Tag Archives: WOMAD

WOMAD 2011

It has taken me forever to upload more than one photo a day, so I haven’t yet written about Womad and Greenbelt. I’ve been procrastinating this afternoon though, and so now all the photos are up 🙂

This is to just briefly record some of my highlights from Womad this year. Womad is really all about the music, and it was a great lineup this year. Highlights for me were Mahala Rai Banda from Romania (who I saw before a few years ago at Celtic Connections), Majorstuen from Norway (whose latest CD I am playing to death in the car), Afrocubism who are (as the name suggests) a collaboration between artists from Cuba (led by Eliades Ochoa, who I saw at Womad a couple of years ago in his own right, and who plays with Buena Vista Social Club) and Africa (led by Malian legend Touamane Diabate), and Lau (who are 2/3 from Scotland and 1/3 from England and who were brilliant). We saw a number of other groups and artists too – Baaba Maal was amazing, but we were miles away from the stage so couldn’t really appreciate him so much, likewise Gogol Bordello (and, to show my age, there I was, whilst all around me were moshing to their ‘gypsy punk’, sitting in my camping chair like Lady Muck). Rodrigo y Gabriela also sounded great, they are Mexican guitarists but they were so popular we had to sit outside the Siam tent so could only really hear the loud bits. I’d love to see them again somewhere more intimate. I also liked 9Bach from Wales and the beautiful Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura. Booker T Jones was brilliant (especially the Test Match Special theme which really got the crowd going). Random choice of the festival was Las Balkanieras, three girls from Croatia, Bosnia and Russia who basically were Womad meets Eurovision. The programme said something along the lines of “they won’t be troubling the stuffy musicologists, but they’ll be having too good a time to care”, and that pretty much summed them up.

Any of these would be worth checking out, but as I say it’s Majorstuen who are currently being played to death in the car. They are a 5 piece group who all play violin (one of them also plays the cello sometimes, not simultaneously obviously) and their sound is really interesting. The programme reckoned that a group of Norwegian violinists sounded very like a group of Irish violinists, but I don’t agree with that. Actually the more I listen to them the more I think they sound like the Swedish nyckelharpa – it’s a very jangly, chordal sound which I think sounds very very Scandinavian – evocative of the vast empty spaces and the creativity of the population. And that is about as Pseud’s Corner as I’m going to get. If you can’t be doing with that, listen to Las Balkanieras 🙂

Non-musical highlight was Lah-di-da loos which was such a brilliant idea – basically ultra-posh portaloos. They were oversubscribed, did break down on occasions, but oh the relief at standing in a queue and being able to breathe and it not be pongy! And to sit on porcelain! And to be able to put your bag down on the floor and not worry about what it was soaking up! It was £8 for unlimited festival use (bargain) or £2 an individual go (not a bargain), they were open 9-9 during the day, and whilst the queue first thing in the morning was long (and a few people were a bit arsey about that) I think it was brilliant. They also had tables with mirrors and free face and hair products, I didn’t really bother with all that but plenty of people did, it was very popular. It is a new business, and their first time at Womad, and they hadn’t anticipated the demand, so I hope for next time they have more loos and perhaps even introduce a limit to the number of tickets sold (though I realise they have to make their money somehow). Definitely a great idea though.

Here’s a selection of photos I took at the festival:

Directions Taraf de Haidouks

Womad letters Afrocubism

Man with flags Mahala Rai Banda

Festival vibe Chilling out

9Bach Ana Moura

Las Balkanieras Oi Va Voi

Evening flags Lau

La-di-da Loos Majorstuen

Yellow flags, blue sky Womad flags

Booker T Jones Siam ceiling

2011 Project365 (days 213-217)

5th August:

5th August 2011

The last day of our holiday was a treat, as we went to the Ancient Roman City and visited Kerensa. This beauty is from her garden which I found inspirational (reason to be blogged about some other time). It was fantastic to see her again, though embarrassing to look back through her visitors’ book to find an entry from me, with a different name, London address and a date of 6 whole years ago! We mustn’t leave it that long next time.

