Battling against the increasingly difficult task of providing festival goers with international music, this staple of the festival scene always finds new ways to charm and expand its horizons.
WOMAD, or as reggae’s washed-up star Ken Boothe repeatedly called it last year during his Thursday night headline set, ‘The World’s Festival’ is a celebration of music and culture across the planet. It is ambitious, political, brilliant, and struggling to survive in a world where it becomes more and more difficult to bring in artists from overseas due to racist government policy.
Last year, artists were pulling out all over the place, and Tal National had to pull off an exceptional show, despite missing half the band who had to be left at the border. The line-up this year reflects that; the names are getting smaller, and the bigger artists tend to be from America and Europe. The mounting costs of paying for top artists from countries not on the British government’s list of acceptable countries has significantly degraded the level of headliners.
Despite this, they can still pull in some big acts. DamienMarley, although a bit 10-years-ago, will be a popular edition, and if you are not excitably screaming ‘I try’ as loud as you can when MacyGray dons the main stage, then there is no pleasing you.
However, WOMAD is not a festival where you go just to see the headliners. Its beauty is that evening Siam slot where there’s a Georgian choral group, IberiChoir, or an Indonesian gamelan dance troupe, Kyai FatahillahEnsemble. WOMAD delivers an eclectic selection of folk, jazz, and all sorts, allowing for experimental, boundary-pushing music on its audiophile d’n’b stage. If you’re willing to listen to anything and experience everything, then this is the festival for you.