x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Womad organisers expect 250,000 fans

The Womad Festival was launched yesterday in Abu Dhabi with an emphasis on Emirati culture.

ABU DHABI // Organisers hope the third annual Womad Abu Dhabi festival will be a catalyst for contemporary music by Emirati artists.

Abdullah al Ameri, the director of the arts and culture department of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), said his organisation "has a vision to have contemporary music in the UAE and we want to create new local groups such as Tarab Al Emarat (The Sound of the Emirates) which is performing in this year's festival.

"The fusion of local music with modern instruments is a new experiment that can be taken to an international audience."

The festival will feature 35 international artists and musicians performing on three stages on the Corniche beach from Thursday to Saturday and at Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain on Friday and Saturday.

The event will also include workshops for children and cooking demonstrations in a segment called Taste The World.

"We try every year to put new local musicians in the festival," Mr al Ameri said.

"We put local musicians as part of the workshops with international artists to allow a fusion which will definitely entertain the audience."

Five of the 12 members of the Indian group The Dhol Foundation helped to launch the festival with a Bhangra-dancing performance yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Chris Smith, the director of Womad, said the Abu Dhabi festival was the largest outside the UK.

Organisers expect more than a quarter of a million fans to attend this year.

"The different parts of the festival that we set up in Abu Dhabi make it unique and it's always about getting the right mix of artists to cater to people of all ages and interests," Mr Smith said.

He added that the biggest challenge was funding the free-admission project.

Mr al Amri said the musical performances would transcend nationalities and cultural backgrounds, featuring artists from Senegal, Mali, Jamaica, India, Egypt and France.

"Although there are over 100 cultures in Abu Dhabi, they are all functioning as one society and Womad brings them together, which is what makes it work here," Mr al Amri went on to say.

The opening acts on Thursday at the Corniche will include the British singer Paloma Faith; the Senegalese musician Baab Maal; and the Indian group The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel. The Malian kora player Toumani Diabate and Tarab Al Emarat will headline at Al Jahili Fort.

The Jamaican reggae legend Jimmy Cliff heads the line-up on the Corniche North Stage on Friday night.