18 Mar 2016

Who will wow you at WOMAD?

10:11 am on 18 March 2016
Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul.

Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

There will be some big names playing at WOMAD this weekend. But, as always, there is the possibility that the act that blows you away will be one you have never heard of before - perhaps from a place you've never even heard of.

Well-established names like De La Soul, St. Germain, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and, on the local front, Bic Runga, Julia Deans and Katchafire will no doubt help draw the crowds.

But among the untested temptations is DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian quartet with accordion and cello, whose music has been variously labelled 'folk-drone' and 'ethno-chaos'.

Womad Festival

WOMAD 2015 Photo: supplied

Or there's Tulegur, a nomadic group from Inner Mongolia whose sound has been described as "Mongolian grunge".

Also on the line-up is [su: m], a pair of Korean musicians whose reinterpretations of traditional music involve beautiful zither and unusual oboe-like instruments.

Indian Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle performs at The ‘25 Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Awards’ in Mumbai late April 25, 2014.

Asha Bhosle, the most recorded artist in history. Photo: AFP

And it is surely the only chance we'll ever have to see Asha Bhosle, the 83-year-old queen of Bollywood soundtracks. She is the most recorded artist in recording history and clearly the living legend of this year's event.

Among other things, each year's WOMAD programme revives the debate about what world music actually is.

The Korean pair [su:m]

The Korean pair [su:m] Photo: SUPPLIED

The programme's brief seems broad enough to include a number of acts one might have expected to find at Laneway or other rock festivals; the darkly witty American indie songwriter John Grant, for instance, or local folk-spinner Tiny Ruins.

But one performance that will surely be the definition of world music is No Man's Land, a New Zealand collaboration between director Jasmine Millet, cinematographer Mathew Knight and composer John Psathas. Their project involved 150 musicians from more than 20 countries, bringing together the descendants of opposing forces in World War I and reuniting them in musical solidarity.

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