Week from Monday 8th September 2003

This page appears courtesy of The Free Association ... Some of you might remember the diaries I kept during my most Obsessive/Compulsive period - meticulously annotated, micron-high handwritten lists of every conversation, every joke, every happenstance and, sadly, every TV programme I encountered in my day-to-day existence. This will not, I hope, be one of those.

This weekend past, I have been somewhat tired and emotional due to what I've come to call one of my "myalgic downturns", so I've mainly been vegging out in front of the video, catching up on some of the week's film treats (I finally got to see "The Sixth Sense" all the way through!) and dipping into the Led Zeppelin DVD set - Yes! The version of "Kashmir" at Knebworth really was as good as I remembered it! Was it really twenty-four summers ago? Thinks: the people who have been writing the reviews in the glossymags are a generation too young to have seen Zeppelin for real...

Ahh! I found my very own copy of W.H. Davies' "Autobiography Of A Super-Tramp" in a box a-bound for the WI jumble sale, which was nice...

I've just been listening to last night's "Mixing It" and, as usual, there were at least a couple of tracks which prompted the response "Bloody hell, I could do that! Come to think of it, we HAVE done that!"... Which is why I've just finished compiling a seedy's-worth of freely improvised stuff that Shelfy and I created in previous decades, with the express purpose of sending it to the "Mixing It" crew (Yo! Radio Three Posse In The House!). The seedy is entitled "The Futility Clinic": Shelfy will have received his copy by now and SHOULD be writing a press release to go with it, at this very moment...

This Week's Listening Habits: I find I am unable to wrench away from my deck the recording of LOVE with ARTHUR LEE at this year's Glastonbury shindig - sublime! I got a copy of the MIYAZAWA KAZUFUMI "Deeper Than Oceans" seedy that I had been seeking - a unique blend of Okinawan and Brazilian flavours, with all the quirkiness that both those countries' popcultures have to offer! Sort Of A Downside: the seedy is padded out with the usual array of pointless "remixes" that always seem to turn up on "world" music discs these days, which add nothing to the enjoyment (or programming) of the disc whatsoever.

Week from Monday 15th September 2003

Shelfy turned up at the w-shop on Monday: He is trying to sell a "timeshare" in his Land Rover and he urgently requested that a couple of (im)pertinent comments be purged from his "Shelfspace" page. I spent the day trying to draw a Victoria Cross. 6 Mee-usic's "Dream Ticket" is having a bit of a Liverpool theme this week, including a 1978-ish session from art college new-wavers DEAF SCHOOL, who were very quirky and arty, vocally-contrived and typical of their time, a sound which, therefore, hasn't exactly dated very well! I, of course, loved it. We're also in for some TEARDROP EXPLODES, which'll be nice.

Lots of rush jobs to do first thing on Tuesday, before I spend a couple of hours at Sandie's Emporium Of Hair, while the lovely Liz does wonderful things with my follicles. I see in MVC that the KEVIN AYERS (& The Whole World) releases on Harvest have just been reissued on seedydisk, so I purchase "Shooting At The Moon". This is a very strange mixture of styles indeed and obviously influenced by the equally eclectic Johnson's Gridling Band recordings of the same period (though he probably doesn't know it!).

I went round to see the landlord about some part-time work that's going in his furniture shop. We'll have to see... Meanwhile, the Man From Blandford is coming in with some more engraving artwork (Not a picture of a motorbike this time - I had to reproduce someone's golf score-card to go on a trophy). He is well chuffed with the results.

I mailed off the "Futility Clinic" seedy to Mixing It (which this week moves to a new Friday night slot). Shelfy's press release has been non-forthcoming, so I knocked out something of my own. We just have to see what happens (Some of us have waited thirty-ODD years, so what the hey!?).

