Festival review: Womad, Charlton Park, Malmesbury



With its six main stages and rolling programme from midday till after midnight, it’s inevitable that FOMO sets in as you try to sample a full taste of the world unfurling its colours at Charlton Park. This year wasn’t the greatest line-up, but it’s easy to pick out the hot and chilled over the merely warmed over.

Despite Noah-like forecasts of storm and deluge, conditions until late Saturday were outstanding. Then the heavens opened, pools of mud rose up through the dry compacted ground like some Lovecraftian horror in clay, then subsided with Sunday’s sun and bracing winds.

The BBC’s Radio Three stage is one of smallest but tastiest, set amidst the trees of the Arboretum, with its masseurs, healers, Gong Baths. At night, it’s spectacularly lit up, and in the heat, provides welcome shade. Here, brilliant young trio Barrule ignited the folk tunes of the Isle of Man, while British-Indian sitar player Roopa Panesar and her band were also outstanding, DaWangGang intriguingly fused traditional Chinese instruments with slide-guitar quotes from In My Time of Dying, and there was a sporadically brilliant set from Brazil’s Lucas Santa, who has a unique touch for ringing, chiming guitar.

Santa was one of a contingent of Brazilians, including Sunday night’s headliner Gilberto Gil, as cool and consummate as ever, and young star Flavia Coelho on that same Open Air Stage on Saturday lunchtime. This is Womad’s largest arena, where Seun Kuti led his father’s Egypt 88 band through a familiar but brilliantly energetic Friday night set. “This is not African jazz,” he declared. “This is not traditional music. This is not African soul. This is original African music.”

The same could be said for the Malian art music of Saturday’s main-stage headliner, Rokia Traore, who opened with brooding, snaking bass-driven and low, dramatic vocals. Seventies veterans Osibisa preceded her, while Zimbabwe’s Mokoomba scored lengthy rhythmic workouts with some superb lead guitar on Sunday afternoon.

Womad is as much about new artists as it is headliners. In the Siam Tent, Sam Lee’s Womad debut (following an inspiring talk on song collecting at the World Rhythms tent), came after the more belated debut of Canzoniere Grencanico Salentina, a veteran band from the heel of Italy’s boot. On the same stage, you could find Tuva’s throat-singing giants Hun Huur Tu, Poland’s Kroke with Mongolian singer Urna, or Romania’s Fanfare Ciocarlia slaying the crowd, while Charlie Gillette Stage hosted a supernaturally brilliant Iranian percussionist, so jaw-droppingly good that even the soundcheck drew astonished applause. Mohammed Reza Mortavasi, this one’s for you.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas