Where were you between April 23 and 25? If you weren’t on Abu Dhabi Corniche, you missed a corker.
Womad Abu Dhabi, the first of the legendary world music festivals to arrive in the Middle East, blew minds and expectations all weekend, as 80,000 festival goers thronged to the beach in amazement.
‘What’s the best thing about Womad?’ asked Johnny Kalsi as he took the stage with the astounding Dhol Foundation. ‘It’s here in Abu Dhabi, and it’s free!’
The global festival takes place in multiple locations each year, but you’d be hard pressed to find a venue that encapsulates the spirit of the festival as perfectly as Abu Dhabi has.
Aiming to bring people into contact with an experience they may not be used to, Womad attracted people from vastly different backgrounds, dancing up a storm together in a way that the capital has never before witnessed.
While the Dhol Foundation proved hugely popular with workers from the labour camps, the front row of Youssou N’Dour’s crowd looked like something Benetton might have planned for their next ad campaign. To say the event was unique would be an understatement; in many ways it was groundbreaking – a real cultural first for the UAE.
From the opening performance by Siyaya and children from the British School, to the final fireworks on Saturday night, attendance figures continued to climb nightly – 22,000 on Thursday, 26,000 on Friday (plus 5,000 in Al Ain’s Jahili Fort) and 28,000 for the finale.
Highlights included thundering sets from Dulsori (South Korea), Dhol Foundation (India/UK) and a rambunctious, almost impromptu performance by Robert Plant and friends, the legendary frontman delighting fans with several Led Zepplin favourties, including ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Rock’n’Roll’. With Plant’s obvious approval, organisers have said they’re already rolling out plans for next year.