WOMAD 2016 Announces first exciting line-up

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This July, WOMAD Festival will be hosting its global party at Charlton Park, and now it’s time to announce the first wave of artists who’ll be heading for this particular corner of paradise this summer.

If ever there was a man and band who know how to get a party started, it’s surely George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic. The commander-in-chief of the psychedelic end of the funk spectrum, George has been an extraordinary showman for the best part of half a century now and shows no sign of taking his foot off the gas. Come July, he’ll be putting one festival under a groove, for sure.

George says: “It would be ludicrous to think that we are new to this, we do this cos we got that doo doo."

For such an important milestone in WOMAD’s 34-year history, the festival welcomes the return of the Senegalese musician, statesman and icon Baaba Maal. Since making his WOMAD debut several decades ago, Baaba has become one of African music’s most globally celebrated superstars – as well as being the recipient of the ultimate accolade: becoming a castaway on Desert Island Discs. His performances on our stages are always powerful occasions.

Baaba says: “I’m so excited that my new band will finally experience the incredibly diverse and inspirational festival that is WOMAD. It’s always such an incredible weekend.”

When his playing isn’t adorning the records of Sting, Salif Keita and Amadou & Mariam, the French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf is busy collecting plaudits and acclaim for his own work. A beautifully expressive player, this is a man who adds Arabic flavours and textures to the jazz trumpet canon. His performance promises to enchant, beguile and inspire in equal measure.

Guaranteed to raise the roof wherever they play, New Orleans’ magnificent Hot 8 Brass Band are currently celebrating their 20th anniversary as one of the city’s hardest-blowing outfits. Expect a set of many highs, including their takes on Sexual Healing and Ghost Town.

Aziza Brahim knows what it’s like to make music from adversity. Her songs are shot through with the bitterness of life in the refugee camps of Western Sahara, albeit enhanced by the warm colours of her adopted home of Barcelona.

We’re also delighted to welcome the latest incarnation of Sidestepper. Originally just a producer (Richard Blair) with a flair for fusing Colombian vocals with firing electronics, the band have since shifted towards a more percussive sound, as heard on their new Real World album Supernatural Love.

Another artist to play a significant role in Real World’s evolution was the Celtic fusionist Martyn Bennett, who died tragically young in 2005. The Grit Orchestra will revisit Martyn’s magnum opus, the album Grit, ambitiously setting the work to a full orchestration.

The Congolese polymath Baloji (rapper, poet, composer, actor, video artist...) represents the throbbing pulse of Africa’s current musical output, his sharp sense of history and heritage meshing brilliantly with up-to-the-minute electronics and words of defiance.

In recent years, several veteran musicians from the golden age of African music in the 1960s and ’70s have grabbed some belated attention from the wider world. The sweet-voiced Ghanaian singer Pat Thomas is the latest to bathe in the glow and he’ll be bringing his groove-heavy highlife and Afrobeat sounds to Wiltshire in the company of his Kwashibu Area Band.

Another veteran musician is the former Ry Cooder collaborator VM Bhatt whose latest project, Desert Slide, showcases how the blues sound in the wide-open expanses of Rajasthan. Bhatt is the inventor – and thus naturally the world’s leading player – of the mohan veena, a beautiful-sounding creation that’s somewhere between a traditional Indian stringed instrument and a Western slide guitar.

This Is The Kit is the shape-shifting, 6 Music-approved musical alias of Kate Stables, whose delicate, warm songs sound equally effective played in an acoustic duo or with a rockier full band. Guy Garvey was an early fan, declaring that the second This Is The Kit album, Wriggle Out The Restless, should have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Of course, ever since its birth in 1982, WOMAD has been all about the music you don’t yet know. Here’s the inside track on some unknowns who could become favourites this summer...

Exhilarating London five-piece, fusing Congolese guitar, Gambian kora, Mandinka percussion and UK electronics.

Blick Bassy
Cameroonian troubadour with a gorgeous woodsmoked voice and a bagful of skin-pricking tunes.

Dom La Nena
Soft-voiced, cello-playing singer-songwriter from Brazil via Paris who’s been described as “the bossa Joanna Newsom”.

The East Pointers
Terrifically lithe and dextrous traditional trio (fiddle, banjo, guitar) from the Canadian stronghold of Celtic music – Prince Edward Island.

Ethno-Trio Troitsa
This tradition-protecting trio from Belarus blow plenty of life into handed-down folk tunes, aided by an arsenal of 50 (!) instruments.

Luna Pena
The owner of one of the most distinctive voices in fado, the deeply mournful folk music of Portugal.

Moh! Kouyate
Guinean guitarist and bandleader who applies a contemporary edge to that timeless, liquid West African sound.

Dizzyingly brilliant, hurdy gurdy-enhanced folk supergroup from Poland setting dark fables to exhilarating tunes.

Musically ambidextrous duo from Tel Aviv with a very fine line in noirish indie-pop.

These names represent a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to this summer’s complete line-up, just a few bars of the entire WOMAD symphony.

Watch this space for more announcements, including details of art exhibitions, installations, family entertainment at the World of Kids, relaxation at the World of Wellbeing, and sumptuous food, including from the artists themselves at the one-and-only Taste The World stage, all rolled in to the only event that can truly call itself The World’s Festival.

Published on 26 February 2016 by Ben Robinson

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