4th August:

4th August 2011

This is a wee view of the centre of HD’s parents’ home town. We spent the day with them and the nieces/grandchildren (ours/theirs), with a meal out followed by a look in the historic town centre and a couple of little museums.

3rd August:

3rd August 2011

We spent the day in Birmingham, visiting the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter including a very interesting guided tour, and then looking round a couple of nearby cemeteries (from which this picture came).

2nd August:

2nd August 2011

I was a bit stuck for a photo this day so here’s a picture of my Womad purchases.

1st August:

1st August 2011

This cute sign welcomes visitors to HD’s sister’s place, where we stayed after Womad for a few days.

2011 Project365 (days 209-212)

We are now back from a lovely holiday down south, so I have lots of photos to put up here! I’ll do them in installments though, although I’m not sure how many of the photos you’ll be able to see as flickr is not behaving very well currently. This first post includes our 3 days at the Womad festival, which will be the subject of another post at some point.

31st July:

31st July 2011

This is the ceiling of the Siam venue. The artist playing here was Booker T Jones (as in the MGs) – he played the two classics he’s best known for, Green Onions and the theme to Test Match Special (I bet he doesn’t get the reaction he got to that in any other country) and the place went mad, he was excellent!

30th July:

30th July 2011

A view of the main arena. I love the Womad flags.

29th July:

29th July 2011

They made these letters (inspired by the Hollywood letters) at the Womad festival in New Zealand earlier in the year. There were always kids playing on them, I think they were a hit!

28th July:

28th July 2011

We spent the first night of our holiday staying with HD’s parents, who conveniently live a couple of hours away from the Womad venue (it really would have been too much to go the whole way in one day from here). This pig was one of the presents they gave HD for his birthday.

WOMAD pictures

Here’s just a wee selection of pictures from WOMAD last weekend, starting with various views of the site:

Next, Eliades Ochoa and his band. I’m really convinced I saw his guitarist play in a Cuban band when I was in Sibiu the other year.

This picture is of a group called Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan. I was really pleased with this, as we were miles and miles away from the stage:

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (or, how to make brass bands cool):

A couple more site views:


Jim Moray:

Andy White (and his unfeasibly small guitar):

17 Hippies:

Photos from the festival parade, featuring stuff made by the kids workshop groups – check out the giant spider!

Deaf Shepherd:

Back – briefly

We went to the WOMAD festival at the weekend and had a lovely time. I only got to see 3 out of my 7 “must sees” (see last entry), didn’t think there was as much music I wanted to see or really grabbed me, compared to last year, and the weather wasn’t great (Saturday was gloriously sunny most of the day, but it started raining on Saturday evening and basically didn’t stop till we were packing up on Monday morning, so it ended up being a bit of a mudbath by the end of the festival). But, it was still a lovely weekend, we had fun with the family and the kids, and it was good to be away. I’ve put photos on facebook, but won’t have time to put them on flickr (and from there to here) till the weekend probably.

Must sees whom I did see were Eliades Ochoa (wonderful, though he had awful problems with one of his guitar strings which kept going out of tune, he had to keep tuning it which must have been really frustrating for him). If you’ve seen the Buena Vista Social Club film, he’s the singer who wears the stetson with the beautiful voice. I also saw Jim Moray (I liked him, HD wasn’t so keen. I think I preferred Seth Lakeman though), and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (I don’t think it would ever have occurred to me that the sousaphone could be funky!) who were amazing, and definitely not Grimethorpe Colliery Band, that’s for sure!

I missed the Skatalites (who were playing on the Thursday night, the day before we got there), Besh o droM (who were playing quite late on Friday night and we were too tired after 2 long days – though actually I could hear quite a bit of their set even from inside the tent, they sounded good so I shall check them out some other time), and Youssou N’Dour and Johnny Kalsi were playing at the same time. I had decided that I’d see Youssou N’Dour (as I’d seen Johnny Kalsi before), but he was on the Open Air stage on Sunday and it was absolutely chucking it down with rain, and in the end even though I did really want to see him I just couldn’t face another drenching.

