New Year cycling, spam and music

Well the last few days have seen me back at the pedals, commuting to and from meetings etc in the customary black cycling gear, I reckon that over the winter I probably didnt even touch the bike for about six weeks – no wonder my legs are a tad sore.Three days of cycling, and I’ve almost been bashed twice – the second time by another bike! The Kona travels at such a lick that people seem to misjudge how fast I am going and think they can cut across me. Tsk tsk.

Also back in my life is spam, for some reason it seemed to stop around Christmas time, I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination, the spam genuinely seemed to be much less – but now its well and truly back. Hey ho.

Meanwhile I have been changing my general listening habits, current favourites are the Avalanches ‘Since I left you’ – classic album, can’t believe its nearly a decade old already! Frontier Psychiatrist is still one of my favourite tracks, and the whole album is a work of art.  Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’, superb, I can’t imagine Bongo Bong will ever sound old. I found eldest offspring with the track on repeat in the living room the other night, beating seven shades of blue out of a small drum. That’s my girl.

Also on the go is the most recent edition of the Johnny Cash ‘American Recordings’ series – ‘Aint no grave’ – beautiful stuff, that really is a wonderful set of albums. Ska Cubano’s ‘Ay Caramba!’ really seems to capture their live sound, I love it. And finally Tony Allen’s ‘Secret Agent’ – what a great piece of work, contemporary Afrobeat at its brilliant best.

Having said all that, I must now admit that at the moment Kel is away from home, and last night when I went to bed, I put on some Mozart. What on earth has happened to me?


Blogging WOMAD – finishing off Friday with Tony Allen and Ska Cubano

Well Friday finished with a bang, or a series of bangs actually, rhythmic and structured, with a whole lot of music in-between.

First stop after the impressive and ‘tres tres fort’ Staff Benda Bilili was the living legend who is Tony Allen, the Afro-beat pioneer still plays heavy heavy african funk grooves, overlaid with jazz and rock grooves. Slightly beset with technical issues, the elder statesman of Afrobeat at times looked a little grouchy, but whenever he drawled into the microphone he seemed as cool and laid back as ever – ‘I don’t have anything to say right now’ he admitted ‘so let’s groove.’

Allen’s Afrobeat draws deep on the well of  Fela Kuti’s African sound, ‘everything we play… is Afrrobeat’ he intoned, before launching into yet another rhythm heavy funk groove.

How do you follow an act like that? Ozomatli had a good go, laying down a mixture of Salsa, Samba, Ska and rock’n’roll with a dusting of Soul. Fresh off the plane the seven piece threw everything into the mix, churning up politics and music in a heady mixture which thrilled the crowd.

Over in the club venue meanwhile Canadian DJ Poirier was laying down some very bassy grooves of his own, with the MC talents of Face T and drawing sounds from a wide range of glocal cultures, he just kept dropping heavy bass bomb after bomb.

But then in the more relaxed surroundings of Radio 3’s Arboretum home the party really got going with Ska Cubano, who along with Tony Allen were the act of the day for me. Their incredible mixture of Samba and Ska set the place alight, with a high tempo Cuban party which proved to be too much for World On Three presenter Lucy Duran to stop. Despite determined protestations that there was ‘just no way’ the band could come back for an encore, the crowd kept up such a racket that eventually she was forced to concede: ‘Oh give me a break guys… ok, well it looks like you won!’

Ska Cubano are the sort of act who deserve wider recognition, their music is so accessible and so good that there is no good reason for them to fail to draw huge crowds here or anywhere else.

Less immediate, but just as interesting and exciting are Hanggai, the Chinese rock band who take on the appearance and musical stylings of Mongolian Nomads. But Hanggai actually deliver something closer to stadium rock than the simple tunes of the sheep herders, as their electric guitars pick out ancient tunes, and with the whir of their throat singing drive a double decker bus through the gate marked ‘heavy heavy sound’.

This was such a strong day of music, and Saturday promises to be very good too, with the likes of Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita, Don Letts and other wonderful acts all getting an outing.

blogging WOMAD – friday is here

It’s friday, the rain has stopped, hopefully for good.

There are a load of exciting acts lined up here at WOMAD today, including the king of drummers, the one and only Tony Allen, who plays the main Siam Tent tonight at 8.15.

Tony was the drummer with Fela Kuti, and helped to pioneer the whole concept of Afrobeat, he has since gone on to be the go-to drummer for some of the biggest names in music.

These days he rattles his sticks with The Good The Bad and the Queen, Paul Simonon’s outfit, and we all know how much I love Paul Simonon.

Tony is on at the same time as Chumbawumba, who are bound to put on a great show. I’ll see if I can catch a bit of their act, if I’m not too enthralled by the rhythmic explosions of Mr Allen.

Also playing today are Nouvelle Vague, Ozomatli, Hanggai, Ska Cubano and many more. I’m basically spoiled for choice, in fact I think today is a very strong line up indeed.

One of the acts I’m particularly looking forward to is Zoo For You, a British act who were personally recomended by the late great Charlie Gillett. Apparently their sound is a fusion of Afrobeat, ska, funk, jazz and dub, with plenty of horns and according to Charlie: “both rhythmically original and lyrically distinctive.” Can’t be bad. They are the first act to appear on the newly christened Charlie Gillett stage, which will remain a lasting annual tribute to the great man.

There’s so much musical goodness on offer at WOMAD this year, I’m really impressed by the line up. Still to come over the weekend are the likes of Don Letts, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Imogen Heap, Ty, Cerys Matthews, Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, Rolf Harris, Imelda May, Afro Celt Sound System, Gil Scott Heron and many many more.

WOMAD 2010

I’m particularly excited this year to be going to WOMAD at Charlton Park, in Wiltshire. There’s a really exciting and suitably exotic lineup of musicians and groups from all over the world, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Tony Allen perform, he’s definitely a musical hero of mine. Salif Keita is brilliant too, in fact there are lots of artists I’m really looking forward to hearing live – hopefully they wont all be playing at the same time…

There’s just tonnes of great music on offer, from Afro Beat to Gypsy Jazz, from the Ukelele orchestra, to Imogen Heap – even Rolf Harris is showing up with his band, as are a number of well known groups like the Afro Celts, Chumbawumba and Ska Cubano.

I’m certain that the greatest delights will be found by accident, which is one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to being there, accidentally discovered music is always a treat.

If you’re free between the 23rd and 25th of July, this is a music festival that would be really worth your while getting to – no overblown popstars withthe usual commercial pap – rather a celebration of some of the best music in the world.

Check out the full lineup (so far) here.