WOMAD Abu Dhabi review

Damian Marley didn't show, and it was a tad windy, but did you enjoy it?

Well? How was it for you? Did Womad 2010 live up to the high standards set by Robert Plant and his ilk the previous year, or was Damian Marley's no-show too much to bear?

For us, it was a mixed affair. Throat singers Hanggai didn't quite pack the punch that Dulsori delivered to kickstart the first night of Womad 2009, but the likes of Transglobal Underground and the almighty Tinariwen more than equalled last year's Led Zepp freakout. Other highlights included Habib Koite and Rango's Trispan tent appearance, where Womad's Annie Menter tried her hardest to control a largely Egyptian audience who had no time for her British niceties, wanting only to paint the evening in their national colours and sing along with their beloved countrymen.

Indeed, it was at that moment that the difference between Womad UK and Womad UAE became clear. The perceived middle classness of the original festival, seen by many British festival goers as mildly patronising, is entirely absent in Abu Dhabi. Here, the music of North Africa and the Middle East is celebrated largely by North Africans and Arabs. Rather than being a cultural zoo, this is a desert festival, performed by the people of the desert for the people of the desert, and the emotional response is tangible.

Damian Marley's no-show may have disappointed a few folk here and there (none more so than the organisers themselves, who could be heard muttering ‘he'll never work in this town again' at every turn), but if anything kept the crowd numbers low on the final night it was the 40kph winds whipping along the beach. Not that Tinariwen - a band of Touareg Saharan rebels - cared all that much. These were ideal conditions for them, and they brought the festival to a close as though they owned the place; nomads, right at home.  

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