News Column

The New Review: Critics: Pop: FESTIVAL WATCH

August 3, 2014

Kate Mossman

The vibe Charlton Park in Wiltshire has a strange microclimate that ensures that Womad has the weather of the Serengeti even when it's raining everywhere else. It's always a thrill seeing the whole world in one place - this year, there were bands from 42 countries. With its "fields of wellbeing" (home to the famous "gong bath") and steam-powered fair, it's a gentle vibe even at night: the Feds were confiscating laughing gas at the gate.

The crowd Ululating people in national costume. Lone sea dogs in bandanas. Star children. Actual children. This year, babies sweated under giant ear-defenders and canvas-covered child-carts caused pile-ups in the main arena. One candy-striped caravan, pulled by an unhappy mother, appeared to contain four teenagers and a small au pair.

Best act Siyaya (pictured above) on Saturday afternoon, a lusciously voiced male troupe from Zimbabwe, who performed an abstract response to the first world war. Costumes included gumboots and hard hats (with simulated pneumatic drilling). One member danced so vigorously his boiler suit fell down. Honourable mention for Youssou N'Dour, Saturday night's headliner (right), who is now so regal, having run for president in Senegal, that he has someone else on stage to do his speaking.

And the worst A fatally scheduled double-drum bonanza on Friday with two different groups on two different stages playing two different rhythms. One was Dorset'sMagic Drum Orchestra, who are a bit like Rock Choir for drummers, in that it's clearly more fun to be in than listen to.

Best discovery The very strange Taste the World stage out in the trees, where pop stars are required to cook a national dish and play an acoustic set at the same time, recalling chaotic daytime TV shows. Welsh folk band 9Bach demonstrated a simple recipe for rarebit before performing a ballad about a boy who kills his mother.

Best dressed Man, 70: short floral dress, sensible women's shoes, tote. Face like bliss.

Overheard on site Weeping child in cart: "No daaad, stop, it's too faaaaaaaaast!!"

Best tweet by someone famous 1950s Jamaican mento band the Jolly Boys (named by Errol Flynn, combined age about 230): "Womad! Showtime in 10 mins. Jolly Boys coming straight into your face."






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Source: Observer (UK)

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