Live Review: Womad Festival 2018

WOMAD Festival 2018

Charlton Park, Wiltshire

Thursday 26th – Sunday 29th July, 2018

 

    Pre-festival publicity for this year’s WOMAD festival was clouded by news regarding cancellations due to stricter visa controls, forcing a number of bands to cancel performances and workshops. But this didn’t impact on the atmosphere of the festival which remained friendly and positive.

    At the start of Ezra Collective’s set, drummer Femi Koleoso announced “There are a lot of things that we can be upset about but there’s a lot that we can be happy about” and this upbeat mood was reflected in their joyful, celebratory set which featured a rare bass solo from Femi’s brother TJ which segued into their cover of Shanks & Bigfoot’s Sweet Like Chocolate. The frontline of saxophonist James Mollinson and trumpeter Dylan Jones provided punctuated unison lines as well as some robust and enjoyable solos. Ezra Collective gave one of their most energetic performances to date. Keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones stood out as both soloist and accompanist and was later seen performing alongside Binker Golding with Mr. Jukes.

    Saturday’s headliners on the main stage were veteran Malian duo Amadou and Mariam. In keeping with the political theme of the festival, they played music from their latest album La Confusion which provides a social commentary of the political impact on Mali’s music following recent events in the north of the country. But aside from the serious message behind their music, there were also a lot of upbeat, danceable tunes.

    The Middle Eastern sounds of Yazz Ahmed’s Hafla Band were well suited to Sunday’s chilled-out festival vibe. Beginning with haunting melodies that beautifully combined Ahmed’s flugelhorn, George Crowley’s bass clarinet and Jonny Mansfield’s vibraphone, they began with an atmospheric piece from Ahmed’s suite, Polyhymnia, inspired by female role models. Similarly, the title track from Ahmed’s acclaimed album La Saboteuse utilised the instruments well, especially the drums and percussion. The blend of Bahraini folk music in The Lost Pearl also fitted in and the band ended with the hypnotic groove of Organ Eternal.

 

Charlie Anderson

Photo by Lisa Wormsley