ABU DHABI // The eclectic soundwaves of the Womad festival will ripple through Abu Dhabi tonight as the first performers get the 2011 edition under way at the Corniche and Al Jahili Fort.
A total of 35 acts will play at the three-day festival, which is in its third year, including headliner Jimmy Cliff, the Emirati group Tarab Al Emarat, Jamaican dancer Ripton Lindsay and Malian singer Khaira Arby.
The eight-member Tarab Al Emarat (The Sound of the Emirates) will perform at the festival for the first time, playing local music with modern instruments, including a saxophone, violins, a cello and percussion.
"The UAE has done a lot for us so this is our way of giving back to the community," said Fadel Hammadi, a 20-year-old cellist.
"We're like a family; our commitment to the group is definitely long term and we're really looking forward to the festival."
The group was formed three months ago and includes five Emiratis who studied at the Sharjah Music Centre, two Egyptians playing the counter-bass and the qanun - a traditional Middle Eastern string instrument - and one Iraqi on percussion.
"Our music has an Arabic melody coupled with a jazz harmony," said Mohammad Morshed, 38, the saxophonist.
"I am really looking forward to the festival - I haven't slept in three days because I'm excited to perform for so many people from different cultures."
Rebecca Jones, one of the organisers, said yesterday all the acts performing tonight and tomorrow had arrived in Abu Dhabi.
"We've got a great line-up and the audience should expect unique performances that they might not come across anywhere else in the world," she said.
"We've had to work hard because there was a lot to organise but once the final decorations go up on the sites today, we'll be good to go.
"Abu Dhabi as a location for the festival is fantastic because the cultural variety really reflects upon Womad."
Tarab Al Emarat will perform a 45-minute set at Al Jahili Fort tonight and at the Corniche Stage South on Saturday they play with Omar Bashir, an Iraqi oud player.
Jaber Jaber, a 20-year-old violinist with Tarab Al Emarat, said his was the first Emirati generation to read and interpret music of the UAE. Khalifa al Jazim, a 17-year-old percussionist, said he wanted to prove that it was possible to mix international and local music, while violinist Abdelaziz al Madani, 26, said his dream was to prove himself as an Emirati musician.
Educational musical workshops and cooking demonstrations by the artists during the Taste The World sessions are also scheduled for the weekend.
Abdullah al Ameri, the director of the arts and culture department at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, said festival-goers should expect an entertaining and diverse musical experience.
"We have an added value to the festival this year by choosing new quality artists and new groups to perform in Abu Dhabi," Mr al Ameri said.
"We support Tarab Al Emarat as a local group and we hope to see more fusion of contemporary and local music in the future."
Chris Smith, the director of Womad, said the festival was a "coming together of what we think will work in Abu Dhabi".
Mr Smith expects 250,000 visitors to the festival. "It's an opportunity to celebrate what's been done in Abu Dhabi after three years with a unique programme set-up," he said.
British singer-songwriter Paloma Faith will perform tonight on the Corniche stage, as well as the Senegalese master-guitarist and singer Baaba Maal; the Colombian salsa band LA-33; The Maganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel, featuring musicians from India; Orchestre National de Barbes from Paris; and the Dhol Foundation, a bhangra-playing group.
Performers at Al Jahili Fort tonight include the Franco-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra; Tarab Al Emarat; the Malian artist Toumani Diabate playing the kora, a west African harp; the Egyptian folk group El Tanbura; and a workshop on Jamaican street dance by Lindsay.