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19 août 2008

Sounds of summer: Womad

Akin Ojumu, The Observer, Sunday August 3 2008

Charlton Park, Wiltshire

Womad has had a bit of a facelift. Last year the festival moved to a new venue and a quick glance at this year's line-up showed a shift towards mainstream pop. With so many festivals these days boasting eclectic lists of Western and 'world' acts, is this such a good idea?

But after last year's mudfest, Womad 2008 delivered three days of glorious sunshine. One of the most appealing things about this particular festival is the chance to hear new music, but on the opening night it was the retro disco of Chic, orchestrated by sole surviving member Nile Rodgers, that got the easy-going crowd on their feet.

Elsewhere, the French-Algerian punk Rachid Taha brought his beguiling mix of influences to an appreciative crowd, including a thrilling version of the Clash's 'Rock the Casbah'. Veterans such as Senegal's Orchestra Baobab and the gospel singer Mavis Staples also shone, and on Saturday afternoon there was a treat from Kenyan Luo band Kenge Kenge who delivered a fabulously lively set that included a tribute to Barack Obama, the man of the moment and son of a Kenyan Luo.

Martha Wainwright provided a touch of class, while Roni Size raised the bpm level for those who could handle it. On Sunday, Squeeze rolled out the hits and reminded us that they were once a pretty good singles band. By then most people's spirits were as sunny as the weather.

Best performance Chic - Nile Rodgers and co brought back the 'Good Times'.

Best discovery Kenge Kenge - irresistible Luo and Benga tunes.

Overheard 'Ernest Ranglin? Yeah, he is famous actually. He does Jamaican jazz or something... '

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