The World of Music, Arts, and Dance was founded in 1982 by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Brooman to bring artists from all three fields together for weekend-long festivals all around the world. This was the second year that WOMAD USA happened at Marymoor Park in Redmond Washington. WOMAD distinguishes itself from other world music festivals by presenting the opportunity to interact with legendary musicians from around the globe as they present performances and workshops. Eight venues invite you to explore and enjoy the rich, dynamic sounds of the artists

WOMAD USA emphasizes collaboration throughout, regardless of how dissimilar some sounds may appear, musicians coming from different parts of the world can find—or create—a common ground. There aren’t many more effective and popular examples than Afro Celt Sound System, which combines electronic and acoustic techniques together with West African and Celtic rhythms and equipment. The band’s CDs, Sound Magic, Volume 1 and Volume 2: Releases, are excellent, but what truly impresses audiences are their fervent live performances. When he was producing a record for Senegalese musician Baba Maal, who was performing a traditional Mbaalax song that sounded like a Celtic lament, guitarist and keyboard player Simon Emmerson had the concept for ACSS.

Geoffrey Oryema, a singer from Uganda who lived in exile in Normandy for 20 years, is traveling the opposite direction down the same route. Oryema, whose debut was produced by Brian Eno, writes lyrics in both English and French and exhibits an international pop sense. He feeds on the ethereal atmospheres you might anticipate from someone whose debut was produced by Eno. In fact, several of the songs on Oryema’s most recent album, Night to Night, are comparable to the more ambient music of WOMAD founder Gabriel. A worldly (in all senses of the term) ambiance is created by Oryema’s high-pitched but soothing voice, which pairs perfectly with grandiose drumbeats and electronic sounds.

On the other hand, Bernard Kabanda, a fellow Ugandan, draws inspiration from his home country in his music. He performs in the Kampala street music genre known as kadongo kamu, which translates to “just a single guitar”. Occasionally backed by a drummer using shakers or tin cans, kadongo kamu performers throw up social and political commentary on their handcrafted guitars constructed from the steel from brake lines. The use of steel strings and minimal instrumentation is reminiscent of both Irish folk music and American country music, demonstrating how small the world truly is.

When the 28-piece Seattle Creative Orchestra supports Chinese instrumental duo the Guo Brothers, more of WOMAD’s multicultural bent may be heard. Both Yi and Yue Guo play the sheng, a bamboo flute-like instrument, as well as the erhu, a two-string Chinese violin. Because it transcends the rigid cultural and linguistic barriers that divide more than 50 minorities, their music is uncommon in their own country. Their music captures the tenors and aesthetics of both the South’s lake country and the North’s agricultural regions. The experimental group SCO seems to be the ideal choice to provide a backdrop for this environmental diversity.

Guitarist Michael Brook is one of the producers who has done the most to introduce non-Western music to Western listeners. Djivan Gasparyan, a master of the Armenian duduk, an oboe-like horn, is his most recent partner. They collaborated to create the 1998 album Black Rock, a soundscape influenced by the easternmost Canary Island’s volcanic and tropical Lanzarote. A wave-like rhythm and the duduk swaying like a palm frond in the breeze lull listeners one moment, then the rhythm changes abruptly and the duduk keens in despair. Brook stays out of the way, enabling Gasparyan’s subtle singing and skillful guitar to take center stage.

Brook may be more closely associated with the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a great exponent of Qawwali, the Sufi sect’s devotional song. The Sufis, an Islamic group, value music as a component of spiritual life, alongside meditation, dance, and chanting. For many years, Ali Khan’s family passed on their talent from father to son, but now his teenage nephews Rizwan Mujahid Ali Khan and Muazzam Mujahid Ali Khan have inherited their uncle’s legacy. They perform the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali, which just had its concert debut at WOMAD Reading last year. The trio performs ferocious and captivating renditions of these euphoric love and praise songs with the assistance of a five-person chorus, two harmonium players, and a tabla player.

The Drummers of Burundi, a musical ensemble that also passes down its expertise from one generation to the next, are credited by Gabriel and Brooman as being the original inspiration behind WOMAD. The two Westerners were captivated with just one glance as these incredible drummers, who value dance equally to that of drumming. The partnership had started.