WOMAD Music Festival:Writing Essays


Music is a language that gives the best definition of the world and its inhabitants. It is actually the best and most ideal way of conveying messages and expressing a person’s view in any given occasion. The WOMAD concert which is abbreviation used to mean, World of Music, Arts and Dance is among the renowned international concerts that have had great impacts on the global entertainment industry. Since its establishment in 1980, the organization has received better growth and so much popularity. The WOMAD concert that I recently attended was just as good as usually expected. It was planned to take place on 27th September 2013 from 6 pm till the following day in the morning in the United Kingdom. It was graced with a series of spectacular performances that night; however, the most outstanding of them was the performance by Kanda Bongo Man. This performance stood out from the rest because of the uniqueness of the genre of music and dance style showcased by this performance.e

Kanda Bongo Man was born in a village called Inongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bandundu province. His passion of music can be traced back to the earlier days when he decided to join ‘orchestra belle mambo’ as a vocalist. He did quite well and developed a sound influenced by his mentor and teacher Rochereau Taby Ley who was the then the founder of the said music group and also one of the Congolese living legends. After gaining much exposure and experience, Kanda Bongo Man relocated to Europe and settled in Paris, France. It is here that he went ahead to develop his music career through the incorporation of certain elements of the vibrant ‘zouk’ music that is rumored to have originated from the French West Indies. His former tow unaccompanied albums called ‘Iyole’ in 1981 and ‘Djessy’ in 1982 gained his popularity across the world. He had undertaken the re-invention of the famous ‘soukuos’ genre of music. Initially, ‘soukuos’ music was in such a way that the singers would first sing a few verses and then the guitar would follow. Kanda nevertheless, re-arranged the order through the incorporation of the solo guitar at the start of the song and also at the end of every verse, thereby making his music to be different from others.

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The unique musical instruments used at the concert included the tumba, maracas and combo. These worked jointly with the drums towards ensuring a smooth flow of the beat and guiding the tempo of the lead instruments, which are guitars for ‘soukuos’ music. Kanda Bongo Man finally took to the stage with his famous song, ‘isambe monie.’ Dancing to the ‘soukuos’ beat was the most amazing experience in the concert. The lead guitar provided the exquisite melody that set in a good rhythmic flow with the base guitar. This style of music was truly revealed especially by the subsequent breaks after every verse of the song to clear the way for lead guitar to solo and bring in a new verse. It is also at this point that the three planes of listening were portrayed. As a music student, my plane of listening was mainly musical or what is often referred to as the sheer plane of listening since I was unable to identify and break down the music into the elements making it up. This music also incorporated a sensual plane. It was experienced in a case whereby a group of the audience was thrilled by the instrumentation in the music without really getting the meaning of the song which was sung in a foreign language.

The expressive plane of listening was actually on the part of the group that understood the language in which the sing was sung. This group of people was made up of Congolese who had travelled from far and wide to attend the concert. The group also consisted of natives who were diehard fans of Kanda Bongo Man. According to me, the quality of the song was unique compared to the other performances that night. Every pluck made by the guitarists was clearly heard and I could even tell that they played at the sale of Key E. The song was well balanced such that each aspect of it was well showcased to the audience. In general terms, everything about the first piece of his performance was top notch. The second piece was however, a bit slow in tempo with a key signature of 1 for every 4 beats. The lyrics were well organized and fitted quite well to the flow of the song.

In conclusion, I can say that arousing the feelings of dance in the audience was the motivation behind the performance. It mainly focused on the audience who had sensuous plane of listening and this group accounted for the largest percentage of the audience. The message passed highlighted how the European culture blends in with the West African culture. The WOMAD concert is an even that I would recommend to any person who loves music from West Africa. It portrays a scenario whereby man meets talent and talent meets the audience. This project has been a good learning experience and also taught me a lot about the various genres of music that I practically had no idea about.