Youssou NDour, Bobby Womack and more for WOMAD

Importing music from the four corners of the globe, and all points in between, WOMAD Charlton Park is how UK festival-goers get to hear the widest selection of music on the planet. And, with the announcement of more artists appearing at its 2014 gathering, it just got a little louder.

The latest crop of performers heading to this particular country park in Wiltshire in late July represents another mixture of both 24-carat, A-grade artists and those performers whose music you’ve yet to hear and fall in love with.Youssou NDour falls into the former camp, a global superstar who first climbed onto a WOMAD stage almost 30 years ago. The Senegalese singer has dominated West African music throughout the intervening decades, and rekindling his special relationship with WOMAD offers another opportunity to treat those ears to one of the planet’s most exhilarating voices.

Another exhilarating voice belongs to Bobby Womack, the soul survivor currently enjoying a fabulous, long-overdue renaissance. His most recent record, the Damon Albarn-produced The Bravest Man In The Universe, was an extraordinary return to form, confirming the strength of his powers after all these years, as well as introducing him to a whole new eager generation of acolytes.

One more veteran showing that advancing years offer no barrier to an ongoing music-dominated existence is Manu Dibango. Now a scarcely credible 80 summers young, the Cameroonian saxophonist continues to blow long, hard and funky. Presenting his 8 Decades show that recalls the high spots of his career, expect the roof to raise several inches when he kicks into his biggest hit Soul Makossa.

Another man bringing his horn to Charlton Park is Trombone Shorty. Born into the New Orleans brass band tradition – and playing his instrument on the city’s streets at an impossibly early age – Shorty has, with his band Orleans Avenue, developed his sound into an attractive funk/pop/hip-hop hybrid  – when he’s not in the recording studio with U2, Eric Clapton or Lenny Kravitz, that is.

The 12-month period between WOMAD’s Charlton Park festivals doesn’t find the team snoozing the days away in hibernation. This time is spent wisely, scouting across the globe for fresh sonic enlightenment, seeking out the music that you otherwise would never get to hear. We can now reveal that the fruits of those travels will include…

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (Wales/Senegal)
Impossibly elegant project that teams the eminent Welsh harpist with this extraordinary kora player from West Africa. Their album Clychau Dibon won fRoots’ critics’ poll for 2013.

Tunng (UK) 
Deftly combining eerie folk with bleeping electronica, Tunng became the quintessential ‘folktronica’ outfit before stretching their musical wings and collaborating with everyone’s favourite desert rockers Tinariwen.

Justin Vali & Ny Malagasy Orkestra (Madagascar) 
All-star musical gathering from the Indian Ocean island, led by the legendary player of the valiha (bamboo lute) Justin Vali, a man whose association with WOMAD extends back to the days when he was signed to sister organisation Real World Records.

9Bach (Wales) 
Recently signed to Real World (and co-led by frequent Gruff Rhys collaborator Lisa Jen), 9Bach’s ghostly folk-rock attractively places them midway between Portishead and Pentangle.

Snarky Puppy (USA) 
Outstanding Brooklyn-based collective effortlessly (and joyously) fusing jazz, soul, funk and world to universally pleasing effect.

Debademba (Burkina Faso/Mali) 
Young Malian five-piece whose silken-voiced singer instantly recalls the great Salif Keita.

Aar Maanta (Somalia/UK)
Regarded as the voice of a generation of young British Somalis, Aar Maanta’s music shifts between alluring slinkiness and show-stopping funk workouts.

Jus Now (Trinidad/UK) 
The musical missing link between Bristol and Port of Spain pairs two producers united by bass, despite the thousands of miles between them.

Chloe Charles (Canada) 
Toronto singer-songwriter (and, by the way, Julian Lennon’s step-sister) who sings, says Rolling Stone, “pop songs with an introverted beauty of surprising clarity”.

Orange Hill (Colombia) 
Delightful acoustic troupe who play calypso and mento, but who don’t hail from Trinidad or Jamaica, but Colombia. An intriguing – and terrific-sounding – cultural anomaly.

[su:m] (South Korea) 
Curiously monikered female South Korean duo whose multi-instrumentalism calmly masters the transcendental, contemplative folk traditions of their native land.

Vinicio Capossela presenta Banda Della Posta (Italy)
Maverick Italian troubadour fronts this charming collection of veteran musicians. They got their name (which translates as the Post Office Band) on account of turning up to draw their pensions while carrying their instruments.

Imed Alibi (Tunisia/France) 
Percussionist and Rachid Taha collaborator whose band’s new record (co-produced by Justin Adams) was described by The Guardian as “an exuberant set [that] sounds like the soundtrack for a film about the early hopes of the Arab Spring”.

DakhaBrakha (Ukraine)

Self-proclaimed 'ethno-chaos' folk quartet whose performance may well take on extra edge as a response to the political turmoil back home in Ukraine.

