As always, this year’s WOMAD featured an impressively broad line-up. Few festivals can boast 90 artists from 49 countries, and in an increasingly fractious world, gatherings of this kind are more important now than ever.
The Sound System stage had a lot to live up to. The previous years have seen it grow from strength to strength becoming a vital element of the WOMAD mix but this year it sounds even better. The foundation of the Sound System is its four rock solid, fully braced low frequency enclosures, these now incorporate new mid-range drivers incorporating the Continuum cones present in our flagship 800 Series Diamond.
The four gleaming 3.5metre speaker stacks filled the sleek lines of the tent with ease and the first artist on was iconic house legend, and former SoS artist, A Guy Called Gerald. His moody dubby soundscapes were a perfect match for the Sound System’s hefty sub-woofer units, capable of a whopping 120dB.
Other highlights on Friday included reggae queen Dawn Penn who performed her rock-steady classic ‘You don’t love me no no no’ to a jubilant crowd and the London father of dub and spiritual bass master Jah Shaka who closed the first day at WOMAD with a superb crowd-pleasing reggae and roots set.
Saturday’s line-up fully embraced the eclectic feel of the festival, starting with a completely out-there set from Manchester maverick and Sun-Ra obsessive Paddy Steer.
The influential cult disco project, Black Devil Disco Club, rubbed shoulders with the cinematic swooning of Horror’s front man Faris Badwan’s successful side project, Cats Eyes and the astonishing blues inflected voice of SoS artist Hollie Stephenson contrasted with the melancholic falsetto of Gwilym Gold. US living legend François K had the tent packed to the rafters as the closing act of the night, taking a willing crowd in a sunbaked field in Wiltshire as close to NYC’s seminal Loft club as they were ever going to get.
The immersive soundscapes of BBC Radio 3’s Nick Luscombe and sound artist Steve Hellier, fusing field recordings with curated music, eased the crowd nicely into Sunday morning. There was definitely a more laid back vibe to the proceedings with ex-Cinematic Orchestra’s Stuart McCallum’s transcendent playing making way for the joyous summery pop of Mercury-nominated three-piece The Invisible.
Glasgow’s much-loved Optimo brought the festival to a close with their dance-friendly blend of electro, art-school punk-funk providing the perfect Sunday night vibe.
In a festival which prides itself on diversity, it’s hard to always bring something different to the mix but we managed. As one happy festival goer commented: