REGGAE rythmns, Latin brass and African dance are all in the mix for Malmesbury schoolchildren’s WOMAD festival opening performance.
Around 100 youngsters from the secondary school, along with pupils from Malmesbury Primary, Brinkworth, Minety and Lea and Garsden, will spend a week working with a group of musicians from Bristol before they hit the big open air stage on July 24.
It is the first time the students have tackled reggae and they will be guided by producer John Hollis and members of the AMJ Collective, many of whose parents moved to the UK from Jamaica in the 1960s.
The schools have already experienced Asian, African, Latin and Arabic music styles preparing for past WOMADs but Mandy Adams from the WOMAD Foundation said this year would be the first time they had tackled reggae.
Although pupils at Malmesbury doing GCSE music studied reggae as part of their course, this year’s WOMAD collaboration was going to provide them with first hand experience of the genre and its musicians.
“This is going to be a real mix,” she explained. “We are looking at the African diaspora.”
The musicians run a series of workshops and rehearsals with the young performers, teaching them about the music and the history behind it, before staging a show at Malmesbury Abbey a week before the world music festival opens.
It also gives young people from a rural area who don’t have the same opportunities as those in cities a chance to experience different cultures.
“It is really giving the children of Malmesbury a sort of concentrated burst of all these different music styles.”
She explained: “What we do have at Malmesbury, always, is fantastic artists. The kids themselves are really skilled, but also we are looking at a wider cultural awareness.”
The professional musicians also got a boost from working with the students.
“What the Malmesbury kids always give back to the artists is a real surprise. They are always amazed at the talent,” she said.
Malmesbury folk will have their first glimpse of the performance on July 15 in the abbey.
WOMAD runs from July 24 at Charlton Park. Among the headliners already confirmed are soul star Bobby Womack, UK singer Alice Russell and Youssou N’Dour.