Idyllic Abbots Ripton, former Secret Garden Party site and fine example for the green, rolling English countryside was the setting for WOH. Picture a geography enthusiast and television host, wearing water proof clothing, passionately imploring you to act about declining hedgehog populations and you’re on the right track. This tranquil place was to be awoken from its slumber to be overrun by oat milk late drinkers partial to recreational mood enhancement supplements, hellbent on leaving the city to enjoy gargantuan sound systems and reduce their screen time.
WOH is an event curated by musically chameleonic DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson, named after Peterson’s Brownswood label’s compilation of UK Jazz, released in 2018. WOH celebrated a plethora of electronic, world and Jazz musicians showcasing how; when curated effectively, seemingly unrelated musical disciplines can co-exist seamlessly and not succumb to commercialisation. Spread across four days WOH fest is bursting with upper echelon talent and a refreshingly diverse roster, providing the scratch to whatever musical itch you may have.
Young British-Nigerian, producer and songwriter Tony Njoku brought his brooding brand of experimental electronic music chocked full of warm ambient textures, visceral beats and sub pomp to the festivities. Playing tracks off his debut album H.P.A.C. and soon to be released concept album Your Psyche’s Rainbow Panorama. Tony’s profile is surely on the rise if an enthralled audience is anything to go by; one to watch.
Over the course of WOH audiences got to listen to a throng of exciting African music, showcasing the rich heritage and vast range of rhythms and tonalities. London’s own KOKOROKO brought their West African vibrations to audiences thirsty for the sounds of afrobeat. If you have a predilection for Ebo Taylor or Fela Kuti then KOKOROKO is the modern equivalent, carrying on and expanding the idiom for a new generation to enjoy. Another notable mention has got to go to Nigerian Lagos-born Etuk Ubong and his band of masterful musicians. Etuk displayed an incredible compositional nous, virtuosic trumpeting ability and a message full of hope and aspiration.
Having two-stepped my way into a world of thigh and calf seizures I hobbled cautiously towards the main stage for Awesome Tapes from Africa. Brian Shimkovivtz’s vital, exuberant set provided much relief from the terrors of lactic acid. Deep-cuts of rare, joyful and locomotive music helped to transcend the drudgery of a soggy, squelchy, typically British downpour. So much so as Shimkovivtzs dropped classic Fela Kuti I even attempted some hyperextended leg movements.
Chicago House legend Mike Dunn provided his unrivalled brand of soaring, calf-defining, stomp-worthy excellence. Set in The Forest stage which was reminiscent of a Pagan sacrificial site in a Ben Wheatley movie, Dunn was puppeteer and his underlings obeyed every track change, every beat variation and every mash-up of his set. A master craftsman in two-step inducing, high energy, classic house magic.
Continuing the legendary theme, thee Theo Parish took to the decks in an expansive five-hour set. Blending Soul, Reggae, Hip-hop, Techno, House and Dub, Parish provided a mind-altering soundscape. At times hard and uncompromising and others unexpectedly lush and introspective. WOH audiences got to experience Parish at full kilter chopping and changing with autonomy and leaving a saucer-eyed audience pondering time and space and the meaning of all things.
Representing the new breed was Objekt and Call Super, dual wielding the decks in a set of whimsical, cartoonish, all encompassing ‘techno-meets-all-kind-of-space music’ to quote Gilles Peterson himself. The duo enthralled and had the WOH faithful producing shapes so rare they should have gone extinct, elevating the Rhythm Corner stage and the night to Herculean proportions.
As you may have guessed WOH was an extremely sonically nourishing festival. A celebration of UK and international club culture for young and old alike, not only that it celebrated the beats, textures and samples appropriated for the electronic music’s audience. This achieved in the way of live musicians new and old showcasing the sounds in their traditional context. WOH connected the dots between these disciplines expertly and unearthed a rich musical lineage. A strong opening year and hopefully Gilles has more gems to unearth next year for an ardent audience intent on a new type of music menu.
Words: Matthew O’Hare
Featured Images: Jamie Crumpton, Dan Medhurst, Lisa Wormsley