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Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2005, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Crowds gather for Womad festival
Youssou N'Dour and Dido at the Live 8 concert
Youssou N'Dour performed with Dido at Live 8
Youssou N'Dour, Apache Indian and Nitin Sawhney are among the acts featured at the year's World of Music, Arts and Dance festival (Womad) in Reading.

The three-day festival featuring some 70 acts from around the world kicked off on Friday.

Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation were among the first performers on stage.

Up to 26,000 people are expected at the festival, which celebrates a range of musical styles from gospel to reggae.

Acts come from all over the world, including North Indian classical music star Sheema Mukherjee, East Africa's Mahmoud Ahmed and Bronx star Louie Vega.

Nitin Sawhney
Nitin Sawhney will perform on the closing night of the festival

The Spiegel Tent will invite local musicians to perform and be measured Gladiator-style - on a thumbs down or a thumbs up from the audience.

Rounding off the weekend, Nitin Sawhney will perform a DJ set in the 2,500 capacity Club Womad on Sunday.

More than one million music fans have seen Womad events in 22 countries since the first festival in the UK in 1982.

Womad was originally inspired by singer Peter Gabriel to introduce a new audience to many talented international artists and gain an insight into other cultures.

Gradually the festival has grown. In 1988, Womad events sprang up in Denmark and Canada and now festivals are annually held in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Canary Islands and Sicily.


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