Rhythms of the world

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The Independent Online
If Womad has something all the other summer festivals don't, it's a near monopoly on a large chunk of the great and good in world music. On the other hand, the average rock fan might be too bewildered by unfamiliar names from lands as far flung as Israel, Brazil, Japan and Algeria, to step in and discover what a good time is being missed. That said, the presence of global techno club Whirl-Y-Gig will drag in the hippy dance freaks and the air will be heavy with happiness and demon weed. Today's line-up includes vocalist Natacha Atlas, current darling of the music press, together with South Africa's hip hopsters, Prophets of Da City.

Tomorrow's highlight is Baaba Maal (right) & Daande Lenol. Senegal's Maal is a modern African vocal star, in the sense that he can capture traditional spiritual intensity in his rich tunes but uses Nineties sounds. Also appearing tomorrow is Zaire's glorious Papa Wemba: great vocals with Zairean characteristics, but with a hint of Parisian and rhumba rhythms.

Sunday has its share of top singing stars as well. Diva Margareth Menezes from Brazil fuses black batucada with Latin rhythms, and Mali's Ali Farka Toure comes with the tag, "The greatest blues guitarist of West Africa".

Womad was a sell-out last year. A sign, perhaps, that we're finally beginning to appreciate it.

ANGELA LEWIS

Womad Festival, Rivermead, Reading (01734 591 591) today to Sun

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