The world descends on Wiltshire

This year's Womad will have the most eclectic line-up in its history, reports Tim Cumming

Womad 2008 has a lot to live up to as it enters its second quarter-century. In 2007, it moved to its current site at Charlton Park, a 17th-century pile in 4,500 idyllic acres near Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

More than 70 acts from 40 countries will pass through its gates for the three days of the festival. Everyone involved, from Womad founder Peter Gabriel to the festival crews, must be praying to the gods of global gatherings for no repeat of last summer's quagmire. "Not so much offering a taste of the world, but providing a glimpse of the end of it," grumbled one festival-goer. Others were critical of some obvious teething problems in the new site.

So getting it right for 2008 has been a priority. On the BBC's Points West news, Gabriel said they'd had to rethink everything. "We've got a bigger chunk of Charlton Park, and that will help a lot." They're on higher ground, too. "And I think we'll get better weather. It couldn't get any worse than last year, when it became Womud. And, musically, I think it's one of the best festivals ever."

Not everyone agrees; there's been sniping at what some see as mainstream pop. "Squeeze, Chic, Eddy Grant, Boy George... You did say you were going to Womad, not TOTP2?" someone posted on Charlie Gillett's web forum.

But world music is not only a roots music encompassing the traditional and indigenous. Traditions get bent and amalgamated as they clash with change, technology, and innovation. "Fusion" is not always a bad word.

Son de la Frontera combine Cuban tres guitar with flamenco and Moorish influences, to remarkable effect. Rachid Taha exerts a strong crossover appeal. You can find the drum'n'bass of Roni Size and Reprazent on street stalls in Morocco alongside Tinariwen or Toumani Diabaté. Why shouldn't a Guyanan pop singer like Eddy Grant play on a bill alongside Diabaté? Womad is not solely about cultural purity.

In April, it was reported that Womad's artistic programmer from its inception, Thomas Brooman, had stepped down. Programming was completed by Paula Henderson with Gabriel himself sending out the invitations. It may be coincidental, but Boy George was dropped not long afterwards – though Seventies disco band Chic remain. "They're playing on Friday night," affirms Gabriel. "Many people will remember their hits, but it's also got Nile Rodgers, who I worked with as a producer, and they're just great songs and an extraordinary group of musicians."

And there's plenty of variety elsewhere. "Not all the artists will appeal to everyone," Gabriel says, "but I challenge anyone to come and not find someone or something to inspire them."

Artists he highlights include the swampish Cambodian-West Coast psychedelia of Dengue Fever. "And on Sunday, we have the legendary Orchestra Baobab"; not only the full band on the main stage, but a stripped-down acoustic version playing the Radio 3 stage later in the day. "Orchestra Baobab were really well known and then people forgot about them. Now they're back in a more mature, reformed mode," Gabriel says.

There's also Adrian Sherwood teaming up with Lee "Scratch" Perry and blues player Little Axe on Thursday night. The Malian kora player Diabaté performs at dusk in the Siam Tent, and Sharon Shannon leads a ceilidh with the aid of Shane MacGowan and Damien Dempsey on Friday. "And on Saturday we have the wonderful Martha Wainwright," Gabriel says.

And there's Sufi Night. Beginning at 10.30pm on Saturday, a trio of performers including Sheikh Taha, the Egyptian Sufi singer, will take the audience in the Siam Tent deep into the early hours.

Sunday closes with the Afrobeat grooves of Seun Kuti fronting his father Fela's Egypt 80 orchestra. Kuti is coming into his own with a forthcoming debut album to mix in with a selection of his father's classics.

One busy artist will be guitarist and producer Justin Adams, performing in his Soul Science trio with Gambian griot Juldeh Camara and English percussionist Saleh Dawson Miller. He's also heading the closing gala and tutoring at the Womad summer school. One focus of his tutorials reflects the fan debates on the programme. "I'll be looking at the debates about modernity vs tradition and authenticity vs non-authenticity and innovation. I have opinions and experiences on those questions," Adams says. Eddy Grant and the Frontline Orchestra are on his to-see list. "He's a bit of a legend in my eyes, though people might think, 'God, that's not very authentic or obscure.'"

But if you want obscure, it's there, with a range of artists playing in the UK for the first time. There's Wasis Diop, the golden-voiced Senegalese singer, and Terakaft, a kind of Tuareg band.

When the music's over, there's always the World of Wellbeing (yoga, sushi, English tea) and a spa in which to relax, rest, get a massage or get your hair done. The Global Village houses a cornucopia of food, drink, merchandise and merchants, and the Fifties fairground pumps out rock'n'roll.

Like Gabriel, Adams points to the sheer variety of musical experiences at the festival. You don't have to visit the main stage at all. "The great thing about Womad is that, even after all these years and all the things I've seen, there's always a surprise or two, and something to really knock me off my feet. So I'm sure there'll be things I know nothing about, and it'll be great."

Womad takes place at Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire from 25 to 27 July (

As the official media partner for Womad, 'The Independent' and Womad are offering 15 per cent off the standard ticket price (£125) when ordering weekend tickets, plus entry in a draw for 25 pairs of tickets to attend an exclusive Dengue Fever concert at Real World Studios and Womad in Bath, hosted by Peter Gabriel.

To book your festival tickets and to receive the 15 per cent discount, visit or call 0845 146 1755 quoting 'Independent Womad 15 per cent off weekend tickets offer'


The Algerian-French rai-rocker recalls young Elvis in his rebellious charisma and wild dancing. You don't need to speak Arabic to hear the earthy rebellion in his growl, whether he's singing traditional Maghreb songs or reclaiming The Clash's attack on fundamentalist Islam as "Rock El Casbah".

Mali's kora master honed his skill for two decades before the virtuoso Mande Variations confirmed the instrument's breakthrough as a major instrument. The lightning improvisation in subsequent gigs showed the album was no accident. Diabaté's work with Taj Mahal, Damon Albarn and Björk confirms his questing spirit.

Chic's influential bassist Bernard Edwards died in 1996, but surviving founder Nile Rodgers still owns the patent on New York disco with the accent on sinuous funk and fun. "Everybody Dance", "I Want Your Love", "Good Times" and "Le Chic" will be the inevitable crowd-pleasing highlights. Studio 54 in the West Country.

When the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan of Pakistan sang mesmerising devotional music through until dawn in 1985, it was one of the great Womad nights. This sequel sees Pakistani, Egyptian and Uzbek musicians draw together wider strains of Sufi Islam's mystic sounds. It's the sort of mind-expanding trip only Womad supplies.

Saturday's headliner has more 1980s reggae anthems than you remember, including "Give Me Hope Jo'anna" and "Electric Avenue". His new secret weapon is the Frontline Orchestra, band of murdered South African star Lucky Dube.

Nick Hasted

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    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