Korean rock to Ghanian highlife …day 3 at womex

Over rising arppegios, the piri calls are answered by the gentle sound of a Korean xylophone. Another wind instrument, this time the saenghwang which resembles a hand held organ that Gaudi could have designed soars over the incessant rhythmic rumbling of the immense 25 string gayageum.

Su:m`s sound has a strangely filmic, all absorbing quality which feels appropriate for a group who want to express the essence of living through their music . Playing a combination of traditional wind, percussive and stringed instruments their compositions often start in a safe, reflective place before travelling into and through more troubled waters. The instruments themselves  are exquisite objects which would not look out of place as artefacts in a museum but the sound world Su:m creates with them is hypnotically fresh and vital.

Jambinai are another youthful band from Korea whose take is very different.  They combine traditional Korean instruments (in this case the piri, haegum and geomungo) with full on, wall of sound rock. The result is not exactly easy on the ear. Its dark, menacing….at times baffling ….but ultimately thrilling.

wpid-wp-1382817762144.jpgEarlier the evening session opened with the bass and percussion driven Family Atlantica. Exploiting the connections between the music of Africa, South America and Europe the band cite influences as wide ranging as Cuban rumba, Nigerian afro beat, Venezuelan tambor, Ethiopian blues and jazz. Its a potentially potent mix which is perhaps too rich and leaves me somewhat unmoved

wpid-wp-1382820377609.jpg By now I was beginning to think I’d seen a lot of percussion led bands, then came Grupa Bongar whose music is a driving combination of percussion and chanting stemming from centuries old traditions and rituals. Hair and hands flying it’s colourful, lively and evocative. But the thrill doesn’t last for long, and despite the driving beat in this setting it ultimately feels a little monotaneous and uninspiring.

wpid-wp-1382821655914.jpgBack over in the off womex stage the diminutive Nomfusi Gotyana wasn`t half giving it some welly as she inspired the crowd to come home with her to South Africa. Backed by a band with that big bass sound, jangling rhythm guitar and keyboards making a sound which is both joyous and distinctly south African .   But the real star of this show is Nomfusi who demands your attention from the off. With a voice that owes as much to the gospel tradition as it does to Afro soul (theres even a hint of Whitney Houston in her prime) she belts out her own material with the kind of spirit and passion that couldn’t fail to bring a smile to your face.

A quick break in the bar leads to an accidental meeting with Peppery Productions (the home of world music in East Anglia). Peppery are just one of the real heroes of the world music industry…. Enthusiasts who make things happen in their locale for love and a belief in the work.

So to the lyric theatre for a performance which is part dj/vj set, part live performance. Filastine was certainly the only performance I saw over the weekend which had a supermarket trolley on stage, and deffinately the only one where the trolley became an instrument (an instrument which had been played by his father and his father before that).. Lit dimly, mainly in red, the performance was focused, equalluy,on the soundscapes and visuals.

wpid-wp-1382831482864.jpgThe bar stage has now been given over to the Yves Lambert Trio. For fifteen years Yves was the accordionist in La Bottine Souriante. Here he leads his oh so tight trio through their driving paces.

wpid-wp-1382830436947.jpgThen it’s time for a change of pace as I head back into the Horizons stage for the last time. Having presented the band 9bach (then a two piece) at home, Dartington I was looking forward to seeing the expanded line up of 7.  Lisa Jen`s lyrical voice remains, rightly, the focal point, the band now providing a richer, more nuanced, more varied and at times edgier backdrop to her voice. The material has developed too, to the reinterpretations of welsh ballads have been added original material , some of it inspired and developed following working with the indigenous Australian group The Black Arm Band Company. Enthralling, beautiful stuff.

And so the last gig of the night and of Womex13. Despite the fact that I can barely speak, my feet ache and my body is crying for my bed my soul can’t stop but summon up a final bop to the Ghanaian high life of veteran Ebo Taylor. Its a suitably upbeat way to round off an incredible musical journey over the last three days in the land of song.


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