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Charlton Park, Wiltshire
THERE is possibly no other festival as flamboyant, vibrant and carnivalesque as Womad – the World of Music And Dance celebrating its 40th year after a two-year break due to you know what.
Every nook and cranny has something to explore, enjoy and be inspired by — whether that might be seeing Brazilian icon Gilberto Gil playing an unforgettable set joined by 14 members of his family, including his five-year-old great-grandson, or stumbling across Luke Jerram’s awe-inspiring giant moon installation located at a mysterious “secret forest” that nobody is quite sure where to find.
Many huddle round to watch the Lionesses’ spectacular Euro 2022 final victory against Germany on a big screen, or on mobile phones for those too far back, while a parade featuring a samba band, giant fish, lion puppet and er... a red bus, marches out behind them.
Elsewhere there’s tents giving talks on physics and literature, artists giving cookery classes, musicians hosting music workshops, Tai Chi, cacao ceremonies, a poetry shack, and a planetarium dubbed the Cosmodrome.
There’s as many activities for children as there are for adults, making it the perfect family festival, while its unrivalled accessibility caters for those with disabilities with many acts performing with sign language.
The festival’s more militant veterans mark their space with camping chairs ahead of top drawer Nitin Sawhney before folding them up to stand as soon as he starts. His mesmerising performance includes classics Nadia, Immigrant and The Conference from Beyond Skin — an album that warns against the use of nuclear weapons.
Other music highlights include Beninese singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo, who headlines the first night playing from Remain In Light — a reimagining of the landmark Talking Heads album, featuring hit Once In A Lifetime, which was itself influenced by West African music.
She is joined onstage for Mama Africa by festival founder Peter Gabriel, who makes an appearance throughout the weekend; introducing Ghanaian legends Osibisa before they storm the main stage with feel good hits Sunshine Day, Dance The Body Music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vogLs9ZKuEM, Superfly Man and The Warrior.
The former Genesis frontman has also been heavily critical of the government’s strict visa system that has prevented some artists from attending the festival.
Wordsmith Kae Tempest delivers an emotionally charged performance of rapid-fire spoken word that leaves many in tears by the time they finish with the hard-hitting People’s Faces. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dulGZcuK1d0
Acid rockers The Flaming Lips also set the bar high with a headline show that sees frontman Wayne Coyne deliver most of their performance from inside a Zorb ball while the crowd frequently get fired with confetti cannons. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2S5BeoyWJ0
There are also memorable moments to be found from Indian trio the Barmer Boys, who play traditional sufi music with some beatboxing thrown in, Ukrainian folk band Folknery, and reggae musician Hollie Cook, who creates a tropical atmosphere as she showcases latest album Happy Hour.
The final night ends on a soulful note as Lianne La Havas closes the main stage after a day of glorious sunshine that befits her music, before many head off into the night to sample the after hour dance stages. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xctN36ltqac
Womad’s return feels more celebratory than ever, a cultural pinnacle of the festival calendar, and with so much to see you always feel in the right place at the right time.
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