Festival for discerning ears, World of Music, Arts and Dance coming back to South Africa again

By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor

I have been to this festival before when it took place for the first time in South Africa close to two decades ago.

The atmosphere was great in Benoni on that day and the music was simply superb. I was particularly enchanted by the choice of the line-up. It was not the popular type of artists, but the ones that are often left out of performance schedules by commercially driven promoters whose motive for organising concerts and festivals is to make money. There is really nothing wrong with that. But then under such circumstances, good musicians who are not necessarily crowd pullers tend to be overlooked. And often times these are artists who create art for the sake of art’s sake, and in often times this is the kind of art that discerning art lovers love the most. It is pure and demonstrates raw art that has not yet been polluted by commercial imperatives.

For example, this is a festival where you will find some of the most interesting indigenous musicians that the thank goodness, the commercial world has not yet noticed and turned them into comme4rcial money making machines. That way the tend to lose their artistry, purpose of art that is meant o play several roles in enriching the human spirit, other than to simply make money.

It must be what British musician Peter Gabriel had in mind when he founded this festival donkey years ago that has since attracted the attention of the years of those that love really good, unpolluted music of the world.


Now those who have been the inspiration story of The World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) in South Africa will be excused for getting ecstatic about the news that this festival for the discerning ears for good music is coming back to South Africa, at a smaller scale but travelling to more regions beyond its Benoni original venue that I went to  that year and had so much fun that I fell in love completely with Gabriel’s concept.. I cannot wait to attend Womad this year.

WOMAD is coming on a “music safari” to South Africa! The World of Music, Arts and Dance’smini-festival will bring exciting names in South African and global music to Cape Town and Johannesburg in October.

Conceived in 1982 by  Gabriel, WOMAD has since brought the sights, sounds and rhythms of the world to over 30 countries and an audience of millions – and South Africa is next on the itinerary for the event’s 40-year celebration. In classic Peter Gabriel style, he says: “I challenge anyone to come to a WOMAD event and not be completely knocked out by an artist they had never heard of.”

Says WOMAD South Africafestival director Dan Chiorboli: “Pre-Covid we were ready to roll with WOMAD in South Africa,  but had to postpone indefinitely because of the pandemic”.

“Now we’re back on track to bring audiences the WOMAD South African Safari– a series of small, intimate, unique, boutique-style events around the country to establish the brand and set us up for larger, post-Covid festivals in 2023 with all the unique WOMAD bells and whistles.”


He has assembled an eclectic and quality-driven mix of global musical talent to set South African stages alight, including some of Africa’s finest performers. In the spirit of sharing ideas and experimenting with new musical styles, there will also be a number of free music workshops for local creatives – including by “First Nations” indigenous artists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa’s Khoisan community.

What’s really exciting, says Chiorboli, is that cross-continental collaborations will be a vital part of the festival experience: “A unique and important element that sets WOMAD apart from other festivals are the collaborations between international and local artists. The aim of these collaborations is to kick-start fresh projects for international consumption.

“Every project will be underpinned by a deeper meaning than just getting together for a gig. What differentiates them is the elements of community and longevity, with a longer-term project and international exposure plan for each artist.”

These electrifying collabs will be born in the recording studio and can be experienced during the final live performance of the WOMAD South African Safari: at Johannesburg’s Paterson Park.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – DECEMBER 1: Zolani Mahola of Freshly Ground performs during the 46664 World Aids Day Concert on December 01, 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)

Artists involved in these collabs include the Modena City Ramblers (Italy) and The One Who Sings – Zolani Mahola (South Africa); Kristina Jacobsen (United States) and AusTebza; Tiki Taane (New Zealand) and Azah; D’DAT (USA) and Flex of He & I (SA), Esinam (Belgium/Ghana) and Sibusile Xaba (SA). Dr. Shellie Morris (Australia) and Karla Grunewaldt (Chile) and other soon-to-be-announced artists will also join in the process of making musical alchemy.

A special treat for audiences will be a collaborative performance between the African Jazz Pioneers and the Mahotella Queens – which, incredibly, will be the first time these two legendary bands have ever performed together. Chiorboli says the ultimate aim is for this iconic South African “supergroup” to perform at WOMAD festivals around the world.

WOMAD Cape Town will kick off the tour on 1 and 2 October 2022 with a “V&A takeover” – performances by a selection of exciting global artists at the V&A Waterfront Amphitheatre, Ferryman’s, Quay Four and Nobel Square. WOMAD Hermanus on 2 October 2022 will feature a First Nations Indigenous Artists Concert at Benguela Cove.

There will also be workshops held by the international musicians at the District Six Theatre, Langa’s Bridge Music Academy, the Ocean View Music Academy and the Mitchell’s Plain Community Centre.

Kristina Jacobsen

It’s then on to WOMAD Joburg for a four-day programme of performances and workshops from 4 October 2022, culminating in the Safari’s finale at the City of Joburg’s new state of the art multi-purpose community centre at Paterson Park in Norwood on Saturday 8 October 2022.

This will include the Sawubona Music Jam in Soweto on 4 October; a First Nations indigenous artists dialogue, a gender-based violence discussion and screening of the One Humanity film featuring Peter Gabriel and other musicians at Killarney Mall Cine Centre on 6 October; and theItaly for Soweto Concertat Uncle Tom’s Community Centre in Orlando West in Soweto on 6 October.

Plus, there will be masterclasses on offer with international artists at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus on 7 October; and a musical celebration of at the Soweto Theatre, also on 7 October.

Here’s the electrifying and diverse music line-up for the WOMAD South African Safari concert at Paterson Park:  

  • Tresor (DRC); African Jazz Pioneers and The Mahotella Queens (SA); Dan Patlansky (SA); D’DAT featuring Alexandria Holiday (US) with special guest Flex of He & I (SA); Digging Roots (Canada); Esinam (Ghana/Belgium) with special guest Sibusile Xaba (SA); Karla Grunewaldt (Chile); Kristina Jacobsen (US) and AusTebza; Dr. Shellie Morris (Australia); Modena City Ramblers (Italy) with special guest The One Who Sings – Zolani Mahola (SA); NAPALMA featuring Ain TheMachine (Brazil); and Radio Kalahari Orkes (SA).
  • There will also be a dance element and an Emerging Artist Showcase.

TheWOMAD South African Safariis supported by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (National), City of Cape Town, City of Johannesburg, Western Cape Government,  WESGRO and the V & A Waterfront. It is being staged with international support from the European Union, Italian Institute of Culture, Embassy of Chile, Wallonie-Bruxelles International, High Commission of Canada, Canada Council of the Arts, Consulate of Brazil in Cape Town, New Zealand High Commission, Australian High Commission, Mid-Atlantic Touring Fund and the Italian Consulate Generals of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town. WOMAD South Africa also extends its gratitude to Flame Studio and AMPD Studios for their support.

There is free admission for the workshops and most of the events, with tickets for the main Paterson Park concert on sale at Quicket for R220.

For more details, visit www.womadsa.co.za

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