WOMAD comes to a close with a damp finale

WOMAD 2009 review

published: Thu 30th Jul 2009

Youssou NDour et le Super Etoile de Dakar

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

Yet again at WOMAD, we're woken by the sound of drumming. This time it's a constant pounding of raindrops drumming heavily on the tent. The wind and rain combination ensures that our readying to leave the tent is a thorough preparation (mainly to ensure that that the kids stay dry and happy).

around the festival site (1)
In spite of the inclement weather, we're grinning from ear to ear as we arrive at the main stage to witness Che Sudaka. How can a man bouncing up and down on stage wearing nothing but a pair of small pants, fail to bring a grin to your face. Though billed as a Spanish band (well, they do live in Spain), this energised group of turbo charged Latino punk activists originate from Colombia and Argentina. Their energy is infectious and the rain doesn’t stop our sway becoming a pogo.

Ba Cissoko (main stage)
Ba Cissoko is my unexpected pleasure of the weekend. There have been a few bands that have made me think, made me smile or whose tight performance I've been impressed with but Ba Cissoco has it all. The beautiful sound of the two koras and one of the best drummers I've ever seen are utterly heavenly. One of the kora players has a smile almost as big as mine and although the rain alternates between, light, heavy and really heavy, their pull seems to be magnetic. I can't recommend them enough. And the drummer leaving his kit to take centre stage with a djembe strapped to his middle manages to eclipse everything else I see all weekend.

17 Hippies manage to pull in a good crowd and they too have a lot of spirit and energy but we seek sanctuary from the elements in the neighbouring Siam tent and watch their set unfold from afar. Even from that distance, I can tell that there are not 17 of them but they halt conversations around us by parping into a bloody great big euphonium which wouldn't sound out of place on a fogbound cruise liner. With so many of them on stage it would be understandable if their output was messy confused and jumbled. Not so. Honed, tested and brassy is more the impression I get.

The heavens open just in time to soak everyone with an interest in the children's procession. It's in a sorry state as it reaches the main stage but the rain soaked drummers accompany giant paper puppets of caterpillars, grasshoppers and a variety of insects as proud parents look on.

A makeshift urinal has been put together next to the Siam stage and it really does work to ease the congestion. This coupled with the persistent hard work of Tracy's Hygiene Crew has helped point the sanitation issues in roughly the right direction again. Despite being short on numbers, the loos are kept in a good condition and Tracey and her team win the hearts of parents by shepherding those with little ones to toilets set aside for kids. That aside, there still don't seem to be enough of them throughout the site despite assurances from the organisers that there are more than in previous years.

Youssou NDour et le Super Etoile de Dakar
Youssou N'Dour et le Super Etoile de Dakar are victims of the rain too. It seems that a good many people have gone home and a fair few of those remaining are sheltering from the rain elsewhere. His set is passionate, and the Super Etoile Band do him credit. In spite of all of this, the rain and wind have got to our children and we head back to the tent before he leaves the stage.

Packing up on Monday morning, we reflect that this doesn't seem to have been one of the more magical WOMADs. We've met some lovely people and our children have both made some lovely friends but there has been something missing. The flags are still glorious but the rest of the site art seems to have diminished. I haven't spotted any of the walkabout entertainers that usually grace the festival – could this be the symptoms of a credit crunch, dampened down spirits or just high expectations from so many years of good form? Who knows, but there's still more than enough there to ensure that we'll be back next year.

around the festival site (panoramas)
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


latest on this festival

WOMAD 2019
festival details
last updated: Fri 8th Feb 2019
Workshops at WOMAD Festival
video of the day
last updated: Sat 8th Dec 2018
early bird tickets on sale for WOMAD 2019
last updated: Wed 21st Nov 2018