Ed Motta, Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham

A successful day at the races
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The Independent Culture

Despite an excellent bill and the near-perfect setting (well, for a pop festival) of Cheltenham's famous racecourse, few people turned up to last year's inaugural Wychwood festival. This year, there were thousands rather than hundreds and Wychwood romped home a winner.

In essence, it's another niche festival along the lines of the Big Chill, where a bucolic vibe is perhaps more important than the actual music. Certainly, the music is a very broad church: a bit folkie, a bit worldie, and a bit in-betweenie. And who could be broader than Ed Motta?

A Brazilian singer, pianist and bandleader of more than generous proportions, Motta (right) is also a wine critic and gourmand. His wife, Edna Lopes, is a celebrated comic-book artist and Motta styles himself after one of her characters; part Tintin, and part, one imagines, a Brazilian's idea of preppie chic. Big Ed wears outsize cardigans, little, cartoony ties, and a beret on his balding head. So far, so cool. But could he rock the racecourse?

It was touch and go at first. Leading a crack sextet of samba-soul veterans from behind his Fender Rhodes electric piano, Motta took a while to warm up. The mixed festival audience (kids, mums, dreads, crusties, young farmers, you name it) took longer. His voice, which appears to channel Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, is perhaps more self-willed than God-given, and the samba soul and funk is so emphatically post-modern that the groove is continually fractured. But Motta the performer is genuinely inspired. By the end, as he left the keyboard to hulk about the stage while ullulating vocals and leading every last person in the marquee in a bout of "doo-be-doo-be-do" scat-singing, one felt that even the farmers were converted.

Ed Motta appears at London's Cargo (020 7613 7731) on Wednesday; and Exeter's Phoenix (01392 667080) on Saturday

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