- 40,000 festivalgoers attended WOMAD’s 40th Anniversary
- The 4-day extravaganza saw Fatoumata Diawara, Angelique Kidjo, Kae Tempest, The Flaming Lips, Cimafunk, Fantastic Negrito, Gilberto Gil & Family and Lianne La Havas take to the stages
- WOMAD reflects on 40 years: 300 worldwide festivals spanning six continents totalling 10,000 artists and educating millions.
WOMAD, Charlton Park, 28-31 July 2022: WOMAD returned to Wiltshire to celebrate its 40th birthday, a landmark moment and the UK’s first since 2019. The 1,099-day hiatus, the festival’s longest gap since its inception due to Covid-cancellations, created an unrivalled atmosphere and an explosion of culture, with highlights across WOMAD’s rich programme.
Throughout WOMAD, festival organisers reflected on its 40th year, casting minds back to the first-ever WOMAD in 1982. And in a conversation featuring Peter Gabriel, co-founder Stephen Pritchard and festival director Chris Smith, the panel shared stories and organisational challenges that threatened its existence, proving a fascinating WOMAD-themed history lesson.
WOMAD’s most electrifying opening set saw the first night’s headliner Fatoumata Diawara and her brand of refreshingly traditional Malian music kick off Thursday, setting the bar incredibly high for the rest of the festival. In the Siam Tent, ska legends The Selecter put on a vintage performance with their four decades of experience, strutting their stuff on stage.
Friday was like a fast-paced highlight reel with Cimafunk channelling James Brown, Prince, and Hendrix in Afro-Caribbean funk and Cuban hip-hop fusion. Then Soweto collective BCUC performed their self-proclaimed “Afro-psychedelic”, mixing rap, gospel and soul into a sweaty d&b Soundscape. Next up, Grammy-winner Fantastic Negrito delivered an extravagant, blues-fuelled performance with soul and passion that left WOMAD beaming.
Kae Tempest took us in a different direction: transformative, uplifting, and fresh, epitomising the diverse mixture of sounds in a passionate performance at the Siam Tent. Then Angelique Kidjo’s kinetic ‘Remain In Light’ reimagining the Talking Head’s classic captivated the Open Air, with Peter Gabriel breaking out of the stage’s wings to dance on set. Friday closed with the elegant B. Dance led by esteemed choreographer Po-Cheng Tsai. The Taiwanese dance troupe absorbed contemporary dance, Asian dance and martial arts movements for an exquisite display at the Siam tent.
On Saturday Grupo Lokito’s incandescent Afro Caribbean dance moves delighted WOMAD blending salsa and Congolese rumba for an unforgettable party at the Ecotricity Stage. Then, ADG7’s traditional folk and pop collision filled the Open Air with explosions of colour and sporadic set breaks for Korean language lessons. North Africa duo Bab L’Bluz brought their hypnotic psychedelic blues to the Siam Tent, impressing festivalgoers with their fiery brand of Gnawa and rock.
Pan-African Supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique performed their West African tones to the delight of WOMAD; the Obama-endorsed quartet exceeded expectations dazzling the Open Air. With years of experience and still sounding as fresh as ever, festival-favourite Nitin Sawhney returned to WOMAD and filled the Siam Tent with a variety of sounds and instrumentals with Spanish influences.
The bombastically flamboyant Flaming Lips put on one of the biggest budget gigs WOMAD has ever seen: from giant blown-up transformers to enormous confetti cannons, the psychedelic oddballs shut down the Open Air Stage with a performance etched in WOMAD’s hall of fame. And closing Saturday, veteran producer-DJ Zed Bias put on a two-hour electronic masterclass to a packed-out d&b Soundscape as WOMAD danced the night away.
One of the standout visual highlights was the incredible lunar experience Museum of the Moon, a 7m diameter internally lit sphere art installation by Luke Jerram that became WOMAD’s rendezvous point for festival revellers. Located in the woods to the south of the site, the trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed created a stunning piece, part of the immersive sonic experience.
A sunny Sunday conquered overcast weather reports as WOMAD woke up to indie-folkists Stornoway who played their ultimate show, bidding farewell to a sombre WOMAD crowd. Then, 10-legged groove machine Son Rompe Pera put on a jaw-dropping punk rock display and non-stop dance fest. Next the Open Air hosted drumming group Dhol Collective that produced a magical WOMAD moment when 8-year-old drummer and influencer Anabell Tang stepped onto the stage midway through the set and joined in! She held her own with a stellar performance impressing the crowd and even the Dhol Collective.
Closing the festival was a family affair for the godfather of Brazilian music Gilberto Gil and his talented extended family. No less than 14 joined him on stage for an emotional musical extravaganza, including his great-great-grand-sons (aged 10 and 5), who look sure to follow their great-grandfather’s footsteps. Lianne La Havas instantly delivered on her anticipated performance with her gorgeous vocals and warm soulful vibes that kept-up momentum before 2022’s closer, Onipa in d&b Soundscape – a unique adventure in Afro-futurism, delighting the audience whilst closing WOMAD in style.