Saturday, and I watched a not-too-bad film starring the prospective Governer of California. Then I took one more trip to "Virtual WOMAD", via the Beeb's "Radio On Demand" player, for goodly chunks of MANU DIBANGO & RAY LEMA (not enough, but!) and CHICO CESAR (about three-quarters of his set) to add to the "deluxe box" of BBC/WOMAD recordings. My PC also grabbed me by the collar and said, "Oy! It's time to update yer virus checker!". I've got last night's "Jazz On 3" and "Mixing It" to listen to when I get home.

WOMAD FLASHBACK... FRIDAY 25th JULY 2003

07.00... I had a dream that David Byrne (no, that's next year...Ed) was supposed to play at the festival, but he cancelled, so none other than Hawkwind stepped in at the last minute. I knew that it was Hawkwind because I recognised their bowler hats, then they couldn't play because their trio of black lady backing singers hadn't turned up.

'Tis the season of the year when a little bit of the Thames is temporarily twinned with the Amazon, the Nile and the Limpopo. This year's festival looks like being a moist one (of course, we seasoned campaigners still speak in hushed tones about the WOMADs of 1988 - now THAT was wet weather!)

10.30... Shelfy, who we shall later come to call 'Antoninho' because he wants to be a Brazilian, arrives in this year's Gridler Mobile Office, his safari-styled Land Rover. It is noisy but surprisingly diesel-efficient. In-flight entertainment is supplied by 808 State and various line-ups of the King Crimson ensemble in full improv mode.

13.00ish... We settle ourselves into the caravanserai area, I create my Little House on the Prairie, tea is brewed while I set off to seek programme vendors and those nice people who exchange your ticket for those natty armbands that are all the rage around here. The rain is not too bad so far, and mud is concentrated in the areas concerned with vehicular access, certainly nothing worth being a baby about. I overheard one small child complain to its parent, "I'm not going in there, it looks like poo!" JOJI HIROTA and his red hot Taiko Drummers are doing their thing on the main stage as we familiarise ourselves with this year's lay of the land. (This Weekend's Inexplicable Catchphrase: "You mentioned something about The Goons?")

15.30... The Village - sorry! Radio 3 Village Stage - The new mushroom-esque venue plays host to the delightful SOTHO SOUNDS, a bunch of nippers from Lesotho, Southern Africa, who perform on a fascinating array of home made instruments (oilcan guitars, one-string fiddles, drums played with lengths of rubber tyre - how does one play accurately with such bendy 'sticks'?). A great start to the festival for this particular audient. (Band Name I Wish I'd Thought Of #1: 'Kamel Nitrate', spotted on a Whirl-Y-Gig poster. They're not that good though ...ED)

16.30... Main Stage - Uzbekistan's SEVARA NAZARKHAN has come a long way since we first spotted her playing an impromptu set in the Village with members of Justin Adams' and U-Cef's groups a few years back. Now she's made a Real World album with Hector Zazou at the controls, and very nice it is too. However, on the Main stage, the band doesn't appear to be enjoying itself that much. Ms Nazarkhan, although a charismatic performer with a fine set of lungs, doesn't really reach out. Maybe this set would have worked better in the Siam Tent. Also she should stick with the more 'traditional' material - her own attempts at 'western' pop music have little appeal outside of Tashkent.

17.30... It is time to take meal back at the campsite. We wish to get as far away as possible from the 'folk' of uber-Waterson ELIZA CARTHY or the Brooklyn 'soul diva' that is McKAY. (The Only Remotely Interesting Thing Anyone Can Say About Eliza Carthy: "What colour is her hair this week?")

19.30... Siam Tent - We absolutely adored DAN HICKS & HIS HOT LICKS (and Lickettes)! When you consider that this group had at its disposal exactly the same instrumental resources as the dreary Carthys, there is a world of difference. This music just oozes class and sheer JOY abounds! Plus dexterity by the bucket load - some fantastic West Coast guitarring, fiddling and the best yodelling ever, bar none!