I also saw a set by a band called 17 Hippies that I really liked, the end of a workshop by Andy Young (who is the A in ALT for those of you who know that band – Andy Young, Liam from Hothouse Flowers and Tim Finn from Crowded House), and a brilliant Scottish band called Deaf Shepherd who play traditional Scottish music. Unfortunately HD wasn’t feeling at all well so we didn’t stay for the whole of their set, but I’ll definitely be looking out for them again.

Despite the rain I managed to get sunburnt – I have a very attractive red nose now! We were talking about sunburn as our little step-niece (who is 5) also got red shoulders, and I told her that HD had called me Rudolph because of my nose. She started telling us about a book she’s got about Father Christmas, and doors you open and behind one of them is Rudolph. HD asked her if Rudolph looked like me. She looked at me, smiled, and said “Well, Rudolph doesn’t have glasses”.


Tomorrow I’m away again for a job interview somewhere exotic (will tell you about it when I get back at the end of the week). I’m getting rather anxious about it, not the job so much but the location as it would be a big big and rather scary move (and did I mention it would be big?). I’m also getting anxious about my thesis, which due to job applications and interviews and things isn’t getting written, and in the meantime HD also has an interview soon, somewhere totally different to where mine is. Having spent one night at Womad not sleeping because of worrying about the interview and the scariness of it all, I spent last night having very vivid interview-and-thesis-anxiety dreams (though they weren’t as psychedelic as rosamundi’s Tamiflu-inspired dreams seem to be!). I was talking to my brother-in-law at the weekend at Womad, and telling him about how we have spent pretty much the entire year thinking that maybe a job for HD and/or me is just round the corner, then it doesn’t work out but there’s something else to apply for and give us hope, and then that doesn’t work out, but something else tantalises us, and on and on and on it goes, so that we seem to be always in this sense of heightened anticipation that never quite works out. No wonder we’re both so stressed. I’m finding it really difficult to pray, so if anyone would like to pray for us I’d appreciate that very much. I’ll be back on Friday so will be able to tell you how it all went then.

Looking forward

Next weekend we’re off to the WOMAD festival. I absolutely can’t wait. We’re both so tired, and generally weary with the world, that a break away, even just for a few days, will do us the world of good. HD’s sister, brother-in-law, brother and their assorted offspring will also be there, so I’ll have the new experience (for me) of being in the family camping area. I’m looking forward to it though – the kids (aged between 5 and 13) are all lovely and real characters, and actually last year when we were camping amongst strangers I did feel a bit like we were Mr & Mrs No-Mates, so having people around we know will be fun. I’ve just taken a look at the line up, there are fewer people this year that I’d heard of, but I’ve still found several acts I really really want to see (Eliades Ochoa, Youssou N’Dour, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Besh o droM, The Skatalites, Jim Moray, Johnny Kalsi) – hopefully they won’t be playing simultaneously! There’s always loads going on, so I plan on wandering round and just seeing what I come across – we heard a few good acts this way last year.

The long-range weather forecast for next weekend is apparently good, so I’m happy about that. I’m counting the days now!

WOMAD 2008

I’ve just gone through my photos – some good, some bad, some indifferent – but I hope this gives you a bit of a flavour of our festival!

The first few are of our little home for the weekend – as you can see HD was working really hard while I killed myself inflating the mattress (I can just see him snorting coffee over his keyboard if he reads this – the picture was actually taken during a very brief break, as he did most of the inflating). And you can see that as usual I am the height of sophistication and chic and gorgeousness:

