x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dance offers a taste of Womad

A troupe from Zimbabwe offers a glimpse of the spectacular attractions on offer at the Womad festival starting tonight.

Siyaya perform at a Womad preview on Wednesday.
Siyaya perform at a Womad preview on Wednesday.

ABU DHABI // If there were any lingering doubts about how far from ordinary the Womad festival will be, they were dispelled yesterday by a group of dancers from Zimbabwe. The dance troupe Siyaya offered a taste of things to come when the international celebration of world culture opens at the Corniche tonight with a performance at the Emirates Palace hotel in which they sported a combination of traditional African attire and decidedly untraditional construction hard hats and Wellington boots.

Their lively media preview was a tantalising appetiser for a festival that promises to be radically different from the mainstream. Siyaya will also have the honour of being the first performers at the festival proper, at which they will be accompanied by children from a cross-section of Abu Dhabi schools, where they have been holding workshops over the past week. The cultural smorgasbord will feature some of the biggest names on the world stage, including the veteran UK rocker Robert Plant and the Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour, the Nubian-Egyptian Mohamed Mounir, who combines elements of traditional Egyptian music and African-style reggae, and the Algerian Rai master Khaled.

As well as three evenings in Abu Dhabi, there will be a Womad concert tomorrow at Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain. All the events are free. "It will be a rich cultural experience," said Abdullah al Amri, the director of the art and culture department of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, and the man who first thought of bringing Womad to the capital after attending the festival last year in Spain. "For the first time, locals and visitors will experience and get a good picture of the heritage of the region as well. The workshops will also reflect that."

Artistic collaborations on the two stages on the Corniche public beach will include the UAE's Kamal Mussallam Group alongside Sokoor and Magabeel from Jordan, while Marcio Local from Brazil, The Dhol Foundation from the UK, Sa Dingding from China and Los de Abajo from Mexico will be making highly anticipated appearances. A number of workshops will also be held every day with a focus on teaching children about music and dance, and there will be cooking classes at which some of the performers will prepare their national specialities. Although parking is limited around the Corniche, free shuttle bus services will be provided from the Intercontinental Hotel, Marina Mall and Port Zayed.

sbhattacharya@thenational.ae