Sunday, 1 July 2012

Dartington HOME Festival: A feast of music and culture from around the world, in and around Dartington Hall, Friday 22 June and Saturday 23 June

Top of the Bill:
Molly Lopresti and Harriet Riley
marimba, vibraphone & percussion duo
students of Lisa Tregale's
played the first set in the Dartington Barn Theatre
on Saturday 23 June 2012

Many thanks to Dartington Hall Press Officer, Katrina Hurford, who contacted Phonic FM to let us know about the wonderful festival being put together at the Hall by Director of Arts, David Francis.

Katrina arranged for us to talk to Artistic Director (and co-founder of WOMAD), Thomas Brooman, about the events lined up for the weekend. It all sounded fabulous - visiting students from the South West Music School, visiting monks from the Tashi Lhunpo temple in India, visiting dancers from West Africa, duduk music, mbira music, gamelan workshops, outdoor sets by local musicians 'Show of Hands' and - Charlotte Church!

plenty of space for campers at
Foxhole College
Things started quietly on Friday afternoon with the set up of the sound stage, audio tech tent, food tent - and beer tent! People staying for the whole festival were able to set up their tents or caravans at 'Foxhole' (formerly part of Dartington College).

They then had the opportunity to wander around the (fabulous) grounds of Dartington Hall, and drop into the various studios to see what was being prepared for them.

In the Ship Studio
Buddhist monks from Bylakuppe
begin work on a peace mandala
Friday afternoon:
the outdoor sound stage is set up
in the Dartington Great Hall Quad

masked dance by the
Tashi Lhunpo monks
Friday night's entertainments, far from being a warm-up, were a major festival of music and art packed into six hours. After spending the whole afternoon working on their sand mandala, the monks from Tashi Lhunpo broke off to amaze everyone with two hours of monastic chants, music and ancient masked dance in the Great Hall.  Meanwhile in the Gatehouse Patrick Duff was conducting a songwriting workshop. Solarference were in the Barn Theatre skilfully blending electronic and folk music for a delighted audience.

The Dohl Foundation
After all of that the Dhol Foundation exploded onto the sound state in the quad to thrill everyone with their skilled traditional drumming. In Dartington style, the entertainment went on even further into the night - Andrew Cronshaw and Tigran Aleksayan were in the Gatehouse holding a workshop featuring a fascinating and unfamiliar wind instrument - Tigran's Armenian 'duduk'.  Ryoko Nuruki, Japanese piano virtuoso, gave a recital in the Great Hall.

the AnDa Union
Some people stayed up into the small hours to watch a movie about the 6,000 mile journey of the Mongolian musicians of the AnDa Union from the Steppes to the City.

Sack time? - 1am at least!

After a little 'lie-in' the festival resumed in beautiful sunshine. The monks had been working all morning on their mandala, gently and skilfully trickling brightly coloured crushed marble onto a horizontal board to create a perfect geometrical pattern with many spiritually significant images incorporated. Once more they broke off from their labours - this time to perform their ceremonial blessing on the festival from the outdoor stage.

Japanese piano virtuoso
Ryoko Nuruki
Following the blessing, Ryoko Nuruki returned to the Great Hall and used the piano to play improvisations reflecting the delicious sunlight pouring in through the great leaded windows of the hall, and the buzz of excitement running through the whole site as the festival's big day got under way.

While Ryoko played on, two very talented marimba players drew music lovers out of the sunshine, into the dark embrace of the Barn Theatre. Molly Lopresti-Richards, who is familiar throughout Devon for her talented percussion playing, and for her outstanding performance in this year's 'Young Musician of the Year' competition, joined forces with another talented percussionist, Harriet Riley, to form the magical duo, 'Malleticious'.

Saturday 12.30pm
Malleticious open with a marimba duet
by Scottish marimba legend, Evelyn Glennie
'Little Prayer'

Molly Lopresti-Richards
Harriet Riley

Evelyn Glennie
Their opening number, Evelyn Glennie's 'Little Prayer', on two marimbas, was precise as it was powerful. Both musicians played with impressive skill and moving emotional intensity.

Harriet then played her own composition, 'Afro Etude' with light percussion accompaniment by Molly.

Then it was Molly's turn to impress us with the mallets - on the vibraphone. Kerryn Joyce's 'Tank Girl'.

For Harriet Riley's
own composition
'Afro Etude'
Molly Lopresti
      plays maracca . . .
. . . and gong    
- using an empty bucket
as a resonator!
Barefoot, Molly Lopresti
plays vibraphone:
 'Tank Girl' by Kerryn Joyce

Malleticious then moved into classical mode, with their own arrangement of Mozart's 'Piano Sonata in B flat' - for two marimbas. With their incredible lightness of touch they did full justice to Mozart's original vision - playing the left and right hand parts respectively.

