Where can you eat delicious Jamaican food, learn to dance like a Brazilian, hear the stories of wise Congolese men, and listen to the sounds of Japanese music, all without buying a round the world flight or even leaving the UK? Well, that would be WOMAD festival, nestled in the scenic countryside of Charlton Park in Wiltshire.
WOMAD is much more than your average music festival, featuring artists from all over the globe, festival goers are literally spoilt for choice in the way of experiencing the music, art and dance from such a massive range of cultures, and that is the main aim of this unique festival, to excite, inform and create awareness of the many amazing musical styles and cultural identities our world has to offer.
There’s a very relaxed atmosphere at WOMAD, whether it’s the influence of multi cultural experiences or maybe the family friendly vibe with artists and visitors alike bringing their children along to enjoy the weekend, the nature of this festival means a large proportion of the line up you probably will never have heard of, which minimizes the hectic rushing around you often get at more conventional festivals, as people herd from one stage to another trying to catch all their favourite acts, at WOMAD you can happily amble around the site picking and choosing as you go and you are guaranteed to stumble upon an artist who becomes your new favourite but would have remained unknown to you otherwise.
Some highlights of the weekend include the Drummers of Burundi who wowed the audience with their impassioned drumming whilst simultaneously jumping Olympic heights without ever missing a beat. The beautiful voice of Salif Keita from Mali lived up to his reputation as the Golden voice of Africa on the Saturday evening, while Gabby Young and other Animals proved that there were also some very impressive local acts performing as the 8 piece band entertained crowds from the Charlie Gillett stage. Finishing on Sunday with the world acclaimed DJ Kentaro from Japan, his insanely fast beat mixing saw him an instant favourite with the late night audience, and just for those who might not believe he was mixing the beats live himself there was a live VJ projection of his rapidly moving hands.
It’s not all about the music at WOMAD, there are plenty of activities to keep both adults and children busy all day. The aptly named All Singing All Dancing Tent offers a wide range of workshops such as the tribal motions of Djembe dancing from one of the finest exponents of Mandinka traditions which is certain to get your blood pumping with lots of jumping around, or perhaps some saucy Cuban Salsa is more your thing, however you like to dance you are sure to find a workshop to suit you. Just don’t forget your offspring in the World of Kids, they probably won’t want to leave with the jam packed schedule of creative workshops on offer from tribal art to circus skills.
When you are feeling less energetic, you can pull up a pew in front of the Taste The World stage, and watch cooking demonstrations from some of the artists as they prove they aren’t just musically talented but also marvellous chefs as they prepare their own native dishes for the crowd, treating both your taste buds and your ears as they perform while you enjoy the delicious meal.
This year saw the start of RAW – Roots architecture workshops, where people can get involved in helping to design and build creative and innovative stages out of sustainable materials, working in four teams the final evening saw witness to some very unique and memorable performances on these incredible structures.
No festival seems to be complete nowadays without a healing area offering relaxing down time after long days and nights, WOMAD goes a step further with its own spa, offering Jacuzzi, sauna and showers, along with World of Healing which completes the relaxing experience for some serious chill out.
Published on 29 July 2010 by Ben Robinson