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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 18:23 GMT
Womad wows Gran Canaria
Los Gofiones
Los Gofiones: Opened the festival in their hometown
By the BBC's Martin Vennard in the Canary Islands

Rachid Taha blew into Las Palmas from his native Algeria like a desert storm from the Sahara on the neighbouring mainland.

There can't have been a pair of feet at the Womad Canarias festival that weren't at least tapping to his seductive mixture of traditional North African, rock, techno and dance music.

He was one of Saturday's highlights at the seventh Womad festival on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

Earlier on the same stage, the veteran Cuban pianist Pepesito Reyes also had the public dancing to his tunes.

Los de Abajo
Los de Abajo: Voiced political support for protesting students
You can't get much more authentic than his Cuban son and when he invited fellow Cuban Beatriz Marquez to sing with his band we could easily have been in Havana and not Las Palmas.

Pepesito is credited with writing the piano riff to Guantanamera and several thousand people sang along as he proved that at 84 he's still got what it takes.

The World of Music Arts and Dance festival takes place in Santa Catalina park on a narrow strip of land in the north of Las Palmas, with the main beach on one side and the port on the other.

It is much smaller than its British sister festival in Reading, but it is free and those who have been to a Womad elsewhere will find the familiar flags, workshops, cabaret and stands.

Friday's highlights included Los de Abajo.

Like a Mexican version of the Pogues, they served up radical politics and "salsa punk", spiced with merengue, rap and reggae.

At one point, three members of the group donned balaclavas, in the style of the Mexican Indian rights leader Sub-commandante Marcos, and voiced their support for the local students fighting a law to privatise university education.

Edwin Starr may not be your typical Womad performer, but the veteran soul man went down a storm on Friday.

His most famous hit, War, could have been even more poignant in the current circumstances had he not then blitzed the audience with a medley of virtually every Motown number they knew.

Fittingly, Los Gofiones opened the festival on Friday with a musical welcome to their home.

Womad Canarias is smaller than Reading, but is free
With at least 25 of them on stage, the mixture of acoustic strings and percussion took us on a journey that so many of their fellow Canary islanders have made in search of a better life to Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico.

Abdullah Chhadeh and Nara mix sounds from throughout the Middle East and Europe and Abdullah proved that the zither can be just as cool as an electric guitar.

In their black head-dresses and white robes designed for the Sahara desert, Tinariwen were visually and musically stunning.

They have adopted the electric guitar for their version of "African blues", accompanied by female voices.

They were joined on stage by France's Lo'Jo, whose mixture of chants, violin and clarinet blended perfectly.

Also mixing French and African influences Julien Jacobs brought African rhythms from his native Benin via his adopted Brittany.

Britain's Justin Adams has produced for Lo'Jo and he produced his guitar to pay tribute to Howlin Wolf and then he and his group, the Wayward Sheikhs, played traditional African instruments.

N'Java, from Madagascar, mixed home-grown sounds with dance and funk, while the voices of the two sisters were backed up by the music of three brothers, who also showed that the Afro hairstyle is not a thing of the past.

Spain's Radio Tarifa mixed flamenco with salsa and music from around the Mediterranean, while Los Ojos de Brujo, also from Spain, mixed funk with the Spanish guitar, flamenco and son.

Joe Strummer and his band are set to headline at Sunday's finale.

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