20.30... Main Stage - As the latest West African 'national' act making a comeback from the early 1970s in the wake of Orchestra Baobab, I thought BEMBEYA JAZZ might suffer in comparison. But we needn't have worried, they were outstanding, especially The Diamond Fingers (or was it The Butter Fingers?), Sekou Diabate!

21.30... Village Stage - I just HAD to see PAPE & CHEIKH on the strength of the one song of theirs I had on a compilation CD (they saved that one till last!). One or two tuning problems aside and a tendency to pad out the songs with 'audience participation' routines (one of my own particular 'Betes Noires'!), this was beautiful acoustic music of the H.O.T.B.O.O.N. (Hairs On The Back Of Ones Neck) kind. (Incidentally, I find English folk music incapable of achieving the H.O.T.B.O.O.N. effect - Sorry! Am I ranting on this subject too much?) Hmm, those chord sequences - why did I keep expecting them to break into "All Along The Watchtower" or "Don't Fear The Reaper"?

22.30... Main Stage - He is based in Sao Paulo, on the same label as Tom Zé. He's got one of those top heavy band line-ups that would look all wrong on paper, but works because they're Brazilian. CHICO CESAR's music is quintessentially Brazilian just because it is all-encompassing. He is strange. He is Brazilian. Nuff said!

Midnight... It's time for a bedtime cuppa. It is now a beautiful clear starry-starry night. This year, there is a curfew on campsite drumming activity during the hours of darkness. Hooray!

SATURDAY 26th JULY 2003

08.30... Wash, change of undies, then off on my Saturday morning walk into town. There are bargains galore to be gleaned: HMV still has a 'Sale' on. I eventually plumped for two sets (over three and a half hours) of prime Crazed Electrick Space Voodoo-period Miles at a ridiculously slashed price! A visit to Reading's friendliest second-hand emporium Sound Machine turned up a copy of Laurie Anderson's NYC'01 concert double and a Luaka Bop (The Mark Of Qualitee!) oddity by Los Amigos Invisibles. Back-to-base for breakfast. The thunder clouds gather, as do the annoying little flies of that ilk, who seem to actually LIKE the insect so-called repellent!

13.00... Siam Tent (or fairly near it anyway) - THE SUPER RAIL BAND (De La Hotel De La Mare Du Bamako, Mali, Tout La Monde Bla Bla Bla) were, of course, wondrous! Djelimady Tounkara gives it loads, in HIS role as the resident Mr Diamond Fingers. They must be pleased to be able to play a gig uninterrupted by arrivals and departures announcements!

14.10 or thereabouts... We went for a walkabout, mainly in search of the bargain book store, where a lavish and comprehensive Laurie Anderson book just had to be had at a ridiculous sub-£7 price. There is a lot of unaccompanied drumming and chanting going on (SAMBA SUNDA, CLAVE Y GUAGUANCO, not to mention the yugli white folks idly plonking away next to the coffee shop) and it is futile trying to concentrate on an Indian classical recital (sarod player AZAD QIZILBASH) under the circumstances, so we decide to take a four o'clock tea break. Shelfy makes a joke about 'losing his Raag'.

18.00... Main Stage - We brave the rain, to stand in the open before the mighty LO'JO and their own particular brand of Mediterranean Homesick Blues. So very French and totally unique. I don't think my earlier description of them sounding like 'Serge Gainsbourg working in Dixon' is particularly appropriate anymore, not that I can remember what THAT meant anyway!

19.00... Siam Tent - I'd sort of feared TEMPLE OF SOUND might be a bit of a directionless mess and it turned out that I was right, which is sad because I used to be a huge fan of Transglobal Underground and The Temple's collaboration with Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali was a top fave. Beware of any 'band' whose album features a different 'Guest Vocals By' credit on every track! Unfortunately too, this kind of thing is started to sound rather dated and Neil Sparkes is now given full reign to do his Mr Shouty bit, the least attractive aspect of the TGU sound, in my opinion.

19.15... so what to do now? It is getting very wet and muddy, but we wander around aimlessly nevertheless.

