WOMAD 2016 Highlights: Sunday

It’s been a few years since Konono No 1 first burst onto the WOMAD scene straight from the streets of Kinshasa with their fresh irresistible dance groove, and they’re still bursting with an unpretentious energy. Their wonderfully low-tech instruments – thumb-pianos, cowbells & drums and even amplification – are made from salvaged materials, and that is part of their charm.  Powerful blasts of vocals rang out between hot sections of pure rhythm that made it impossible to keep still.

Their 2016 show in the Siam Tent was a highlight of the festival, one of those ones that sucks you in and spits you out exhausted at the end.

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Baloji is a natural. He’s born to perform, monopolising the attention of his audience. It’s not just about the infectious rumba vibes he plays (supported by the magnificent Orchestre De La Katura), meaningful rhymes, nor even his rampant energy. It’s mostly his attitude. He loves being in the spotlight!  He loves to engage the audience, and that’s why the crowd enjoyed his gig at WOMAD so much.

The Belgian (of Congolese origin) rapper, MC and dancer displayed the full spectrum of his artistry, raising awareness of Central Africa countries, while encouraging the crowd to party “Kinshasa style.” He invited them to raise their index finger and repeat “moja” (one in Swahili) and be “one together”: no divisions, no differences. As he loves to affirm on stage, “this isn’t world music, this is our music!”

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On Sunday afternoon, the past, present and future of highlife honoured the WOMAD Festival audience with a memorable show. Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band performed a compendium of the Ghanaian musical style, displaying all their influences ranging from afrobeat, to post-jazz and including funk, soul and even calypso. ‘The Golden Voice of Africa’ and his band caught everyone’s attention and induced thousands of feet and hips to dance following the unrestrained West African groove.

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It doesn’t happen everyday that, when attending a gig, you close your eyes and are carried thousands of miles away to a praia (beach) of the tiny archipelago of Cape Verde. But that’s just one of the many miracles that Lura‘s mellow and sea-scented voice can perform.

The Portuguese (of Cape Verdean origin) singer/songwriter enchanted the crowd gathered at WOMAD Festival’s Siam Tent with her songs anchored to her Lusitanic culture, inspired as they are by the Atlantic Ocean while reviving styles like fado, morna, batuque and funaná.

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Well, Les Amazones d’Afrique was a supergroup if ever we saw one! Several of the greatest African vocalists took to the Siam stage in grand style, demonstrating that women’s voices in Africa are getting stronger by the day.

Veterans Kandia Kouyaté and Mariam Doumbia (Amadou & Mariam) were joined by the younger generation of upcoming singers. We were treated to a simply stunning flow of performances from Nneka (Nigeria), Mamani Keita (a former singer in Salif Keita’s band), Inna Modja from Mali plus two superb backing vocalists and a band that included a two female members. A great show!

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