the WOMAD crowd was no exception.

Clap! Clap!

After three days in the rain, playing to a Sunday afternoon crowd as an artist who delves in to higher tempos cannot be said to be the easiest task. Nonetheless, Clap! Clap! aka Digi G’Alessio passed with flying colours. Joined by two drummers and a bassist, they brought the most energetic performance of the festival. Playing tracks such as “Rainstick Fable”, they had the Big Red Tent bouncing with delight, with mud flying off dancers shoes. It only took a few songs for the the Italian producer to push himself too hard as he literally went overboard, dancing so voraciously the table with his laptop and sampler collapsed forward, cutting the music to the crowds mix of horror and delight. As the tent filled with applause and a sense of amazement of what had happened, sound technicians flooded the stage. Armed with duct tape and the coordination of a Formula 1 stall, it only took about 3 minutes for Clap! Clap! to load up his samples and cue in his band before he was back at work, expertly drumming his pads and dancing with the same enthusiasm.

Floating Points DJ set

The Bowers & Wilkins tent played host to two of the UK’s finest selectors: Joey Negro and Floating Points. Although the house don Joey Negro played a flawless set, it was Floating Points aka Sam Shepherd that stole our heart, ending the festival with a stellar set leaving us refreshed, uplifted and wishing WOMAD would continue for another few days.

At the peak of his set “FloPo” dropped euphoric disco classics to great effect, with GQ’s – “It’s Like That” and Sylvester’s “I Need You”, he held the dancefloor in the palm of his hand before airing it with WOMAD geared tracks such as Samba Mapangala’sYembele before finally winding down the most dedicated dancers of the weekend by energetically working the EQ’s to give The Gap Band’s – “Messing With My Mind” a special touch before he waved the crowd goodbye.