19.45... Village Stage - Various people are being soundchecked in preparation for CHARLIE GILLETT's Radio London programme. DAN HICKS & HIS HOT LICKS are still getting it together while the London listeners are hearing the news and the first record of the show (thankfully, a fairly long soukous track by Sam Mangwana). It was, however, as they say, Alright On The Night! The Hot Licks were again fantastically amusing. SEVARA NAZARKHAN positively thrived in this setting, dressed in her Doc Martens and civvies, with a back-to-basics saz 'n' percussion accompaniment. Better by far than yesterday's Main Stage performance. Dennis of LO'JO shared his reminiscences about the 'Festival Au Desert' in Mali back in January.

21.00 or thereabouts... Went for a traipse, through the mud to the campsite, to get some paracetemol. The rain is, by now, coming down by the skip load. We are not bothered, but an additional layer of lagging and a change of shirt is prudent.

21.45... Back to the Village Stage, but we just missed LO'JO's appearance on the Uncle Charlie shindig. NITIN SAWHNEY is on in the Siam Tent, but does not appeal.

22.00... We go and stand in the mud and rain in the Main Arena, whilst preparations are being made for Jimmy Cliff's headliner. I try to capture the weather on film, but I couldn't see through the viewfinder for condensation (Praise the Lord and pass the silica-gel!)

22.30... Main Stage - JIMMY CLIFF and his red hot Jamaican band (Look at the length of the beard on the natty dread percussionist!) are definitely the big attraction here tonight (a lot of Saturday day tickets are sold). What a star! What a little firecracker! Several hits are reeled out one-by-one in the first twenty minutes and he's STILL got an hour to go! Blimey! It is, however, VERY crowded and my enjoyment of the music is severely marred by being directly in front of someone singing along in a drab, wildly out-of-pitch monotone. We barge our way out of the crowd to the relative safety of the surrounding mud tracks (Nearly the whole set is on the telly, waiting for me when I get back home!)

23.00... The Little Blue Cabaret Stage - Yet another performance by DAN HICKS & HIS HOT LICKS, but, as this is a late night cabaret, they play the same set, but in a mock-JJ Cale sleepy stroll. The two roadside diner waitress-like Lickettes also wear party wigs for the occasion - cool! What is more, the sky appears to be clearing again!

00.10... Time for bed and dryouts!

SUNDAY 27th JULY 2003

A major lie-in: I didn't actually wake at all until 7.00, and that's real late for me! (NB I didn't make any real time notes in Sunday's diary page, because the paper was too wet to write on, so I'm writing all this, from here on, well after the event!)

08.30... Hooray! We might just be in for a nice day! An opportunity is taken to dry out any damp garments or equipment, by hanging them in the - gasp! - sun! Lots of tea is drunk, and I break fast on bananas, muesli bars and orange juice, in that order. I dismantle my Little House On The Prairie. Tony does strange things with his video camera.

11.30... We go walkabout, to find that the mud is already of leatherware consistency rather than last night's slipware!

12.00... Siam Tent - I'd been looking forward to seeing ENSEMBLE KABOUL for a while now, and I wasn't disappointed. There were the inevitable jokes about rubab/rhubarb. Even as a confirmed agnostic, I can appreciate it when the WOMAD folks programme something as spiritually uplifting as this, early on Sunday!

13.00... On our way down-village, we stumbled over a session by the ZAHAWY BROTHERS & CANER SAHIN (from Kurdistan, but based in England), going on in the little Radio 3/World On Your Street tent. The middle-Eastern, spiritually-uplifting theme thus continued. Shelfy got his first close-up look at a REAL saz (a beautiful bouzouki-like lute, as opposed to the 'saz' of his imagination, which is about forty feet long and driven by steam!)

14.00... We continued on our previously scheduled walkies, taking in small tasters of MANECAS COSTA (Radio 3-friendly, Lusophone-African singer-songwriter) and RODRIGO & GABRIELA (Mexicans from Dublin) along the way. I filled in my form for the WOMAD audience survey, tempted by the possibility of free tickets for next year.

