All the world's a stage

Live; WOMAD RIVERMEAD CENTRE READING

THE PROGRAMME might have mentioned Womad's 10th anniversary at Rivermead on every other line, but there was little, if any, evidence of self-congratulatory celebration last weekend. Not that it mattered: the sun shone, the vibes were as mellow as ever and 50 artists from 30 countries on seven stages provided the quality cultural smorgasbord expected.

From the ethnographically pure to the quirky and the cutting edge, a spirit of adventure prevailed. Dancing Tibetan monks and ululating Tuvan throat singers delighted the purists; contortionists, Ukrainian swordsmen and, er, John Otway played the Cabaret Room. Pedro, a South African-based Spanish flautist, made a garden water pipe sound like a worthy addition to the BBC Concert Orchestra's wind section.

Indeed, the debut appearance of the Beeb's finest classical musicians kept Womad's penchant for collaboration in mind, their lush concertos with Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota, Chinese bamboo flautist Guo Yue and gifted Australian guitarist Slava Grigoryan more than justifying another Womad precedent - a 90-minute soundcheck.

No one seemed unduly concerned that scheduling problems on the Friday meant Angolan singer/guitarist Waldemar Bastos was replaced on the main stage by the soft rock and traditional songs of Polynesian troupe Te Vaka. (Still, it was a pity that many missed Bastos's storming, unbilled set on a smaller platform the following day.) Womad staples The Afro Celt Sound System demonstrated some savvy self-promotion by unleashing a torrent of logo-ed frisbees that would later prove handy for sitting on; legendary sight-impaired gospel singers The Blind Boys of Alabama played on Womad's famously liberal sensibilities by exhorting all to their feet with a "Stand up! We can't see you!". One of the weekend's indisputable highlights was London's Bollywood Band who, despite reeling under the weight of tubas and Indian dhol drums, turned out to be a Jack-in-the-Box-like bundle of 11 cavorting musicians intent on blasting the genre into the 21st century. With the heat necessitating frequent retuning of brass, Bollywood member Johnny Kalsi - whose guest turns with the Afro Celts steal the show - performed a pared-down but incendiary version of his thunderous percussive group Dhol Foundation. Both are names to watch.

Other highlights included the "psycho-tropical funk meets neurotic cumbia" of Colombian eight-piece Bloque, signed - like Waldemar Bastos - to David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, and the ringing guitar sounds of 67-year-old Jamaican legend Ernest Ranglin and his African big band. In the Day-Glo run riot interior of the Siam Tent, Australia's inventive Bangarra Dance Theatre recalled the Aboriginal dreamtime; the furious energy of Asian Dub Foundation fired up a younger crowd en route to Whirl-Y-Gig's global beats and urban techno-folk.

Some of the Rizwan-Muzzaum Qawwali Group are nephews of the late, great Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, famed for his successful dabblings with Western musicians. Unfortunately, their under-rehearsed collaboration with noisy London-based Asian radicals FunMental, managed to be both spiritually uplifting and comical, with the latter's Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts transforming into Rick Wakeman and Bez respectively. The eventual onslaught of FunMental's hackneyed agitprop ("We're political, fanatical mad terrorists," said Nawaz, perhaps ironically) sent many scurrying off to the main stage and the safety of klezmer band Brave Old World.

Featuring Malian singer and ngoni (West African) player Tom Daikite, Londoner Sam Mills and Djanuno Dabo of Guinea Bissau, Real World signings Tama offered a pleasant take on West African/European fusion; the ever reliable if predictable Billy Bragg peppered his banter between Woody Guthrie songs with mildly amusing references to his backstage-toilet feud with the Manic Street Preachers. Femi Kuti and his band The Positive Force, combined funk-led Afrobeat with an all-singing, all-dancing stage spectacle that - in the same way he'd closed proceedings in 1990 - was a fitting round off to 10 years of Womad Reading.

There were no fireworks, no surprise megastar appearances and no speeches by Peter Gabriel. With Womad's reputation being its own best advertisement, there obviously seemed no need to make a song and dance about it.

Jane Cornwell

(Highlights from Womad will be brodcast on Radio 3, 10pm until midnight tonight)

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power