Hugh Masekela at WOMAD 2012

Hugh Masekela Inspires Crowds at WOMAD 2012

The Guardian – Music Blog

Photography by Christian Sinibaldi

> Last night, things were just getting going, with appearances from a handful of folk including Dennis Bovell and New Orleans funk outfit the Soul Rebels, both of whom – absolutely typically – I contrived to miss. But the action gets going in earnest today, with the likes of Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Cliff and – the band I’m most looking forward to – Lo’Jo, who play the Siam Tent at some point gone midnight: so after this Olympics hoohah in London. I hope I’m still awake then.

> 4.40pm: Hi, Caspar here again, retreating into the sanctuary of the backstage area – it’s hot out there. And so far, it’s been inspiring. Hugh Masekela kicked things off on the main stage, and looked very much – dressed all in black – like the coolest 73-year old of all time.

Then he came back to this backstage area, where we filmed him giving a solo performance of Louis Armstrong’s Rockin’ Chair. Masekela met Armstrong when he was studying at the Manhattan School of Music in New York in the early 60s, after he left South Africa following the Sharpeville Massacre. So to have him give me a little hug before out filming was slightly mind blowing. We should have the results of that filming on the site early next week.

Someone else asked Masekela about he’d like the crowd at Womad to take away about South Africa from his performance here. “I don’t go on stage for South Africa, I go on stage for the audience,” he said. “All the rest is bullshit.”

> 6.06pm: And this is Robin Denselow. I didn’t make the first Womad, but I’ve been lucky enough to get to most of them over the past 30 years…and this has started off as a suitably impressive birthday celebration, though perhaps without a really massive ‘must see’ act one might have expected (though the new Robert Plant band, who I saw in London a couple of weeks back will make suitably impressive headliners on Sunday night).

So far we’ve had a solidly impressive opening set from the great Hugh Masekela, who has already been seen in London this year playing at Back2Black, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and River of Music. As ever he mixed South African township and jazz influences, and was in great form playing and singing solo backstage. He has long been a great horn player, but his voice is getting better and better.

WOMAD was once dominated by African bands, but this year the music really is global – and with a greater emphasis on Asia and the Far East. Narasirato from the Solomon Islands in the Pacific came on wearing body paint and not a great deal else, and managed to update the sound of that much maligned instrument, the pan-pipes. There were seven players performing on different bamboo flutes, and even two of the percussionists were bashing at bamboo. It worked, because of their slick, energetic and rhythmic playing – though they could have done with a little more variety in their full-tilt set.