Author Archive

Obituary: Sue Steward

Posted on August 23rd, 2017 in Recent posts by .

One of Songlines’ founding contributing editors, Sue Steward, passed away this morning following a cerebral haemorrhage last week

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Sue started her career in the music business with Virgin Records in the 70s, followed by a stint working for the Sex Pistols. It was her passion for Latin music that brought her to Songlines and she contributed from the very first issue in 1999 until 2012 when she went on to pursue writing about another long-held love, art and photography. Her book, Salsa: Musical Heartbeat of Latin America (Thames & Hudson, 1999), is still widely regarded as one of the definitive books on salsa. ‘It’s going to be hard to really explain what salsa is…’ Willie Colón warned in the foreword. But Sue did it extremely well in the following 170 pages – tracing its geographical roots from Cuba to the US, from Puerto Rico and Colombia back to Africa. Her apologetic beginning shows just how little-known this music was in 1999 and how Sue was at the forefront of bringing it to a wider world. It was a book that was also easy to read, full of illustrations and photographs, showing that Sue, then arts picture editor at the Daily Telegraph, understood that the imagery and iconography were just as important as the music.

Sue was one of the first movers and shakers of the world music scene in the UK and was a regular contributor on radio and various national newspapers – including the Daily Telegraph, London Evening Standard, The Guardian and more. One of life’s great enthusiasts, she will be sorely missed by her family, the many artists she championed and by all her fellow music-loving friends.

A longer obituary will be published in the next issue of Songlines (November 2017, out September 29).

 

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WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Sunday

Posted on August 1st, 2017 in News, Recent posts by .

WOMAD Roy Ayers

Roy Ayers; Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

African stars old and new delight the Charlton Park crowds on the final day

Those who braved the lakes of treacle-like mud, wind, rain and eventually sun were treated to a glorious day of music on Sunday at WOMAD, featuring many newcomers plus a handful of legendary acts such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Roy Ayers and Bonga.

The day began at the Charlie Gillett stage with the BBC Radio 3 and 6Music simulcast broadcast. Presenters Lopa Kothari and Cerys Matthews were the as ever glamorous and entertaining hosts, whose guests included the Mexican chicano group Las Cafeteras from Los Angeles; Msafiri Zawose from Tanzania and the Ska Vengers from India.

The first act on the Open Air stage was Mamadou Diabaté from Burkina Faso and his troupe of balafon (wooden xylophone) players. Perhaps it was their thunderous percussive sound that briefly kept the showers at bay and meant they attracted a big crowd. They were certainly one of several acts from Africa who really shone out.

 

Mamadou Diabate WOMAD

Mamadou Diabaté in Percussion Mania

On the same stage later that afternoon came Bonga, the resplendent singer from Angola. Now in his 70s, Bonga has recently released his 30th album, yet he’s still a striking figure onstage, with a deeply powerful and soulful voice. The light, semba dance rhythms of his music belie the fact that many of these songs are ones of resistance – in the early 70s his music was banned by the Salazar dictatorship in Angola.

Following on from one veteran’s performance, it was the turn of a new star in the making, Msafiri Zawose who had earlier charmed the crowd during the simulcast. His own solo set was an excellent showcase of this young musician who is keeping the Zawose family musical legacy of gogo music alive. He’s the fifth child of the late Hukwe Zawose and plays the zeze, a two-stringed bowed instrument that resembles the ritti, and the ilimba, a type of thumb piano. His new album, Uhamiaji, comes out at the beginning of September on the Soundway label – look out for more about him in a forthcoming edition of Songlines.

WOMAD Ladysmith Black

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

British folk star Eliza Carthy and her Wayward band put on one of the standout performances of the weekend. Comparisons with Bellowhead are inevitable but Carthy’s 12-piece band proved they are worthy successors of English folk’s finest big band crown. Always a hugely entertaining performer, Carthy is clearly relishing playing with this new outfit who have a punk-like attitude to the folk tradition. Their set included songs from their debut album Big Machine and rapper Dizraeli who joined them onstage for the song ‘You Know Me,’ Carthy’s response to the refugee crisis. Thankfully the torrential downpour at the start of their set was short-lived – “dance between the raindrops!” urged Carthy – and by the time they had finished, the delighted crowd and jubilant band were basking in sunshine. Even a rainbow made a brief appearance as the sun set on a veritably muddy yet enjoyable 35th edition.