Ethno Trio Troitsa (Belarus) 
Engaging trio who, in playing around 50 different instruments between them, deftly excavate the rich – but little-heard – folk music riches of their homeland.

Madeeh (Malaysia) – acoustic ensemble present the traditional Bidayuh roots music of Borneo, styles that are centred around a bamboo zither known as a pratuokng.

This handsome selection joins an already stellar line-up that’s already been announced and that includes…

Alice Russell (UK)  Nitin Sawhney ONEZERO (UK/India)  Fat Freddy’s Drop (New Zealand)  Goran Bregovic and His Wedding & Funeral Band (Serbia/Bulgaria)  Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba (Mali)  Mulatu Astatke (Ethiopia) Oliver Mtukudzi and the Black Spirits (Zimbabwe)  Marie Boine (Norway)  The Gloaming (Ireland/USA)  Salim-Sulaiman (India)  Roberto Fonseca & Fatoumata Diawara (Cuba/Mali)  Martin Simpson & Dom Flemons (UK/USA) Kobo Town (Trinidad/Canada)  Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat (Iran)  Anna Cinzia Villani & MacuranOrchestra (Italy)  Ibibio Sound Machine (Nigeria/UK)  Nuru Kane (Senegal)  Magic Drum Orchestra (UK)  The Good Ones (Rwanda) Salim-Sulaiman with Karsh Kale (India)


First artists announced for this years WOMAD at Charlton Park

After she was forced to pull out from last year’s event, WOMAD are delighted to announce that Alice Russell, one of the UK’s greatest soul singers of this – or any other – time, will be treading the festival’s boards this summer, offering an excellent opportunity to witness a woman whose vocal range is matched by the gamut of emotions that underpin her performances. Also from these shores, Nitin Sawhney ONEZERO is the live incarnation of the polymath’s ONEZERO album, a cut-straight-to-vinyl retrospective that revisited key moments from his extensive back catalogue.

Jetting in from the other side of the planet are evergreen WOMAD favourites Fat Freddy’s Drop, the seven-piece New Zealand crew whose heady brew of dub and soul (plus a smidgeon of techno) never fails to fire the festival vibe. Another multi-membered band flying in – albeit from the somewhat closer Balkans – is Goran Bregovic whose Wedding & Funeral Orchestra marry their leader’s rock-star past with the exuberance of the gypsy brass band tradition.

Africa, of course, is always well represented at WOMAD – and Mali, in particular. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba represent the musically rich country this year. Having graduated from Toumani Diabate’s band to become a star in his own right, Bassekou is the world’s most celebrated player of the ngoni, the ancient harp lute of West Africa. From the other side of the continent comes the mighty Mulatu Astatke. If you’ve ever cupped an ear in the direction of the Ethiopiques reissue series (or to the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers), you’ll be familiar with this bandleader/composer’s lithe and sensual Ethio-jazz. Mulatu’s performance promises to be a very special one indeed.

Another venerable elder statesman from the top table of African music makes a hugely welcome return to the WOMAD stage when Oliver Mtukudzi – and his excellent band The Black Spirits – remind us of what a joyful sound those shimmering Zimbabwean guitars can be. Also returning to Charlton Park is the Norwegian singer Mari Boine who melds elements of folk, rock and jazz to joik, the traditional music of her Sami homeland. Mari’s records have previously been released on the Real World label, WOMAD’s sister organisation; new Real World signings The Gloaming are also Wiltshire-bound, a five-strong folk super-group that, in the words ofThe New Yorker, “moves the music of Ireland in captivating new directions”.

Once again, this summer’s festival includes some intriguing new, transnational collaborations. These include the mouthwatering partnership between Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca and Malian songbirdFatoumata Diawara that aims to explore shared traditions, despite their respective homelands being divided by the Atlantic Ocean. Another attractive teaming-up features former Carolina Chocolate Drops songsterDom Flemons and Martin Simpson, one of the finest folk and blues guitarists these shores have ever produced. Both are impeccable players, making this collaboration a must-see.

Of course, WOMAD’s reputation isn’t just built on shipping over an unending stream of world-famous artists. Every WOMAD event is fuelled by the spirit of discovery, by encountering performers previously unknown and unheard. Accordingly, the headline acts of future years could be found among the likes of…

Kobo Town (Trinidad/Canada)
Delightful modern-day calypso from Port of Spain (via Toronto) and underpinned by roots-reggae rhythm and brass.

Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat (Iran)
Women singers from Iran are hen’s-teeth-rare, making the intertwining, undulating twin voices of these two sisters from Tehran an important inclusion on this year’s bill.

Anna Cinzia Villani & MacuranOrchestra (Italy)
From the heel of Italy – and performing in the pizzica pizzica style – comes this soulful singer who’s every inch the equal of your favourite fado singer.

Ibibio Sound Machine (UK/Nigeria)
Fronted by female singer Eno Williams, this project is a brilliant fusion of West African funk and disco and to-the-minute electro.

