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The World Music Festival Concert resonates joyfully

Eight years have passed since the first WMF and despite loyal sponsors absorbing the increasing costs and the improving calibre of artists and speakers who come over every June, the final concert at St Michael’s Cave is always the benchmark by which the Festival’s success is measured and also the promise of its continuing success.

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This year ‘Out of Chaos’ has been no exception and it’s hard to imagine how WMF year nine will surpass it. That is for Jan Delgado and his team to figure out and we know they won’t let us down.

We trust that the economic miracles required to finance the Festival’s future will keep unfolding.

The headline act this year was Serbian artist Goran Bregovic and his Weddings and Funerals Orchestra who are a world class act with twenty musicians and singers on stage who blew the roof off the Cave.

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Bregovic has previously performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and at Paris Olympia. He is the most famous contemporary composer from the Balkans and because Jan Delgado has been after him since day one of the WMF, his persistence has finally paid off as the calibre of the Festival is now firmly established internationally.

The evening started on a more spiritual note with a folk ensemble led by Israeli violinist Diwan Saz which featured ethnic flutes, long necked Ouds, electric bass, vocals and percussion. They played sacred music which speaks of peace, with haunting melodies and featuring Middle Eastern musicians.

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From Galilee to Iran and through central Asia we were taken on an evocative musical tour with two guest vocalists and a singing rabbi who crowned their 45 minute set with rousing fast tempo Israeli goodtime music. They were a joy to listen to and watch as each musician got their showcase spot.

A well balanced opening set to prepare us for the musical storm that would soon resonate in the magnificent setting of the Cave which becomes the beating heart and WMF’s concert cathedral every year.

To describe gifted trombonists walking down the auditorium steps towards the stage, joined by trumpets and sax while the star of the show walked down the stage steps is to describe an especially noisy hero’s welcome. Everyone was on their feet, many seasoned fans from the Balkans (I knew because I was sitting among some who sang every word of every tune and danced too).

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If you were to check out Goran Bregovic on U tube you would come across two songs which have glorified his career ‘Ciao Bella Ciao’ and ‘Kalashnikov’. Both songs are very commercial and audience interactive. They were reserved for the finale but the repertoire that came before was richly varied and nothing quite like this central European folk orchestra has ever been enjoyed here before.

There were moments when you could have heard a pin drop as the string section showcased their considerable skills. Helped by great sound engineering (a shout to Dylan Ferro and his crew) not one nuance of the trio of violinists and cello was lost and they carried the emotional heart of the band.

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The brass ensemble provided the backbone. Two star trombonists, two trumpets and a sax player who doubled on clarinet gave us the colours and the rhythmic gymnastics of the joyful Serbian music that comes ‘out of chaos’ that was Sarajevo in the dark days of 1991.

A chorus line of eight men with rich harmonies complemented the two lady vocalists in traditional costume who were the musical wings of the great Goran Bregovic and the percussionist a gifted vocalist in his own right performed miracles with his basic kit was responsible for some of the best ethnic vocals that we heard on the night.

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The charismatic and talented composer told us stories while strumming on his small guitar and occasionally using arm gestures to squeeze every ounce of talent from his orchestra.

There was a Wailing Wall story where a man who was praying there was being interviewed by a cynical CNN reporter who was told after various polite answers that “I think I’m talking to another stone wall here so I will continue to pray to God”. Goran then rounded off the story with the quote of the night.

“I guess it wasn’t in God’s schedule to teach us how to live together in harmony, we have to learn that all by ourselves.”
The music flowed, nostalgia followed by joy. Echoes of Astor Piazolla’s oblique Argentinian musicscapes blended with big brass ‘Oompahs’ and central European ‘Mardi Gras’ street music if such a one existed.

I’m not being alone here in my review thoughts, I have trusted friends who attend these events and concur that what we heard was extraordinary and who also wondered “how is WFM 2020 going to up the ante?”

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One thing for sure they need more Government support. This festival reaches a lot of people over a week and it keeps improving. “All the talks were excellent and we went to all.” We have grown this together led by a small team of visionaries who are advocating peace and love, jewels that we have here in abundance along with exuberance and a strong desire to punch above our weight. We need to keep boxing.

Congratulations to all who sponsored and supported the Festival, Government included, with the plea to help keep this wonderful thing alive and improving because we all need to celebrate ‘weddings and funerals’ and let our hair down with international friends at least once a year. Till next time.

Pics by Marcos Moreno