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18 août 2008

Womad on the sunny side of the beat

Simon Broughton, Evening Standard 28.07.08

There was one thing everybody was talking about at Womad and that was the weather.

Last year, the festival's new location in Wiltshire was a sodden mudpit. This year, it bathed in a sunny sense of disbelief.

Still to be sorted, though, is bad noise spill between some of the stages which had the Caribbean revels of Eddie Grant disrupting the devotional Sufi singing of Sheikh Taha from Egypt.

There were three groups who failed to make it from Congo, India and Pakistan due to visa trouble - a growing problem with red tape for artists from outside Europe. But after fears that Seun Kuti wasn't going to make it, the son of Fela got his visa and delivered vibrant Afro-beat till midnight last night.

With more than 60 acts over three days - from Bedouin folk songs to Chic, Mavis Staples to Cambodian pop - everyone makes their own festival. It was the UK premiere for Chinese singer Sa Dingding (who appears at the Proms on Wednesday), but her style-overcontent show seemed like an Orientalist fantasy including flags, fans and Buddhist ethnic chic.

Much more fun were Dengue Fever, giving catchy Cambodian pop songs a Californian makeover. But it was a couple of little-known groups that were the talked-about hits - Lo Cor de la Plana, virtuoso male singers from Marseilles doing polyphonic gymnastics, and Kenge Kenge, a band from Kenya with a fine song about Barack Obama.

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