Go mad for Womad

Expand your horizons in more ways than one with a trip to Womad in Abu Dhabi


After the huge success of last year’s first event, Womad (World of Music and Dance) is back with more multi-talented performers from around the world including Damian Marley (you’ll have heard of his dad), Femi Kuti (his old man pioneered the Afrobeat sound) and the Zawose Family, one of Africa’s greatest musical families.

The entire three-day event is free, and is a must for mums, dads and kids who want to expand their musical repertoire beyond Britney and Boyzone as well as join in with the bucketloads of fun, cultural and family-friendly events. Here are some of our favourites:

Children’s workshop tent

A hive of activity every evening with groups of artists working with nippers to create head-dresses, masks, costumes and artworks.

Brown Monkey Graffiti

Imagine being allowed, nay, positively encouraged to scrawl on the wall. The Brown Monkey crew will transform the corniche into a vibrant piece of art during the festival nights, with specific sessions for little scribblers.

Dubai Drums

Pick up some world beats and feel the rhythm with these family-friendly drum and percussion sessions – always a popular choice.

The Mora Brothers

The papier-mache artists from Cuba will be working their magic on paper, card and paints, encouraging youngsters to create amazing models and masks.

Taking Shape and Dot To Dot

Unearth that creative genius and get to work with these two UK groups, building some fabulous structures for the family and friends procession (see below) or creating an individual masterpiece to take home.

Taste the World

Feeling peckish? Have a nibble on something new down at the Taste the World stage, where artists prepare and cook and share some of their traditional cuisine – all interspersed with musical performances.

Family and friends procession

A festival highlight, head down to the corniche on Saturday evening for a spectacular parade where kids get to show off some of the fantastic creations they’ve made in the workshops and throughout the Womad Beyond educational outreach programme, accompanied by music from the Zawose Family from Tanzania and Dubai Drums.

Abu Dhabi corniche, Thursday April 22 until Saturday April 24. In Al Ain, there’ll be performances at the El Jahili Fort on Thursday and Friday only. Starting every evening at 7pm, the entire event is free. See www.womadabudhabi.ae for full details.

Too cool for school

The capital’s kids are already gearing up for the festival thanks to the educational outreach programme Womad Beyond, which this year sees more than 20 schools welcome international performers in for lessons.
Last year, a gaggle of 40 little performers stormed the stage with a Zimbabwean band for the opening Womad performance. ‘It was soooo cool!’ squeals Shanthi Tikari, a 14-year-old Brit who lent her vocals to the African chanting. ‘We could hear the massive crowd outside, so in the backstage VIP area we started stomping around and dancing on speakers to pump ourselves up.’

Shanthi was one of the lucky 40 students from the British School in Abu Dhabi who spent a week practising in after-school workshops to prep for their performance alongside professional musicians. ‘The African dancing and singing were like nothing I’d ever tried before. We were chanting in another language, throwing our whole bodies into the movement. It was such a different cultural experience from the dancing I’m used to,’ says Maya, another Womad performer.

For Jonathan Lyell, the music and performing arts manager at the school, it was no problem allowing the dancers to steal his job. ‘It was brilliant. As a teacher it’s wonderful to have a professional music group come in and perform. Kids become keen to listen, they get curious, and the hands-on activity appeals to students in a different way from classroom music lessons.’ He adds, ‘Education isn’t just about learning the facts, it’s about experiencing the world around you. Students should have the right not to just be passive in music, but to take an active part.’

Annie Menter, the Womad Outreach director, couldn’t agree more. ‘That’s one of the biggest Womad Beyond goals: to open young people up to the joys of worlds they never knew existed. Throw something strikingly new and different at them, and you’d be amazed what kind of students fall in love with music for the first time.’

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