Womex 2010 - Editor's Highlights (Pt 3)
Tagged with: Womex Copenhagen Koncerthuset N'Faly Kouyate LaBrass Banda Blink Bomba Estereo Colombia Karina Buhr Dobet Gnahoré Mabon Wales Henrik Jansberg Baba Zula Denmark Baltic Nordic Emilia Amper Nyckelharpa Brazil Turkey Glyn Phillips Review
This is the third of my Editor's Highlights blogs from Womex 10 - the World Music Expo held in Copenhagen, Denmark last month. It deals with the third day of the expo - Sat 30th Oct 2010.
"... as if a whole battalion of brass bands was invading the hall"
"The daytimes at Womex were spent intensively networking at the Trade Fair, where we met some absolutely fascinating people and organisations; however whilst doing this there were often impromptu musical displays happening around the Forum. N'faly Kouyate, normally with the Afro Celt Sound System, was to be found at the Belgian Walloon stand playing his kora, the gentle sounds rippling out from his corner of the fair; two or three members of LaBrass Banda started a near stampede when they began to play in one of the stands - just they alone sounded as if a whole battalion of brass bands was invading the hall; a trio of what I think were very young musicians from the Lithuania/Latvia/Estonia area played some great music on bagpipes, guitar and tambourine, amongst other musical displays.
In particular a very sotto voce performance on the 'grassy hillock' at the centre of the Forum (in reality a mound of pallets covered over with rolls of real grass!) by the young Nordic folk quartet Blink was especially enjoyable. These "four women from five countries" - their own words - played a beautiful blend of music from their respective traditions, combining the voices of Danish-Norwegian Jullie Hjetland (a girl with a jaw-dropping length of hair in an enormous rope-plait) and the Finnish Lotta Hagfjors, with the Estonian fiddle of Johanna-Adele Jüssi and the Swedish nyckelharpa of the lovely Emilia Amper.
"... an energy level that could power the National Grid."
Sadly, I missed the young Welsh band, Calan, that night at the Koncerthuset (it was the turn of Wales to showcase its best in the offWomex Stage in Studio 2), which was a real pity since I'd very much enjoyed their 2008 album "Bling" and was looking forward to seeing them. However, I was able to catch and photograph the Colombian band Bomba Estéreo, a small band with an energy level that could power the National Grid. There was something about the intensity of the lead singer's performance that meant my camera was absolutely glued to her almost the entire time - even though she moved about so much it was difficult to get any decent pictures. Although they had a full-on punk and rock attitude and definitely a crowd-pleaser if placed in a festival type setting, I wasn't sure afterwards if I was even aware of the actual music they played. Certainly not music to put your feet up to . . .
Brazilian art-rock-pop singer Karina Buhr's set was marred by the fact that for almost the entire time you couldn't see her, since the only lighting seemed to come from the intense red back-lighting. The whole concert seemed to be given in silhouette. Again I can hardly remember the music, just the frustration of trying to work out what the cat-suited singer was doing with the large blow-up plastic props in her hands that looked huge spiky dumb-bells.
"beautiful voice, graceful movements, and trademark painted face"
On safer ground was the striking Ivorian singer, Dobet Gnahoré, who delivered a show full of confidence, artistry and grace in the main hall of the Koncerthuset (Studio 1). With her beautiful voice, fluid movements, and trademark painted face she held the concentration and the hearts of the packed hall. Too pregnant to safely dance - a big part of her show usually - she had one of the backing singers dance for her - and what a surprise that was. Dobet seated herself on a high stool at the back with the musicians and almost conducted the dance performance with her hands, whilst her singer leapt and swooped and spun and dropped with increasingly wild abandon to the music, getting more energetic and daring as the music took her someplace else. A great show that I wish I was able to see more of. But so many things to cover . . .
"A great live act, they were confident, professional and very tight"
Downstairs again to the very bowels of this amazing building and this time to see the last Welsh folk band of the night, Mabon. Although mostly Welsh, their approach is more accurately described as inter-celtic, since they weave many different strands and cultures into their music. Again, another exhilarating performance from a band I'd never seen before and had little idea what to expect. A great live act, they were confident, professional and very tight, accordion, fiddle, bass, guitar and drums working as one. The band's leader and main composer, the accordionist Jamie Smith, managed to dominate the stage even though he barely moved from his spot. Mabon soon had the crowd on their feet and there was a full-scale twmpath going on beneath the enormous Welsh Dragon pinned to the wall at the side of the auditorium. The Welsh supporters were obviously determined to show the rest of the world how to party and linked hands to dance like a huge human snake through the crowd. But Mabon are more than just a great live band; their album "Live at the Grand Pavilion" is as enjoyable played at home alone as it would be performed live at a venue (just close the curtains so the neighbours don't see your dodgy dance moves!).
"How much exhilaration can a man take?"
I wandered out of Studio 2, slightly shell-shocked and somehow found myself in Studio 4 where the Nordic Club was based. I seemed to walk into the Danish equivalent of Mabon! Full house and mad dancing everywhere by the home crowd and a band that swung every bit as much as the one I'd just seen. I only found out later that it was the award-winning Danish fiddler Henrik Jansberg and his band (two guitars, double bass and percussionist - cajón, washboard and assorted cymbals and lumps of metal). Again: tight, confident, professional and with an enthusiastic band of supporters egging them on. How much exhilaration can a man take?
"I can hear all the festivals ringing their manager right now…"
Upstairs now to catch Turkish psychebelly trance masters, Baba Zula, the inventors of Oriental Dub. All efforts to pigeon-hole this legendary Anatolian band are pretty much worthless, since they pull in so many influences from psychedelic rock through electro-beat and trance to whistles, spoons, darbuka and electric-saz. Frontman, Murat Ertel, and spoon-clacking, cymbal-basher Levent Atman, both sported impressive moustaches - which got my vote straightaway! Then out came the dancers - whirling around the stage in colourful psychebelly outfits - as if Hawkwind had been transported to Istanbul. The whole show was a full-on audio-visual assault - and Baba Zula most certainly came out the conquering heroes. I can hear all the festivals ringing their manager right now…"