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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Confessions of a Womad DJ
by Chris Jones
BBCi Music

Dancing in the rain
Fiona Talkington woos the crowd

Call me DJ Colin. At least, that was my mistaken moniker when I stepped into the breach to perform at Womad.

The portents were not good. Arriving on site at Womad 2003, the grey clouds were already beginning to spit rain.

Not a good sign for the crowds who had come to enjoy a weekend of sun-drenched jollity and the finest world music in a field near Reading.

However, a cursory glance at the smiling faces under the plastic hoods and other multi-coloured headgear revealed the true spirit of Womad.

Rain certainly was not going to stop play.

Volunteering at the last minute to perform the very first DJ set of the festival with Radio 3's Fiona Talkington after Verity Sharp was detained in Italy, I was feeling distinctly nervous.

My mood wasn't improved by the cut of the crowd's jib.

Womad's slightly older core audience is distinctly more choosy than the average Glastonbury party animal.

Cloudy skies
Grey clouds eventually disappeared
These are seasoned music lovers - many with families - who want more than beat-driven good time tracks to groove to. They want music with authenticity.

We were up against giants of world music such as Khaled, Ojos De Brujo, Bebeya Jazz and the Super Rail Band of Bamako. Could our set cut it?

As one of the very first acts we sauntered backstage at the village arena to discover organised chaos.

We negotiated cables and cases to the decks, and were confronted by a crowd that seemed more intent on shelter from the rain than listening to a star of Late Junction and her jittery sidekick.

Yet, as we kicked off the festival with the funky sounds of Zohar, it became apparent that all was not lost.

Was that girl at the back in the rainbow sarong dancing? She was. People smiled. It was going to be OK. My first Womad, and I had been accepted into their hearts.

The hits kept on coming. Something Norwegian? They loved it. Dhafer Youssef's jazz playing? No problem.

Even the slight distraction of the roadies soundchecking Modeste Hugue's bongos during our set did not seem to deter anyone.

The truly triumphant moment however, was Fiona's inspired choice of Finnish accordion player Kimmo Pohjonen, whose fiery music actually brought the sun out, to rapturous applause.

After an hour of malfunctioning equipment and fixed grins it was all over. Out came the MC to ask the crowd to give it up for Fiona and...Colin.

Oh well. My one shot at fame had been cruelly stopped short, but somehow I knew that such matters were superficial on a weekend when 25,000 people gather in a spirit of generosity and good humour - even in the face of an English summer.

Womad dances through the rain
28 Jul 03  |  Reviews
Womad: Your highlights
29 Jul 02  |  Music
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29 Jul 02  |  Music
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11 Nov 01  |  Reviews


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