x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Womad's three-year deal with Abu Dhabi

After a successful opening set in 2009, the Womad festival has agreed to an encore: three more years in Abu Dhabi.

Kamal Musallam, foreground, and Sokoor Al Magabeel perform on the opening night of Womad in Abu Dhabi last year.
Kamal Musallam, foreground, and Sokoor Al Magabeel perform on the opening night of Womad in Abu Dhabi last year.

ABU DHABI // The Egyptian pop superstar Hakim and the Nigerian vocalist Femi Kuti highlight a compelling opening night as the World of Music, Arts and Dance (Womad) returns to Abu Dhabi next month. After a successful opening set in 2009, the Womad festival has agreed to an encore: three more years in the capital. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) said the local popularity of Womad, which began in Britain 30 years ago and has its headquarters there, made the decision easy. "It shows that we both believe in the long-term future of this event," said Isadora Papadrakakis, the performing arts adviser for Adach. "Last year was so successful that it was unavoidable that Womad would become part of the annual calendar for Abu Dhabi." Hakim, one of the most popular musicians in the Middle East, will take the stage on April 22, opening night. At a press conference yesterday, Hakim said he was "happy, pleased and honoured" to have been invited to play. Femi Kuti is the eldest son of the afrobeat performer Fela Kuti, famous for his fusion of modern jazz beats with traditional African percussion. Last year his album Day by Day was nominated for a Grammy Award. Womad-Abu Dhabi will play April 22-23 in Al Ain and from April 22 through 24 in the capital. Said Hakim: "Any artist would be proud to be part of this event in the Emirates. There is a lot of importance placed on culture and heritage here in Abu Dhabi, and I follow that closely. I think it is very important, and so I am very much looking forward to performing here." The star, who has collaborated with James Brown and is releasing an album this summer, added: "I sing in musical harmonies and use tones which can be difficult for non-Arabs to pick up on, but festivals like this are a perfect place to expose audiences to many types of music," he said. Abdulla al Amri, the director of the arts and culture department at Adach, said bringing together East and West was one of the main aims for the festival. "We want to develop musical tastes in Abu Dhabi and the region through Womad," he said. "We are presenting a number of local acts as well as diversifying to show music from all over the world." Other acts that will appear on the first two days of Womad, according to Adach, include Abri, a soul band from Dubai; The Drummers of Burundi, who have been performing all over the world since the 1960s; Rachid Taha, a popular artist from Algeria; and Le Trio Joubran, a family of oud makers and players from the Palestinian territories. From the UK, Transglobal Underground will perform, as will a Sudanese-Egyptian band called Rango. Ms Papadrakakis said the full line-up, which will be announced in coming weeks, will include two more acts from the UAE. The 2010 event will be bigger than last year's, with 35 acts, and two days and nights at Al Jahili Fort in Al Ain, versus one night last year. The number of visitors is expected to exceed the 80,000 total who attended last year, when the headliners included Youssou N'Dour, the Senegalese superstar, and Robert Plant, a British singer. However, Ms Papadrakakis said outdoing previous festivals was not a goal. "We're not looking to exceed last year in terms of numbers or success," she said. "We are looking to match it". aseaman@thenational.ae