Festival feelings… Womad 2011

Womad must be the most diverse festival in terms of age if not in class or race (but then none of them are, are they?). It would be fascinating to see a breakdown of the Womad crowd by age but there’s plenty of tiny tots and their parents, greying grandparents and sprightly youngish teenagers. Perhaps there is a lack of twentysomethings who are seeking something hipper in their festival experience but that in itself is instructive.

Womad just gets on with being Womad whatever the fashion and its diversity of age means a complete lack of any fear factors. And no rubbish!

It’s a slick operation: from cleanish loos to queue-less bars and immaculate timing of bands on neighbouring stages, which means soundclashes are kept to a minimum and stage time is maximised.

Charlton Park is a lovely setting (a vast improvement on previous home Reading city centre) with plenty of woodland to explore and space to lounge out.

But Womad’s real selling point is its music. My personal highlight was the French-Malian techno of Donso, who seem to have perfected the banging fusion that Leftfield (and others) sought out all those years ago.

I also witnessed snatches or sets from:

  • Baaba Maal in lovely acoustic intimate mode;
  • UK-Ethiopian reggae from Dub Colossus;
  • Pleasing Honduran singing from Aurelio;
  • Brilliant Afro-Cuban trance from, er, Afrocubism;
  • A laidback welcome from Jazz Jamaica;
  • Incredible drums and harmonies from Reunion Islands’ Danyel Waro;
  • Psychedelic Stone Roses-type rock set to a reggaeton beat from Colombian awesome Bomba Estereo;
  • Cool 808-style mouth organ music and estranging singing from the Sakha Republic’s Ayarkhaan;
  • Excellent French-Moroccan grooves from former Orchestre de Barbes’ singer Aziz Sahmaoui;
  • Entertaining Memphis horns-style covers of hip hop classics from Blitz the Ambassador;
  • Balkan eurotrash from Las Balkanieras;
  • More trad but cool Balkan stuff from Taraf de Haidouks;
  • The pleasant if uninspiring fruits of former Amparanoia singer Amparo Sanchez’s Calexico collaboration;
  • and UK ska-master Gaz Mayall playing I Wanna Be Like You from Jungle Book.

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