One of the questions asked "Do you think the media have become too obtrusive?". I ticked the box marked "SOMETIMES". One does 'sometimes' get the impression that the festival is being held for the benefit of the BBC and we poor PAYING customers don't get much of a look-in. The Beeb is now a major part of this festival's balance sheet - and I don't know what I would do if the BBC didn't record the festival for me! - but I do find myself wondering, when I hear the recorded "highlights" on Radio 3 on returning home, whether they were at the same festival as the rest of us?! That's probably scuppered MY chances of any freebies! I also have a gripe about the ubiquitousness of the cellular telephone at festivals these days, but then I suppose this is an indictment of society in general. The BBC is guilty of encouraging this sort of thing this weekend, with their onsite text messaging service throughout the festival (Don't ask me how THAT works - you presumably have to switch your 'phone ON to make it go!) Still that, as they say, is progress. Me, I yearn for the days when a trip to WOMAD meant a nice journey out into the West Country and we'd leave all that sort of technology behind us when we went to a festival...

15.00... Main Stage - A second helping of THE SUPER RAIL BAND is, of course, more than welcome, especially as they've cleared the rest of the clouds away! I'd have been quite happy to listen to them continue 'noodling' like they did in the soundcheck, like some Bamako version of the Grateful Dead, but of course they played another cracking set of songs!

14.00... Siam Tent - TOTONHO E OS CABRA are another clue that Brazilian music is not quite yet all 'Nu-Bossa-Nova-Chill-Out-Dinner-Jazz-Brazilian-Grooves', as the marketing boys would have us spoonfed. A fantastic mishmash of megaphonically enhanced market trader rants, Henry Rollins style metallic outbursts, Steely Dan samples and, of course, T(r)opical(ia) social commentary, all served up on top of, inside of, or completely at odds with that infectious Brazilian samba beat. Both Tony and I were immediately forced to rush to the WOMAD shop to purchase both the CD and the t-shirt - we call this 'love at first sight' the BLOQUE EFFECT.

17.00... Time to go and have a quick din-dins (Sunday is Pot Curry Day!) and escape the dreaded PROCLAIMERS, to which the programming has provided no alternative. I leave Shelfy to tidy up his Land Rover for the journey home while I dash back to the Siam.

18.15... Siam Tent - Just HAD to catch this opportunity to hear OUMOU SANGARE again after all these years (though from well outside of the tent - it's heaving!). There are plenty of H.O.T.B.O.O.N. vocal outbursts and the famous calabash juggling routines as expected. The 'end of term procession' gets underway and I shoot off a few snapshots of giant skeletons, papermaché llamas and a dancing turd.

19.15... Main Stage - It's flamenco, Jim, but not as we know it! OJOS DE BRUJO are dragging flamenco screaming into the 21st Century, by setting the hectic Spanish guitar thrummings and soaring/souring vocals against electronic tricky beats and turntablism. They're mates with the likes of MANU CHAO ("I'm so sorry, he's from Barcelona...") 'nuff said!

19.45... Little Blue Stage - Time for a bit of cabaret. We catch the frankly Mervyn Purviss-like performance of WOODY BOP MUDDY, the self-styled 'record graveyard'. His act mainly consists of taunting the audience with old vinyl gleaned from his local carboot sale and smashing it to order with a hammer, but it was far funnier than that sounds. The "SOUND OF MUSIC"/"SOUND OF BREAD" joke was pure genius.

20.30... Siam Tent - Ah! The bald ones are the best! MANU DIBANGO would have been my first point of contact with this music we call "world", back in the clubbin' early eighties, and his brand of Cool-Jazz-In-An-African-Style still sounds fresh and thrilling to these ears. He is joined today by another exponent of Afro-Jazz stylings, RAY LEMA - on a REAL grand piano, by heck! - and a stonking band of Frenchmen. They DID do "Soul Makossa" - only they did it in the style of a Congolese rumba, the canny old buggers! I photographed a patch of genuine Rivermead mud to do a stunning background wallpaper for the diary page.

