WOMAD 2009: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3
There can be few greater compliments a performer can receive than to look out at a massive crowd of people dancing to their music… in torrential rain.
But this was the compliment paid by the WOMAD crowd to veteran performer Youssou N’Dour on Sunday evening. The Senegalese star, who first played WOMAD back in 1986, repaid the compliment by giving a classic performance. N’Dour has had a remarkable musical life, from his days pioneering the m’balax sound in the 1970s, blending Latin rhythms and soul with traditional African forms to his winning two Grammy awards. His WOMAD set was played with the supreme confidence and infectious pleasure of someone whose enjoyment of performing has remained undiminished after all these years.
There are tastes as well as sounds from around the world, with delicious food stalls serving delicacies from all corners of the globe. Any hope of getting discounted portions on the last day were however soundly dashed. Nevertheless there were some bargains to be had. One stall owner Guy Lankester, who runs the tour company FromHere2Timbuktu, was giving away jewellery on the Sunday. “I’m driving overland to Senegal tomorrow,” he explained, “and I can’t cart this with me.” Another stall was offering free tea all weekend. The only price punters had to pay for a pot of sweet desert tea was to listen to a Saharawi from Western Sahara talk about his people’s 34-year forced exile from their homeland. By the end of a few glasses of tea most visitors were moved to sign up to the campaign.
Following in the footsteps of the Buena Vista Social Club, the Ethiopiques were a series of albums which aimed to reissue the classic recordings from Addis Ababa’s swinging ’60s/’70s heyday. Like their Cuban counterparts, the spin-off has been the bringing together of a bunch of elderly Ethiopian soul and funk legends to play together under the banner. Mahmoud Ahmed and Alèmayèhu Eshèté lifted the spirits of the damp crowd with their blues, soul and jazz but left the finale to Gétachèw Mèkurya, Ethiopia’s answer to James Brown, to get them really moving.
La Filletta, a Corsican a capella group singing traditional polyphony (many voices), was mesmeric and haunting, but judging by the number of people slumped on the ground it seemed many festival goers also found it soporific.
As the forest of flags flapped limply in the wind and the crowd huddled from the rain in the Siam tent, funk/soul legend Roy Ayers sang how “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”. We do Roy it’s true, but this England, and it’s festival season. We make do, whatever the weather.
WOMAD 2009: Day 3 @ Charlton Park, Wiltshire