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…"
Womex 2010 - Editor's Highlights (part one)
Here at WorldMusic.co.uk we've recently returned from Womex 10 - the world's leading World Music Expo held this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. Over the space of five days it's a chance for the globe's leading movers and shakers in the sphere of world music to get together, meet new people, network, do deals, hear new bands and recordings and talk about the future of world music. We've had a great time with the other 2400 odd delegates, 1360 companies, 850 Festival and Concert bookers, 600 labels and distributors, 350 journalists and broadcasters and 300 artists.
Enough stats! Here is the first blog of my Womex 2010 highlights, taking in the first full day and night. Of the 40-50 official showcases, the 9 official 'unofficial' off-Womex showcases and the many unofficial showcases you can only take so many acts in no matter how hard you try and how organised you are. Of the ones I did manage to take in these are my standouts…
"a voice as pure as an angel's"
Antonio Zambujo currently Portugal's number one male fado singer - I've already writing a separate concert review of this (see under Reviews), but just to say, if you ever get the chance to see this man - go! Exquisite artistry and a voice as pure as an angel's - he had the audience utterly entranced and bewitched from the moment the first notes shimmered across the Koncerthuset. This guy and his band are stunning. (www.antoniozambujo.com)
"dancing in the aisles in musical ecstasy"
Later on that night in the same venue Papa Wemba the veteran Congolese rumbero had the audience dancing in the aisles in musical ecstasy - special mention must go to his solo encore track. Trust me, this guy didn't need a band behind him - he stood alone in front of a microphone at the edge of the stage and took us into his song; just Papa and his voice stripped naked. Once again the power of the human voice to haul our hearts up to new levels never ceases to astonish me. The audience of seasoned world music industry insiders agreed and clamoured for more. But there was no need for more - he'd said it all. Papa had sung his heart out. He bowed, turn around and walked off-stage. Priceless moment. (www.papawemba.fr)
"Great live band!"
Germany's LaBrass Banda take 'Oompah' music to a new level too! Ditching the unintentionally quasi-comic image of traditional Bavarian brass they come nearer to the Balkan heavy brass vibe (even in leiderhausen!) crossed with some heavy rock attitude. Difficult to describe, all I can say is that, as a live band these guys are very exciting indeed. Great live band! (www.labrassbanda.com)
"an utterly impelling groove"
Another band taking the traditional music of their country and giving it some serious 'rockismo' are the Argentinian band, Tremor. These three young guys, (Leonardo Martinelli, Camilo Carabajal & Gerardo Farez), mix the many elements of their country's rich musical heritage (Argentina's not all tango guys!!) and play charangos (tiny 10-string instruments - originally made from armadillo shells, now of wood), t'arkas (wooden flutes with a particularly harsh sound) and bombo legüero (the deep bass goatskin drum) with electric guitar, keys, loops and melodica! They take what seems a very unusual mix of instruments and what at first seems to be a sparse set and sound and create an utterly impelling groove powered in particular by Camilo's thundering bombo rhythms and punk attitude. As their press release said: "This is no languid lounge music . . . digital folklore for a new generation". Great festival band - and lovely guys offstage too! (www.zzkrecords.com/artist/tremor)
"a voice that could floor a man at a hundred paces . . . "
I only managed to catch the dying notes of Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato on the Sounds from Spain stage, but made sure I was well in place for the multinational Barcelonian flamenco band Las Migas. This was definitely one of my highlights of Womex: four beautiful - and extremely talented - women on violin/accordion, two Spanish guitars and cajon/vocals (accompanied by Andalucian percussionist Carlos Cortés Bustamante). The musicianship evident on-stage would be enough to make it to my highlights list on its own, but what really catapults them above other similarly talented bands is the stage presence of their lead singer, the cantaora Silvia Pérez Cruz. Seated upon her cajón centrestage, she is like a magnet to the eyes and ears - no mean feat considering the skills and charisma of her compañeras - and certainly for me that night she had the elusive duende so sought after in flamenco. Posture, grace, facial expression, delicate hand-movements and a voice that could floor a man at a hundred paces . . . She effortlessly travels between flamenco and jazz in the most subtle nuances of her voice. Offstage she is tiny compared to the brilliant guitarist (and curvaceously statuesque beauty!) Marta Robles Crespo, but onstage Silvia is like a queen holding court. As you can tell, she ruled my head, ears and heart that night. The reality is that the whole band were stupendous, the playful Lisa Bause (from Germany) swapping between violin and accordion, the slightly more serious Isabelle Laudenbach (France) on guitar, the effortless fluidity of Marta Robles and not forgetting the sympathetically subtle percussion of Carlos Cortes. I came not knowing at all what to expect - I left utterly converted. ¡Viva Las Migas! (www.lasmigas.com)
That first night finished off with a DJ set from three DJs (Oops, Pezao & Barata) from the Brazilian collective, Criolina. Hailing from Brasilia, the capital of their country, they have been together for five years, playing every Monday and pulling an average audience of 700 a time (yes, on a Monday!) with spin off nights in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Only three of the five main guys came over for this, but what a show. It's not easy to get a large room of world musos rocking at 1.45 in the morning after they've worked all day long and then seen half a dozen or more amazing bands already that night, but these guys pulled it off. Working as one they selected, dissected, tweaked and twiddled over and around each other without let up as they shared one musical vision and one brain split between three bodies. What truly made them good was not so much the technical virtuosity they displayed whilst setting bits of one tune against the rhythm of another, but the choice of raw material they sourced it all from (and it wasn't just Brazilian music either). This was no boringly predictable mishmash of pre-programmed loops and beats from the myriad of DJ-software out there, but authentic tunes - real music - that would probably sound perfect played with no cutting and splicing anyway; and it's that quality that shone through - these guys really love the tunes they played. That's the way I like to DJ myself - if you can't get excited about the music yourself, how can you expect the audience too. It worked. I was knackered beyond belief when they came on and yet within a few minutes I was gyrating round the floor as if I'd just stepped out fresh and ready. By the time they hit the cumbias, I was good to go all night. Criolina rock! (www.criolina.com) - for a taste of what they actually played that night go to: soundcloud.com/criolina/sets/sistema-criolina-live-copenhagen-womex-2010