21.30... Main Arena - The 'big finish' is almost here, but first we have to endure the oafish ranting of NEIL SPARKES out of Temple Of Sound - who the hell thought it would be a good idea to give HIM a job as a continuity announcer? KHALED is, apparently, delayed, but we KNOW his set will be worth the wait. Letting that porkpie hatted buffoon come on and taunt us further, merely makes the wait less bearable. Absolutely no one in our general vicinity has any interest in what he has to say, in fact the tone is turning somewhat hostile. I have, as I say, been a fan of his music in the past, but he did himself no favours this weekend. Oh! and Shelfy has just pointed out that the BBC telly crews have all gone.

21.50... Main Arena still - Yes of course he was worth the wait! KHALED is still the guvnah where this Algerian/Parisian rai-rock is concerned - he can do no wrong - an absolutely cracking set, topped off by "Didi" being given the full twelve inch treatment! We are still baying for more when the curfew dictates that that is that. Mr Sparkes does the 'end of festival' thank-yous, but no one is listening. We are, by then, hobbling back to the campsite, to prepare for the journey home. Tony shoots off some more footage for his strange video presentation, which may or may not see the light of day through these very pages(?)

23.15... Set off on the journey home, trying not to run over anyone's tent on the way out. The in-flight entertainment for the trip is provided by tapes of recent Charlie Gillett BBC World Service broadcasts and some choice choons from the BBC Asian Network... Of course, once again, thanks to the beeb 'n' net and that, the festival is not over yet...

Week from Monday 22nd September 2003

I got a letter from the Pensions Service asking if I would like to take part in a market research survey on the subject. No, I would not! They supplied an "opt out" phone number for use if one chooses not to take part, but it doesn't seem to connect to anything! Bloody civil servants!!! (I did actually get through to an answering service on Thursday... but whether it'll do any good or not ...?) A Thoroughly Miffing Happenstance. I've been in further negotiations with the landlord about a second career in his furniture restoration business. I bumped into my old friend Annie (a former colleague from my market research days) conducting a survey on behalf of "A Manufacturer Of Not-Terribly-Scrummy Muesli", in Gozzy High Street.

The MANU DIBANGO tracks I gleaned from the Beeb Radio Player on Saturday turn out to be the very same tunes played on the radio during the week following the festival - so that was a bit of a waste of time (and phone bill!). I got 'round to listening to this week's Kershaw tape, sometime in the middle of the week. With its new Sunday night slot, it has become rather awkward to catch the show in real time!

A lot of "property mainteenennenence" or "Do It, as it were, Yourself" on The Premises, this week - stripping and repainting the door frame, retouching the shop sign... and then there's the kitchen to be done... all while doing a logo for the Dorset Golf Club.

That blessed LOVE with ARTHUR LEE concert is still lodged on the deck and in my brain - I wouldn't be surprised if another COLLECTING FRENZY is on the way (Shelfy had one recently for the works of QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE!). Also subjected to much repeat listening is the Earls Court version of "Trampled Underfoot" by the ZEP LADS - "Run-Down-By-A-Bloody-Enormous-Diesel-Locomotive (Underfoot)", more like!

I went for a mooch around the Commercial Road district of Portsmouth, where the HMV Sale yielded cheaposeedies by THE BLUE NILE ("A Walk Across The Rooftops" - even more thumb-suckingly lush than their "Hats" album, a previous bargain bin favourite of mine) and SCRITTI POLITTI ("Songs To Remember", my PICK O' THE YEAR album of 1982, no less!). This week, BBC 4 starts its run of televisual WOMAD highlights, with a two hour so-called "BEST OF..." compilation. Hmm... I'LL be the judge of that!