WOMAD homeWOMAD working hardWOMAD camping chic

The first band we went to see were called Fribo, who were variously from England, Scotland, Norway and Iceland. I quite liked them, they were good enough, though I must say that listening to a bagpipe tune being played on a Jew’s Harp was quite an experience! Then we wandered down to see a band called AltaiKAI who were Siberian throat singers. Their traditional music is designed to evoke the landscape and wildlife, so it included very realistic impressions of birds and horses as well as the very weird throat singing. They’re the group in the amazing costumes in the first picture. We then saw a bit of the ceilidh with the Sharon Shannon Band, which was fun but I wasn’t mad on some of the guest singers, and we weren’t around when Shane McGowan was on, assuming he showed up – by that point we had moved on to the Radio 3 stage in the Arboretum to see what, for me, was the find of the festival, a band from Marseille called Lo Cor de La Plana. These six guys sing a capella, plus do a bit of beatboxing (but not in a naff way) and some of them had north African drums that looked like tambourines but without the milk bottle tops if you know what I mean. They sing in a language called Occitan, which is a kind of melding together of French and Catalan, and which apparently the French authorities are trying to suppress. They were simply fantastic, and I’m afraid I was really sad and bought a CD and queued up to get them to sign it. If you ever get the chance to see them, do take it – they were brilliant (they’re in the second two pictures):

WOMAD AltaiKAIWOMAD Lo Cor de la Plana (1)WOMAD Lo Cor de la Plana (2)

From there we went on to hear a band called Speed Caravan (or, as I kept calling it, Extreme Ironing, much to my amusement if not anyone else’s) which was the band of a France-based Algerian oud-player described as “the Jimi Hendrix of the electric oud”. I found him much more listenable-to than Jimi Hendrix, but I could see what they meant. They were very very loud, and very clubby – the blurb said they reference The Cure and The Chemical Brothers; I can’t say I heard much that was Cure-like in their set but it was pretty Chemical Brothersesque, I thought. They’re in the first (not very good – we were a long way away) photo of this next bunch. The second and third pictures show the WOMAD flags – these were arranged in various circles all around the arena, and were SO photogenic! The second picture in particular, there was a whole crowd of us taking pictures of these pink flags as in the light, with the darkening sky behind them, they just looked breathtaking:

WOMAD Speed CaravanWOMAD pink flagsWOMAD blue-grey flags

After seeing Extreme Ironing, we wandered round the funfair which was also onsite. We had a go on a ride which was a bit like the waltzers except the cars didn’t spin all the way round. I reckon I’m getting old – I used to be able to go on one fairground ride after another and absolutely loved it, but even after this one ride I wanted to puke!

On Saturday we relaxed and mooched for much of the morning, and once the music programme really started around lunchtime we wandered round just seeing what we found. We listened to a few songs by an Italian band called Sudd MM, before going over to the main open air stage to see a french gypsy band called Babylon Circus (first picture). I thought they were brilliant – if you know Manu Chao’s music I thought they sounded a lot like him, but more energetic – but as it was so hot HD wandered off to find somewhere shady while I listened to the rest of their set. We then missed each other for an hour or so trying but not quite succeeding to find each other, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard to bump into each other eventually so didn’t flap (unusually for me). I wandered over to the Radio 3 stage to listen to another band I’d wanted to see, a Balkan gypsy band called Paprika Balkanicus (second picture). They were from, variously, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, and were really excellent (the violinist from Romania in particular was fantastic). By the middle of the set HD and I had found each other, and as the Radio 3 area was so crowded (it was a stage in the Arboretum, so it was a small intimate space which was great, but could get really crowded) we ended up sitting under a tree a little way away listening to the music, although we couldn’t see the stage any more. Also later that same day we saw Wasis Diop (3rd photo – a late replacement for a band that couldn’t get a visa, but he was great – very cheerful, happy Senegalese music), Martha Wainwright (very good, though not my favourite) and some of Jah Wobble’s set (HD is a big fan of his).

WOMAD Babylon Circus (1)WOMAD Paprika BalkanicusWOMAD Wasis Diop

We then were hungry, and it was quite late, so we wandered over to Leon’s vegetarian stall (someone persuade him to go to Greenbelt, his food was fantastic!), which happened to be at the side of the main open air stage. And who should be playing there, but the legendary Eddy Grant (1st photo). We hadn’t planned on seeing him, we just happened to be over that way, so only caught the last half hour or so, but I have to say – the guy is a legend! He was brilliant, and he’d saved all the songs everyone knew (and so sang along to) till the end. Walking on Sunshine, Electric Avenue, I Don’t Wanna Dance, Hope JoAnna, and then Baby Come Back as the encore. He was fantastic. Oh, and there were more flags all over the place, so here are a couple more:

WOMAD Eddy GrantWOMAD green flagsWOMAD blue flags and sky

On Sunday we also had a relaxed start to the day, and both went to the Tai Chi class. HD has been doing Tai Chi for years (there’s a brilliant picture of him, a few years ago in his parents’ back garden, doing his Tai Chi moves being watched (and copied) by his young toddler niece), but I’ve not really done much before other than the short lived Body Balance course I attempted a couple of years ago. I quite enjoyed it, though my feet (which by this point were rather blistered) were killing me so having to stand on them on really hard stony lumpy ground for an hour and a half was a bit trying after a while! We saw less music on Sunday, but did see Cara Dillon (first couple of photos) who was wonderful. I had wanted to see her when she played at Greenbelt a couple of years ago, but then we ended up spending the entirety of her set in the shower queue so I’d missed her, so I was really pleased to get the chance now, and wasn’t disappointed. Incidentally the guy on the left of the second picture, who played guitar and keyboards for her, was called Sam Lakeman – I’m wondering if he’s any relation to Seth (I thought he looked a bit like him, and he was certainly a fine musician, so it’s plausible). After that we spent some time sitting under a tree and reading, and we also went for our one shower of the weekend (more on the bathroom facilities in a minute!). The final photo of this next three was taken looking up from our reading spot – would you just look at the colour of that sky!!!

WOMAD Cara Dillon (1)WOMAD Cara Dillon (2)WOMAD blue sky!

We went back to the tent for a bit, where HD fought valiantly with the airbed (a wedding present, which foolishly we hadn’t measured in relation to the tent – it did fit, but only just!) and I had a light beverage and demonstrated why I usually blowdry my hair! The third picture (a bit out of sequence, I think!) is of HD waiting for a fix – the woman in the coffee van asked him if he was going to Greenbelt this year, as she is so used to serving him regular caffeine over the years she recognised him!*

WOMAD mattress fightWOMAD relaxingWOMAD coffee

The first photo from this next bunch is the band we saw on the main stage on Sunday evening, one of my must-sees – Orchestra Baobab from Senegal. I’d got their 2002 album (and their latest one is going onto my wish-list!), so knew I was going to like it, and I wasn’t disappointed, although as my feet were really killing me it did affect my enjoyment a bit (note to self: at Greenbelt, go for comfort over style – carry a camping chair everywhere). Oh yeah and here’s some more flags too:

WOMAD Orchestra Baobab (main stage)WOMAD red flags

Finally for the photos, in the evening we watched Charlie Gillett record his Radio 3 world music show on the Radio 3 stage (it’s on Listen Again all this week on the Radio 3 website – must get round to listening to it, the man’s a legend). These pictures show Orchestra Baobab again (or, as the stage was only very small, Chamber Orchestra Baobab!), the man himself, and finally a view of the walkway from the Radio 3 stage to the main arena area as it was getting dark – it was really pretty with the lights.

WOMAD Orchestra BaobabWOMAD Charlie Gillett - legendWOMAD Walkway

What a great weekend. I’ll definitely go again.

It was interesting for me to see how I felt about being at WOMAD – I’d only been once before, as a day visitor, and Greenbelt is the only festival I’ve ever camped at. It felt strange not constantly bumping into people we knew (we did bump into a friend of HD’s a couple of times, as she is also a WOMAD regular, but apart from her and the coffee van woman recognising him, we didn’t know anyone else there). It was weird not getting up and saying good morning to fellow campers and joining them for breakfast as our fellow campers were complete strangers. That said, everyone seemed really friendly and it wasn’t unpleasant weird, just a bit different.