Magic Drum Orchestra (UK)
The drum is everything for this 20-piece percussion collective, delivering samba, Afrobeat, dubstep and almost everything in between.

Nuru Kane (Senegal)
Wide-reaching Senegalese troubadour whose one-world vibe is seasoned with plenty of strong North African flavours.

The Good Ones (Rwanda)
Genocide-surviving trio whose music is as powerful as their story. “The raw, emotional results are undeniably impressive,” says Mojo magazine.

Salim-Sulaiman with Karsh Kale (India)
Bollywood musical directors and siblings Salim and Sulaiman Merchant join forces with Asian Underground pioneer Karsh Kale to create an epic, widescreen soundscape.

Ethiopian jazz, British soul, Kiwi dub, Balkans brass…. This is just the start. Over the coming weeks, dozens more artists will be unveiled as the line-up of one of the red-letter weekends of the British summer takes shape. And, believe us, it promises to be a classic.

WOMAD’s add Robert Plant, Buena Vista Social Club and more!

Ever since that first gathering in 1982, the spirit of collaboration and cross-pollination has been WOMAD’s fuel. Back then, it was Echo & The Bunnymen sharing the stage with The Drummers Of Burundi. In the three decades since, it’s always been conspicuous and, this year, that spirit takes many forms.

There’s the rather awesome prospect of Robert Plant’s new project, the Sensational Space Shifters – a heady brew of blues, gospel and psychedelia inspired by the roots music of Mississippi, Appalachia, Gambia, Bristol and the foothills of Wolverhampton. Longtime WOMAD face Justin Adams lines up on lead guitar.

Another Adams-associated act, the much-loved French collective Lo’Jo, will also joined the bill this July. As well as blowing out their own 30 candles this year, the collective return to treat all-comers with their hybrid of chanson, folk and Berber stylings.

Such musical impurity has always been welcome at scores of WOMAD events across the word. And there’s more evidence of it heading our way. Dizraeli and the Small Gods promise to be one of the weekend’s surprise discoveries, hitting the bullseye with their highly effective take on folk and hip-hop. The same sources are drawn upon by the USA-meets-Guinea collaboration between Joe Driscoll & Seckou Kouyate, a partnership aiming to reduce the spiritual distance between continents.

It’s always best to approach a WOMAD event by expecting the unexpected, by banishing those preconceptions about how music should sound from a particular corner of the globe. Want Latin funk with a Texan postmark? Then give yourself over to Grupo Fantasma, the ‘funk orchestra’ who’ve often been the support band of choice for Prince. Fancy a singer-songwriter who blends ancient and modern, Indian traditions and Western rock and pop? Then lend your ears to Bangalore’s celebrated Raghu Dixit. And fancy ska from Tokyo City? Look no further than the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

These Japanese ska fanatics have plenty of miles under their collective belts – as do several other seasoned performers taking to this year’s stage. The Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club continue to cast sunshine on all those within earshot with their timeless melodies and unbreakable rhythms, while the sinewy blues of Malian songster Boubacar Traore never fail to enthrall and charm.

WOMAD is delighted to be welcoming back those perennial Russian favourites (and former Real World recording artists) Terem Quartet whose balalaikas and accordions take us to St Petersburg and beyond. Further Eastern promise comes from the highly energetic Alaev Family. Although now resident in Israel, they unleash a torrent of Central Asian groove with songs from their native Tajikstan. 

Closer to home, Bristol quartet Spiro return to Charlton Park with their mesmerising, almost mathematical tunes, proving to be the missing link between English folk and contemporary composer Steve Reich. More vocal-free sounds come courtesy of Celtic fusionists Peatbog Faeries who marry an electronic sensibility with the tried-and-tested instruments of their native Scotland – fiddles, whistles, pipes… And the pipes are also calling for Narasirato, the high-octane Solomon Islands troupe. We’ll wager that you’ve never seen panpipes played so energetically.

And finally, rounding off this opening artist announcement, is Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun, most recently seen lending her striking vocal prowess to Peter Gabriel’s New Blood Orchestra and now stepping into her own limelight.

So there you have it – 15 reasons to come and help WOMAD celebrate becoming a thirtysomething. And watch this space for many, many more reasons why attendance is compulsory…

WOMAD Charlton Park – July 27-29 2012

Artists confirmed so far… Alaev Family (Tajikstan/Israel); Ane Brun (Norway); Boubacar Traore (Mali); Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club (Cuba); Dizraeli and the Small Gods (UK); Grupo Fantasma (USA); Lo’Jo (France/Algeria); Joe Driscoll & Seckou Kouyate (USA/Guinea); Narasirato (Solomon Islands); Peatbog Faeries (UK); Raghu Dixit (India); Sensational Space Shifters (UK/USA/Gambia); Spiro (UK); Terem Quartet (Russia); Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (Japan).