 

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WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Friday

Posted on July 29th, 2017 in Live, Recent posts by .

Oumou Sangare-7

Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

Oumou Sangaré, Alsarah & the Nubatones and the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians get the party going on Friday at WOMAD Charlton Park

Saturday morning at Charlton Park, head slightly fuzzy after Friday night’s shenanigans but at least the clothes have just about dried out after the evening’s downpour. However it takes more than a bit of wet weather to dampen WOMAD festival-goers’ spirit.

Friday kicked off with members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians on the Open Air Stage then there was some raucous klezmer from London-based band Don Kipper – the first act on the BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett stage. Two recent Songlines coverstars were among the highlights of the day – Mali’s Oumou Sangaré on the Open Air Stage and Alsarah with her band the Nubatones over in the arboretum, on the Ecotricity stage. But the joy of the ever eclectic WOMAD programme is there are always random new discoveries to be made as you wander around the site.

Two acts that left a notable impression yet were completely unknown to me were The New York Theremin Society on the Bowers & Wilkins Sound System stage and the wonderfully weird but slightly bonkers Goat from Sweden in the Siam tent who definitely get the prize for best costumes and masks. And Orkesta Mendoza’s Salvador Duran wins the award for the most flamboyant maracas playing I’ve seen in a long time! The most touching moment of the day came when a longtime Songlines subscriber came to the stand, mentioned in passing to the team that the only back issue he was missing from his collection was the first issue whereby the always eager to please publisher made a quick dash to his secret stash and then presented the loyal subscriber with a pristine copy of the very same issue from 1999 – now a collector’s item. The Songlines team always aims to please!

Saturday’s weather forecast is not looking too good but at least there’s plenty of cracking music lined up. Things on the list to check out today are Colombia’s Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí, the Indian singer Parvathy Baul who is bound to entrance the crowd and festival faves and Songlines Music Award winners Afro Celt Sound System. It looks set to be another corker of a day!

 

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WOMAD Charlton Park 2017: Thursday

Posted on July 28th, 2017 in Live, Recent posts by .

Orchestra Baobab WOMAD

Photography by Tom Askew-Miller

After months of feverish excitement and anticipation, the 35th edition of WOMAD is off to a great start with Bixiga 70 and Orchestra Baobab

Kicking off proceedings in usual WOMAD tradition were the Malmesbury School Project – a group of local students who were joined by Sheelanagig on the Open Air Stage.

Following this, it was a quick dash over to the Big Red Tent to catch São Paulo big band Bixiga 70 who put on a terrific show. Their high-energy, big, bold brass sound went down a storm with the enthusiastic crowd clearly eager to get into festival party mode. It didn’t take long before they were doing a Brazilian style conga around the packed tent. Bixiga’s funky, highly danceable version of Afrobeat has a very particular Brazilian flavour to it, augmented by a superb duo of percussionists who almost stole the show with a blistering solo. The ten-piece band graciously gave fellow Brazilian group Metá Metá a plug – they’ll be performing later on today in the Big Red Tent.

An altogether more laid-back but charming performance from the Senegalese veterans Orchestra Baobab – the ideal mellow Thursday night closer.

Orchestra Baobab WOMAD

Things crank up considerably on Friday with a ridiculously full-on programme. Top of the list to check out are this month’s Songlines coverstar, Alsarah, who will be performing with her band the Nubatones on the Ecotricity stage. Unfortunately roots reggae group Inna de Yard were unable to secure visas in time for their performance on Friday, but their spot will be deftly filled by the ever-excellent Dele Sosimi.

Here’s hoping the weather behaves…

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