Sunday, 16 November 2008

Womad Las Palmas / Womex Sevilla

The Womad Festival rolled into Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for the fourteenth time, and it did not disappoint this one.  I was told that someone thought that it was 'too electronic'
Not sure who they were talking about because check who was on the bill....
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Tony Allen, El Guincho, Speed Caravan, Papirka Balkanicus, Mariem Hassan, Femi Kuti & The Positive Force, Umdumo Wesizwe, Bo Cissoko.

Speed Caravan must have been the culprits as they had a laptop with the beats, oh yeah, and that dastardly El Guincho, yeah, him, his drum pad and sequencer were plugged into the National Grid.  May the offspring of these two electricity-loving heathens be sold to the highest bidder and serve a life sentence  making drums out of the hardest of termite resistant wood. That will teach them.

A journalist friend in London asked me to take some notes of the festival, and here they are:

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra:  (Friday night)
This NYC-based group are one of the torch bearers for Fela Kuti and Afrobeat which was one of the themes for Womad Las Palmas '08, as this edition of Womad also featured Fela's son, Femi Kuti, and also Fela's musical director and drummer Tony Allen.  Antibalas have played over 1000 shows and they know how to involve the audience.  Their call and response method of presenting their msic worked the crowd well.  In typical Afrobeat fashion, their seventy-five minutes of allotted stage time was enough for six songs.

Tony Allen: (Saturday night)
Fluid, seven piece band. Climactic funk, hi-hats to the front, hammond organ smoothness, afro movements, colourful tom rolls and fills, give his drumming an expansive feeling, covering a huge range of  expression.  Along with Antibalas and Femi,  he presented the sound of victory for the oppressed.  "He is science.' said Mehdi/Speed Caravan.

El Guincho (Friday night)
His appearance represented a musical homecoming for Palbo Diaz-Reixa aka El Giuncho.  Born in Las Palmas but now based in Barcelona, the last 12 months have been very hectic, due to the totally unexpected reaction to his mega-tropicalistic Alegranza album, which was recently picked up the the quality label that is XL Recordings.  He has been developed his live show since I first saw him perform at the ECOS Festival in Tenerife earlier this year, as he is now armed with a drummer.  I've got a lot of time for El Guinch', however not sure his set is suited to a big stage just yet, however the spirit of rave, afrobeat and carnival is very much evident and I give him top marks for stepping out on his own, being a leader, not a follower.

Speed Caravan: (Saturday night):
This Algerian/French four-piece comprising of Mehdi Haddab on the oud; Hermoine Frank providing electronic beats; Pascal Teillet, bass; and Mohamad Bouamar on percussion and vocals turned in one of the most talked aobut performances which also included a vsersion of the Chemical Brothers' "Push the Button".  Mehdi's oud is plugged into two amplifiers giving in a presence and edge that one does not expect with this instrument.  Who'se gonna sign these guys and make them huge?  They deserve to be heard!

Umdumo Wesizwe: (Friday night)
This Zimbabwian group were another concert highlight, as was their workshop the following day.  Ten vocalists and two drummers showed how it is done.  Body-popping, kinetic dance moves while breathlessly delivering vocals.  It's not fair!

Paprika Balkanicus (Sunday night):
Weapons of choice, two accordians, a guitarist, weird violinist, an electric double bass that used to belong to Rhonda Smith, one-time player for Prince ("I lick it every time I go onstage." said the current owner, Jozef Secnik) and a great sense of humour.   This Serbian/Slovenian/Romanian quintet were very much appreciated, asking the thousands in the audience to all join hands and form a massive circle, to which the photographers went into a frenzied state trying to capture the images for the next day's front page.
The ever present 4/4 rhythms took a back seat as the Paprikans caught us with the 9/8 movement of 'Ne Kuni Me Majko' (Mother Don't Curse Me), a song about lost love.  Bodgan Vacarescu's violin moved over the strings of his violin at speds unimaginable, generating open-mouthed reactions and stunned-into-silence audience reaction.

Mariem Hassan
Her performance brought the Saharwian community of Las Palmas out in full force.  Polisario flags were abound.  At one moment the Muddy Waters blues filled the air, then rhythms that influenced Public Image Ltd during their Flowers of Romance period took over.

