Did you know that [counter] people have been having a skeg at my little autonomous region?


Sunday at WOMAD


I awoke this morning to find the state of glorious sunshine to which I had become accustomed in recent weeks, gloriously restored after a night of rain. The bulk of the rain seemed to have collected on the roof of the porch of my tent and all seventy gallons of which made its way into my tent as I unzipped my flap to welcome the day . . . ooh err! Thank goodness I had remembered to bring my Vileda Wonder Mop and complimentary bucket with me. What a godsend these things were and what a different ending there might have been to the story of the S.S. Titanic had Captain Edward Smith thought on and taken such implements with him on his expedition too.

Mopping my floor, checking the tautness of my guy ropes and urinating in the wellington boots left outside the neighbouring tents to dry didn’t take all that long so I was soon at a loose end. An early morning stroll was the only answer to this problem so I did a big wander around the site, stopping off at every food outlet that was open to sample their wares. In a place where 20,000 people are kept awake all night by the discomfort of camping and the noise from the nocturnal DJs and piss artists and lorries sucking out the wee and poo and lettuce discarded from doner kebabs from the pits beneath the toilets you’d expect there to be more than just a solitary porridge shop open at 7.00 a.m. to nourish the revellers and the uncomfortable but there wasn’t.

However, I was more than delighted with my little box of hot steamy real freshly made porridge flavoured with honey and was tempted to have a second portion but for the fact that 19,999 other people had joined the queue ahead of me.

Then my loose end, that had tightened up for a while, became loose again after the porridge had been guzzled down. In fact, it wasn’t just my end that had become loose! So, it being Sunday morning, I thought I might go and ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ with the Malawi Mouse Boys but there was neither a Malawi Mouse Boy nor a Malawi House of the Lord to be seen to rejoice in so I went back to my tent and wrote noisily in my journal in the hope that it would wake up Angela and I would have someone to talk to.

Several hours of sitting and chatting and chilling in the heat passed by and then my first band of the day came on stage. The Bombay Royale (who really ought to be renamed The Mumbai Royale) were a full of fun Bollywood style band from Australia. A brilliant act, far far better than I had expected. The only slight flaw was the broad Aussie accent of the stunningly beautiful lady singer bestowed with classic Indian looks and long black hair which went down to the backs of her thighs (though she did have some on her head too). She taught us how to do Bollywood style dancing which really, as she pointed out, comprises simply of the actions you would go through if you were jumping up to change two bayonet fitting light bulbs at the same time.


The lovely Australian lady singer from The Bombay Royale.

The lovely Australian lady singer from The Bombay Royale.


The Bombay Royale performed on the Charlie Gillett Stage, as did my next choice of entertainer, Christine Salem from Réunion. In the hour that I had to kill in between these two performances I sat with a cup of coffee and my back against the front of Charlie’s stage, taking in the sun’s warm rays and thinking about the impact that Charlie Gillett had had early on in my music loving days. Round about 1973 I bought a book he had written called Rock File which became the basis from which the Guinness Book of Hit Singles eventually emerged. Listing every chart hit from 1955 to 1969, Rock File became my bible as my hunger for knowledge of popular music in Britain grew and grew. I took it everywhere with me and I underlined in red biro every entry in it that appeared in my rapidly expanding vinyl record collection. I was in love with British chart music then and my heart still aches for a return to the excitement of those golden years. My heart also aches for the book which I no longer have. I don’t know whatever happened to it but in its day it became a little personal treasure from the crazy world of Terry Mullan. It is sadly lost forever and although I have been tempted to buy a replacement from the Amazon website it would never completely replace my little book that I pored over and poured so much love into during my early teens. We could do with a similar book today about World Music to help me cope with my obsession with the likes of The Bombay Royale and Christine Salem who I feel just as excited about as I did with the Rolling Stones, the Small Faces and the Kinks forty odd years ago.  I have to confess that, much as I loved Charlie Gillett’s Rock File, I did succumb to the temptation to buy various editions of the Guinness Book of Hit Singles in later years. Along with curry, Leeds United, Bushmills whiskey and Nina Persson from the Cardigans, Guinness and hit singles are just some of my favourite things so the temptation became too much for me to bear.