It struck me as well how, just like Greenbelt, there’s a very definite WOMAD sub-culture. Just like Greenbelt, I’d say that sub-culture was basically pretty middle-class and educated, on the whole – in a way that I don’t imagine Glastonbury or T in the Park which aim towards a younger demographic would to such a large extent. I feel much more ‘part’ of the Greenbelt sub-culture – mainly of course due to the religion thing, whereas a lot of the New Age therapies and all of that sort of thing weren’t really my cup of tea. But, like Greenbelt, I can imagine the majority of WOMAD goers to be Guardian-reading-woolly-leftie-liberal-leaning-types, so at the end of the day I didn’t really feel out of place. There were a few more black faces around than at Greenbelt, but not as many as I thought there might be – it was still pretty white, really.

I said I’d mention the bathroom side of things. There were good and bad things, and of course I couldn’t help comparing to Greenbelt. The good thing about Greenbelt is that, as well as the portaloos, you’ve got your actual porcelain at the grandstand, so you can get away with not actually using the portaloos all that much. At WOMAD it was portaloos or nothing, and I didn’t think they were very well distributed – there were large banks of them at various places, but unlike Greenbelt where you have a few placed pretty regularly throughout the camping areas, you had to trek quite a way from the camping area to the loos (and I understand that the walk from the family camping area was even further, which I don’t think was very well planned). BUT (and this is a big but, hence the capitals), unlike Greenbelt where by Saturday morning the portaloos are absolutely minging, at WOMAD they did brilliantly in keeping them clean and (relatively) pleasant, and even on Monday morning when it was time to pack up they were perfectly acceptable. So massive applause has to go to the hygiene team, who did the most brilliant job. There were also alcohol gel dispensers to clean your hands, and toilet paper dispensers, which I appreciated – I think I would have liked the option of washing hands at a water point, like at GB, as WOMAD again had fewer water points, but on the whole I have to say the toilets were brilliant, considering they were portaloos being used by over 20,000 people.

The showers were different to Greenbelt, and there was a different system there too. The main good thing was that they were free and you didn’t have to book them in advance (see previous moan about missing Cara Dillon’s set because I was standing in the Greenbelt shower booking queue for nearly 2 hours). This did mean that in the morning the queues for the showers (the ladies anyway) was enormous, but we went for ours around 4.30 in the afternoon and walked straight in. The main bad thing was that they were communal (gender segregated obviously, but it was all the girls together, just like at school). As we were there in the afternoon they weren’t that crowded, but I still got a view of lots of bits and bobs that I really didn’t need to see. So, on balance, I think I have to declare that Greenbelt showers are better from the privacy point of view, and personally I’m happy to queue a bit and pay for that. I won’t be moaning about them again anyway!

* True story: a couple of years ago at Greenbelt, when HD and I had been going out for all of a couple of weeks, I went with him to that same coffee van and the woman recognised him from WOMAD a few weeks earlier and said “Americano?” without him asking, as he’d bought so many during WOMAD she remembered his tipple. I remember thinking then and there, I think I’m going to marry this guy. Which was a bit of a freaky thought, and not one I shared with him at the time (not wanting him to freak out and run away, and recognising that that’s the kind of thing I could be hideously wrong about!). And the rest is history. How about that?!


WOMAD. That’s where we’re going! We’re leaving today and spending this evening at HD’s sister’s (at any rate, we will if we both get off the internet and actually pack some stuff), and then off to the festival tomorrow. Back online possibly Monday, probably Tuesday more likely. Hooray!

It’s HD’s birthday today. It’s not fair, he’s another year older and he’s *still* younger than me.


I’ve just bought my Greenbelt ticket!

We’re also planning on going to WOMAD later this month – really looking forward to that, very much. HD is a WOMAD regular, but I’ve only been once before, in the mid-90s, for just a day, when it was at Reading (now it’s somewhere in the West country apparently). The bands that I remember from last time were Shooglenifty (still going strong – we saw them at Celtic Connections last year and they were still brilliant) and the AfroCelt Sound System. There’s one person I’ve seen before on this year’s line-up (Johnny Kalsi – also seen at Celtic Connections) and a few acts that I’m really keen to see (amongst them Paprika Balkanicus, Martha Wainwright and Orchestra Baobab, and probably the ceilidh as well which features all sorts of interesting people including Shane McGowan), but mostly I’m looking forward to just dropping in on something I’ve never heard of and discovering lots of new stuff. Hooray!