Darga:  (Saturday night):
When they hit the stage, once again flags appeared, besides the Polisario flags, those representing Morocco, the Canarian Independence movement and Amazig (berbers, the forefathers of the Guanche, the original inhabitants of the Canary Islands).  The flags swayed to the funk, rap and Marley-esque reggae flavours of this youthful group led by two vocalists and an 'Obama for Change'  T-shirt wearing guitarist.

DJ Mr. Benn (Friday night)
He is part of a DJ crew with Massive Attack's Daddy G, so I was eager to catch his set, as I know G plays quality music, and if somebody is down with him, then they too got the goods. However a scheduling change meant that as we were eating getting some tasty octopus he was finishing his set.  Grrrrr!!!!!!  I'll have to make do with his mix CD for the time being.

Ba Cissoko: (Thursday night)
Fantastic!  Great tones coming from the twin kora players, pounding beats from the calabah and top-shot energy from all players, made for a fitting opening night party.

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force (Sunday night)
The perfect festival closer.  A blazing entrance with a five-piece horn section, bass, two drummers, guitar, and finally some female singers/dancers who must be some of the fittest around.  There were several songs that lived in the 170+bpm range (drum and bass tempo) and they did not miss a step or shake of the hips.  The furious pace swept Femi into a state of musical intoxication, eyes rolling into the back of his sockets, while the horns burned around the rhythms that proved the bedrock for songs about poverty, greed, corruption and Aids.
For the encore....a classic from his father, 'Water Got No Enemy'.

Thanks  to Rod "The Hangman" Garrett and Nani, Tenerife's favourite percussionist for sound support...we must've done something right as the audience showed their love all weekend.

This week's radio program has some weight behind it, in my humble opinion.  It ain't about me, it's the music that players have generated.  

While at Womad,  the two Antibalas  guitarists presented me with cd's of side projects they are involved with.  One is....damn, where's the cd?!
Okay, can't find that one at the moment, however the one I got in the playlist for today is Akoya Afrobeat.

I didn't see Speed Caravan at Womex the week before Womad, but I did manage to get a copy of the Womex sampler CD, and there's SC track there, replayed on the show for your pleasure.
Bedoiun Jerry Can Band and Senegal's Mo-DJ also have contributions to the same cd.

Andres Argil was represented at Womex by the Mexican Independent Labels association.  His music stood out to me, as it was so unexpected among the more traditional 'Mexican-associated sounds' that one can come to expect.  Here, we have field-recording/ambient/texture exercises taking over.

Steve Goodman's Hyperdub label continues to leave behind those that want to remain solely in the 'dubstep' arena.  We have LV featuring Dandelion and the electrified Zomby.
Speaking of Zomby, over the next few weeks I'll be dropping some tracks from the forthcoming Zomby EP, yes on Hyperdub.

Okay, enough chat/write....

Ear Conditioning 
Radio Norte 89.4FM
18 November 2008

Zed Bias 'The Cauldron' featuring Jay Electronica and Ghost1 (Sidestepper)
Mo-DJ 'Dosso' (Womex CD)
Fosforo 'Mosquito'
Rev. Lonnie Farris 'A Night in the house of Prayer  (Mississippi Records)
El Hijo de la Cumbia 'Bombom Asesino Version'  (Bersa Discos)
Andres Argil 'Diógenes'  (Mexican Independent Labels CD)
Charlie Watts - Jim Keltner Project 'The Elvin Suite'  Coldcut Remix for Helen Dawn (Cyber-Octave)
Digital Mystikz  'Conference'  (DMZ)
Bedouin Jerry Can Band  'Ya el Yaladana'  (Womex CD)
Akóya Afrobeat  'B.F.B.F.  (Afrobomb)
Speed Caravan 'Kalaknik Love' 
Saul Williams  'PG Beat'  (Witchita)
LV featuring Dandelion  'CCTV'  (Hyperdub)
Zomby 'Spliff Dub'  Rustie Remix  (Hyperdub)

Ear Conditioning on Radio Norte 89.FM
Tuesdays 20h30 - 21h30
Repeated Saturday 22h30 - 23h30

Oh, one other good friend Dani also put together a radio program that was dedicated to Womad, and you can check it here.....

Until next time.....

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