For many people in our age group, a festival is about going to a field, listening to music, and getting drunk, and for a lot of festivals that’s about all there is to it. This, however, is not the case with WOMAD Festival. Co-founded by Peter Gabriel over 30 years ago, the world music festival has so much more to offer.
Don’t get me wrong; WOMAD is as much – if not more – fun as any other festival. The eclectic San Frans Disco bar provides womadians with a chance to let their hair down. This year the party tent will play host to Dub Boy and Baby Malc Selector, among others. And when you’re done dancing there, the best bet is without a doubt to head over to Molly’s Green Bar, the campsite bar which has a real local-pub feel to it.
As is the WOMAD way, this year’s line-up sees acts from every corner of the world pitch up to showcase their talents. Friday night’s headliners present a timetable clash between a couple of big names that prove difficult to choose between. On the open air stage (the festival’s ‘main’ stage) there is an Afrobeat legend, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 from Nigeria, who always put on a fantastic performance. However, at the same time over in the big red tent, who is making an appearance? It’s only Craig Charles! We probably know him best as the dreadlocked liverpudlian Lister in Red Dwarf, or maybe even ‘that one off Corrie’, but Charles actually is a successful DJ and broadcasts his Funk and Soul show on Radio 6Music. It’s a tough choice but I think I know where my vote lies!
On Saturday the open air stage is opened by Brazilian Flavia Coelho who has had great success with her debut album Bossa Muffin. Later, on the same stage is Arrested Development, a hip-hop group from the United States. Perhaps the most interesting act to grace Charlton Park on Saturday night will be Nynke, a Fado singer from the Netherlands, who will be playing a late performance in the psychedelic Siam tent. Why is she so interesting? Well, Fado is a very traditional genre of music in Portugal – in Lisbon you can even find Fado bars – so this mix of traditional lusophone music with a Dutch singer is very unusual.
The festival climaxes on the Sunday with an extensive list of big names spanning all genres from gypsy folk to reggae dub. Sam Lee and Friends brings traditional gypsy folk music to the Siam tent on Sunday afternoon while the UK’s own Alice Russell starts the evening in the big red tent with her Brighton soul. She is then followed by another regular on 6Music, David Rodigan MBE whose Jamaican reggae DJ-ing earned him the royal seal of approval last year. WOMAD is very lucky this year to have Brazil’s former Minister of Culture, Gilberto Gil, closing the festival on the open air stage. This man has been imprisoned due to the politically-sensitive nature of his songs, yet has recorded over 50 albums and is said to have opened Brazilian music up to western and African influences. Sunday promises to be an outstanding day for music!
With all of this on offer along with an array of workshops – from xylophone-making to learning to play the Kora – and a vintage fairground, there will never be a dull moment. It’s no surprise that Songbird have listed WOMAD in the top 10 list of UK summer music festivals for 2013.