Womad Reading

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The Independent Culture
Womad's population is booming, with 17,000 people in daily attendance this year. More than a hundred businesses offered everything from a portion of Cajun fries to a pounds 6 reading from "internationally acclaimed Celtic tarot readers".

Celts were much in evidence this year. We had Hen Wlad Fy Maman (Lands of My Mothers), a new Welsh "cutting edge" rock group; Schooglenifty, a Scottish ensemble said to purvey "acid croft"; Iarla O'Lionaird, an impressive sean nos (old style) singer from Cork; and, most fanfared in advance, the Afro-Celt Sound System, Real World Records' current pet project. The latter comprises a guitarist/ programmer/ producer, several top-flight Irish musicians including Iarla O'Lionaird, piper Davy Spillane, and Pogue James McNally, Kenyan Womad protege Ayub Ogala and kora and drum players from Senegalese Baaba Maal's band, together creating a vaguely Irish, faintly West African New Age dance music. The Afro-Celt package also comes with an ambitious and theoretical substructure. Did you know, for instance, that Scotland was dominated by the Moors, including one King Kenneth, until the 10th century?

The African part of the bill had a whiff of deja vu about it, but, as always with Womad, contained gems for the persevering. Thomas Mapfumo was there again, and played well. Old Womad stalwart Remmy Ongala was also there again with a new band calling itself the Nameless Orchestra from Another Planet (was this an attempt to recycle more Celts surreptitiously). An intriguing Mauretanian singer didn't show up and a Madagascan quintet of brothers and sisters, N'Java, did - and was delightful. Of some four dozen acts from the rest of the world, none was more rewarding or esoteric than the immaculately researched and performed repertoire of the Greek singer Savina Yannatou - sephardic Jewish songs in old Spanish from Thessalonica. I'm sure I'll be back next year.

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