Also, while I was waiting for Christine Salem to take to the stage, I got talking to a woman from London who had been to every WOMAD Festival since its inception in 1692. I told her that this was my first and she said that that was understandable as, judging from my accent, I had had to travel a long way. When I told her that I lived less than fifteen miles away in Chippenham she told me I was a ‘bloody disgrace’ and that I should be ashamed of myself. Even without her words of wrath I had decided that I would attend every WOMAD for the rest of my days on this planet.

Christine Salem and her band turned out to be another act that I hadn’t fancied all that much on reading their description and listening to the YouTube clip of their music on the WOMAD website. They were extremely good though. Christine’s powerful voice booming out words in French and backed only by percussion instruments still managed to get everybody in the crowd clapping and dancing. Many of the people there seemed able to sing along and cheered rapturously at each pause. I had never known such fan adulation for such a seemingly unheard of artist.

The by now traditional late afternoon drinkies get together at the campsite took on an extra feature today as I used it as an opportunity to wrap up warm and dry in an attempt to avoid the previous night’s discomfort of a cold and wet nature. The storm clouds gathering were only really there to annoy me though as conditions remained warm and dry and I was made to feel and look uncomfortable as I bounced about in a succession of mosh pits in my sou’wester and oilskins.

They didn’t really have a mosh pit at the Charlie Gillett stage when I went to see Emel Mathlouthi from Tunisia. Her haunting voice and the intense but sombre Arabian music played a variety of string and percussion instruments by her backing band rendered dancing inappropriate, especially as the lyrics of her songs covered such non-dancy matters as the role of women in Islam and the civil war in Syria. This was a really moving experience for little Emel and for the audience and could perhaps even be described as harrowing as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up two or three times when she reached crescendos in her amazing songs. I came away from the stage at the end feeling that I had witnessed something quite unique. I decided that I would like to see Emel Mathlouthi perform live again someday but it could never be as good the second time around . . . unless I saw her in her own country.


Emel Mathlouthi . . . a beautiful and beguiling voice of dissent.


The World Music aspect of WOMAD ended for me as Emel’s show ended. I went to see Gilberto Gil from Brazil (not to be confused with Gilberto Sullivan from Swindon) but his cool, laid back sunshine music didn’t fit in with the frame of mind that the previous performer had put me in. It was such a shame because Gilberto had such a huge reputation as a musician and entertainer and under any other circumstances I would have enjoyed his set, but tonight it just wasn’t right for me or for Angela. So after three of his songs we wandered off to a quiet café in the woods for a cup of quiet coffee and a wadge of stodgy cake in the peaceful Wiltshire moonlight.

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers at the BBC Radio Three Stage weren’t exactly our cup of tea. They were a sort of modern-ish, rocked-up pipe and drum band from Scotland (honestly). I think it would be reasonable to say that they were a bit like Status Quo with bagpipes. I’ve no problem with bagpipes. In fact I really love them when they’re played properly but I detest Status Quo. I’d rather listen to one of David Cameron’s speeches than to Status Quo. Yuk!

So for the final act, and the top of the bill in so many ways, we sneaked out of the back of the Radio Three thing and went to see our old favourites Sheelanagig in Molly’s Green Bar. I’m not sure if they should really be described as World Music because they are, I am led to believe, from the West Country but their performances are predominantly of the Balkan muse. They probably have more energy than any other band I have ever seen and they went down very well with the thousand or so inebriated teenagers who watched them in the tent where they had probably expected to see a twenty-first century DJ. The band members were all very funny too but, having seen them three times in a year, I knew what to expect in terms of a punch line at least a minute before each one was delivered. But really it was like seeing old mates again and I was delighted that they went down so well with the huge festival crowd.


We saw the band called Sheelanagig, not an architectural grotesque from the Middle Ages but I couldn't find a better picture than this.

We saw the band called Sheelanagig, not an architectural grotesque from the Middle Ages, but I couldn't find a better picture than this.

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