WOMADness 2012

OK, so the pilgrimage took place once more and obeisance  was delivered at the sundry alters of the site near Malmesbury. Twas bright hot sunshine, baking for the first two days but then overlaid with cloud, wind and smatterings of rain. T shirt and shorts for 90% though and so refreshing.

A smaller group than last year but including Evie and Tom, daughter and son, and others in camp B, 100 metres away.Get us out of that sunshine!

I like the way the areas have gelled and the fact that there’s a lot of walking if you want although one could also stay in one zone, at one stage, and have a great time. For example the BBC Radio 3 stage, in the arboretum, has such a sublime location I could readily just stay there all weekend. If I didn’t want to see and do all the other things available, of course. Which I did.

Hugh Masekela launched affairs, on the big outdoor stage, being the elder statesman of Southern African jazz infused soulful musicianship. Masekela music always hits the spot, the spot it made for itself so many moons ago. Plaintive, moving, soaring, celebratory and deeply assured. Yeah, I have issues with the outsize scale and so impersonal nature if one finds oneself at the back of the crowd, as I did, but the ambiance was ace.

Later, on the same stage, Scotland’s Peatbog Faeries, recently seen in Eden, of course, were scrlingly unmistakeable and a Gaelic joy. I’ve only to think their name and those driving island tunes seem to burst into life in my very soul. Hang on a minute for I must dance a wee reel. Hah, that’s better. Nae, back ti business.

I did exploring and a lot of chatting with conservation stallholders like RSPB, Trees for Life, Amnesty and so on. I gave the latter a hard time as they seem largely a tool of establishment western regimes, these days. Their reports are taken up selectively, when a case against a particular country is to be constructed – by such as Tiny Bliar, of course, but also any of today’s US/UK/French/EU politicos. Here the featured government was Cuba, for heaven’s sake. Why not talk of the USA with Bradley Manning and Guantanomo as but two exemplars. You could see the steam released!

By happy circumchance I happened into the “Human Library” section and landed a quick 15 minute “borrow” of an individual bothered about understanding of the spoken word. With deaf parents she reckons her first language was signing, then English, and feels she’s never understood without her underscoring sign talk. Extending this she feels so much conversation is largely misunderstanding and vast amounts of communication so fails. I introduced Facebook as a particular horror and she indeed shuddered! It was an excellent chat of very like minds and mutually beneficial I felt. She certainly seemed ill inclined to end the chat, as did I but she had to be issued to someone else, so we said our goodbyes!

Greenpeace had an Arctic Meltdown Display with an hourly polar-bear walkabout and much in the way of stage props. There were also people to chat with and so I engaged one such in a “So what do we do?” meander to comb through their dismay at Shell’s progressions. Evidence: arctic melt at record rates. Evidence: Shell etc plans to drill for arctic oil. Evidence: increasingly unstable climate, dissipating energy as chaos in an unpredictable, random manner. Flooding, hurricanes, typhoons, sandstorms, whirlwind storms, droughts – practically all these in the USA alone, this year!

After due chat we were joined by a younger student, keen to join the discussion and very concerned about all these issues, as were all her family, she proudly added. She loved my trees input, my China discourse and concentrated on my reference to “The Age of Stupid”, Franny Armstrong’s film of a post climate changed World where the late Pete Postlethwaite was the only survivor, narrating an end of times illustrated speech. Overly heavy and apt to drive folk away as sought real solutions although well constructed and virtuous, I opined.

Turned out the girl, Jessica, is Franny’s neice and “Yes” she felt Franny’d love to make a Trees film with me although I’d best wait a month or so for her to get over her recent childbirthing issues! Small World, eh?

In truth there was so much I missed on Friday as my driving down overnight left a void in my sleep levels which I had to restore. After early Saturday yoga, though, it was really down to Festivalising. Workshops, music, Goan curry, Djemba jamming – wow, I barely paused for breath. Names?

Well, how about Justin Vali from Madegascar with Paddy Bush, UK, showing Cora type complexities in the playing of the valiha, a zither like local construct. Paddy played it as well but was support and narrator. As the Madegascan hinterland has been pulled apart the skill has all but vanished and now the inept conservation mechanisms – barring the indigenous people from their forests – is almost the final straw. Could this be used to raise funds to restore the Malagasy baobob forests? Glorious music needs a secure home – we must try.

Hot Water was the name of a rival band on the Bangor music scene when my band played there. We often shared the bill.  Now the name is used by a South African dance band plus who although oft touring in Europe had never visited the UK before. A meet the band hour had us dancing to Zulu rhythms and well impressed by their eclectic range of skills. A couple of hours later their full set had me right up to the stage bopping and enjoying the positivity.

After sampling Khaled in fine voice and a tight French combo with lots of names I found myself at the drumming circle for a couple of hours exhilaration. Twenty djembe plus assorted others are a wondrous mass of sound and great fun to chaperone, guide and otherwise direct and I undertook such during this time with no little success. Mine is a rich, driving, often multi-overlaid construct. Such fun.

Sunday had a Taiko drumming workshop for me to go somewhere very different in the percussion world. Now worked as a marshall art and so formalised it creates a powerful thump in the groups but, in skilled hands, showed theatre, wonderful dexterity and much more subtlety in the sounds produced. In the same vane, the end of festival procession of all the craft constructs – dragons etc – was accompanied by two percussion groups akin to those from Hebden Bridge we saw up in Eden.

The Pine Leaf Boys are a Cajun combo who were, to me, lost on the main stage. Luckily they were scheduled to produce music and a Jambolya on the “Taste the World” stage, the smallest and most intimate on site. I caught them there and experienced their playing as it should be partaken. Wonderful, note clean and just pure enjoyment. The food smelled good, too, although I didn’t stay to sample it.

A Buena Vista Social Club construct performed in the big Siam tent. Staid and record like at first they came to life, gelled, after ten minutes or so for a very rousing set. I was sat chatting but didn’t ought to have been as the music bounced around, kicking ones feet impatiently

There was lots more, Balkan seemed quite a feature, in various manners, and things led up to The Robert Plant on the Open Air Stage to climax that stage’s festival. I awaited three other acts on the other three main stages, in the hour after he finished. Well, if you don’t know what Robert Plant sounds like by now you probably are not very interested. He was not very interesting. Boubacar Traore on the Siam was but was too austere to enjoy so I rushed to number two, the Tarem Quartet on the Charlie Gillett stage and they were a totally note perfect Russian joy. A lightly humorous with the bass coming from a giant balalaika played adroitly and dead pan – except when a grin sneaked out!

I couldn’t stay til the end though as I had to catch Habadekuk, a kind of Danish Pogues (Nice and rather Nordic but still with a punky energy and a folky medium). Glad I was, too, for I would not have missed this treat for all the Bacon in Copenhagen but you’re not seriously going to ask me to put further description to them are you? Suffice to say that their leader was endearingly Danish and no way a Shane Mac Gowan.

Professor Elemental did a short set at Maddy’s Bar, especially for Tom, it seemed, as he’d met and chatted with him but missed the performance in Eden, but I was too tired to gosee it. It was short but satisfactory, I heard back. Cannot say fairer than that.

Good fest. We’ll like as not be back.

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About greencentre

Non grant supported hence independent scientist, green activist, writer and forest planter.
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