Saturday sees WOMAD's co-founder, Peter Gabriel, address the masses

WOMAD 2009 review

published: Thu 30th Jul 2009

Peter Gabriel (2)

Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July 2009
Charlton Park, Upper Minety, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England MAP
£122.34 for three days
daily capacity: 22500
last updated: Tue 30th Jun 2009

An early wake up call as the WOMAD morning chorus is sounded (children waking children waking parents waking their neighbours - and so it continues). Those choosing to nip to the Portaloos early are rewarded while those that delay face a 30 – 45 minute wait. My wife and our son count 50 people in each of 3 queues waiting for 30 toilets. This is lunacy and could easily be relieved by having a cordoned off urinal area at each of the seemingly reduced number of toilets throughout the site.

around the festival site (2)
As the crowds and number of day trippers build throughout the day, the situation gets worse and the queues longer. Washed and breakfasted, we head down to the main arena and catch the Colores de Mi Tierra workshop at the Saddlespan stage. The Colombian-based band walks us through the layers making up their traditional music. They talk knowledgeably about the differences between their sounds and the more widely know western music and how they (and may other acts showcased this weekend), use the offbeat to punctuate their drumming rhythms. It's clear as it's explained and makes even more sense as the deftly demonstrate and build the music before our very ears.

The Madras Café - situated close to the saddle span stage and the amazing smell coming from their stall pulls us in like a science fiction tractor beam. Their profits go towards the 'Action Village India' charity and the food tastes fantastic so we dive in and fill our bellies.

around the festival site (1)
A visit to the spectacular steam fairground and the children are bounding with energy while the unexpected sunshine has sapped the life from the grown ups. A trip to the real ale bar and although the choice has depleted to a minimum, we’re soon bouncing with the children. Spiro thoughtfully supply the background to our early afternoon fun and their blend of folk and systems music receive two thumbs up from us and obviously the large crowd that they've drawn in. The delicate fiddle sounds and repetitive yet subtle beats complement the heat and soul in providing a sense of wellbeing when combined with sunshine and real ale, (though I suspect that the effect is similar without the alcohol and weather).

Onwards in search of Rachel Unthank & The Winterset and their captivating gentle folk sounds. The Siam tent is packed and from the edge of the tent, we can barely hear. Some of the neighbouring stall's music is drowning out their softly sung almost fragile ditties and traditional songs. I manage to get a vantage point from where I can hear 'When the Tide Comes In' and see the accompanying clog dance but returning to the rest of the family, I can't hear properly. I think as they left the stage, Rachel said that the next time they tour the UK, they would be called The Unthanks and have an additional brass section.

Radiokijada
Radiokijada is next on our agenda and the South American tango sounds are ringing more than a few bells in my ears. A closer inspection of the programme and I discover that The Gotan Project's Christoph H Muller is part of this merry band. The Donkey jaw bone (or kijada) is used as a traditional percussive instrument and I'm pleased to see that the fusion of traditional sounds and electronic music that I came to love with The Gotan Project are as strong with this outfit. Mentally I've purchased their album before the set comes to a close.

around the festival site (1)
Oumou Sangare from Mali produces one of the sets that typify WOMAD for me. The music is delivered from a wide array of wonderful instruments and her resonant voice carries powerful messages. Speaking out against arranged marriages and flying the feminist flag, she dazzles and manages to whip up the crowd through song and conversation (despite claiming to have poor English skills).

The aim of Peter Gabriel this weekend is to raise £100,000 for the Witness.org charity. As he takes to the stage, the WOMAD co-founder explains that the organisation use video and technology to expose human rights issues. With that in our minds, he starts off with a very slow and reflective rendition of Paul Simons' 'The Boy in The Bubble'. This isn't a greatest hits set, and I don't recognise a fair few of the songs played tonight but it's hard to stand still or feel miserable through 'Salisbury Hill', 'Steam', 'Big Time', and 'Games Without Frontiers'.

Peter Gabriel (1)
Thai lanterns are launched from within the crowd and the backdrop and effects add a surreal edge. Some of our group are impressed while others find him a bit dull and uninspiring. Personally, my mind is made up with the poignant finale. 'Beko' is dedicated to a Chechen witness who was killed 2 weeks ago. Gabriel leaves the stage after delivering this spine chilling tune with clenched fist held aloft and declares "Whatever happens next is up to you".
review by: James Tayler

photos by: Andy Pitt / Phill Bull

Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July 2009
Charlton Park, Upper Minety, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England MAP
£122.34 for three days
daily capacity: 22500
last updated: Tue 30th Jun 2009


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