Karak Percussion Powerhouse
Kerryn Joyce and Kevin Man
Steve Reich
From classical, Malleticious moved to jazz: 'Shichi-Karak' for vibraphone and marimba by 'Karak Percussion Powerhouse' duo, Kerryn Joyce and Kevin Man. ('Shichi' was the pseudonym of the late Japanese haiku poet Masaoka Tsunenori.)

Molly took over Harriet's Marimba for her own composition 'Percussion de la Alma Roja', with Harriet providing the percussion accompaniment on drum-kit.

The concert ended with something very special - 'Nagoya' by Steve Reich. Throughout the concert, Lisa Tregale was there recording video and sound - look out for those downloads!

~ The grand finale ~
'Nagoya' by Steve Reich
- for two marimbas

Matthew & Me
Outside in the sunshine everyone was then ready for lunch - served in the White Hart, and also in the specially erected food and drink tent. While people relaxed on the grass, or sitting on the deckchairs which were so thoughtfully provided, they were entertained from the sound stage by 'Matthew and Me', a five piece band made up of former Dartington students - Matthew Board, Grace Billings, Andy Hopper, Sam Craigan and Lucy Fawcett. Matthew's sweet falsetto voice set just the right tone.

Chartwell Shorayi Dutiro
After lunch Chartwell Shorayi Dutiro led a workshop in the Gatehouse - playing the traditional Shona instrument of his native Zimbabwe - the 'mbira dza vadzimu'. Chartwell is fondly remembered at Dartington - where he played at the HOME Festival in 2010.

jazz alto Emily Wright

Simultaneously, alto Emily Wright was singing with her Bristol based jazz trio in the Barn Theatre.

Saj Landey guides a young student
in the ancient Balinese art of
100 yards down Dartington Lane, in the direction of Totnes, is Dartington Space - a complex of buildings including several impressive sound studios. In Studio 3 Saj Landley was starting the first of three workshops for children and adults - using Dartington's superb gamelan (which she taught at Dartington for many years - before the transfer to Falmouth!). The gamelan is not just one instrument, it is an ensemble of percussion instruments, traditionally played in the island of Bali in Indonesia by an orchestra of players each using the traditional 'gamel' or hammer.

Andrew Cronshaw interviews
Tigran Aleksayan
in the Great Hall
Tigran Aleksayan plays
the extraordinary
Armenian 'duduk'
For those who heard Tigran Alekseyan's Armenian Duduk workshop with Andrew Cronshaw on Friday night, there was a chance to hear him again - in the visual and acoustic spleandour of the Great Hall. Andrew Cronshaw held a little informal interview with Tigran in front of the mediaeval fireplace - but he was shouted down by the audience who demanded 'the duduk'!

Tigran obliged with a selection of tunes and improvisations on his extraordinary reed instrument - which sounded a little like a shawm or cornamuse - haunting and very beautiful. Certainly unique!

Finnish singer-songwriter
Sanna Kurki-Suonio
While Saj Landey continued her gamelan workshops in Studio 3, the Bristol Reggae Orchestra were on the centre stage to entertain the crowds as they relaxed between musical treats - and enjoyed drinks and snacks from the beer tent as they reclined on the sun-drenched grass of the quad. (The sun really was shining!)

As the clock on the tower of the Great Hall made its leisurely way towards 3.20pm the excitement started again. Patrick Duff resumed his songwriting workshop in the Gatehouse - with three talented students of the South West Music School - Sam Perry, Ben Cipolla and Paddy Benedict.

At the same time, in the Great Hall, Finnish singer-songwriter Sanna Kurki-Sounio was giving a recital of traditional Finnish rune-singing.

Ben & Alfie Weedon
In the Barn Theatre two more South West Music School alumni were performing. Brothers, 'Ben & Alfie' (Weedon) played their double bass and violin in a programme of music fusing classical jazz and folk themes.

Ben & Alfie are familiar to Phonic FM listeners. Their music features on 'Roots & Shoots' on Monday evenings with Martin Hodge and Martin Henning. Recently Ben & Alfie came to The Castle in Bradninch to perform a live set at the monthly talent night - as the evening's headline booking.

A great double act.

Squares and circles freehand - such skill!
Throughout the afternoon the monks from the Tashi Lhunpo temple in Bylakuppe had continued to work on the peace mandala - incredibly complex and precise. It seemed impossible that they could finish it without making any mistakes - if at all! However, they also invited the festival visitors to crowd into the Ship Studio and mill around, in imminent danger of upsetting the whole intricate design with one unguarded movement.

Jane Rasch
introduces the monks
The monks remained totally calm, however. While taking turns to gently apply the crushed marble to the design, they also held workshops in every corner of the room. While one showed people how to make prints from traditional wood-cuts, others introduced the basic skills for creating the sand mandala, demonstrated how to make prayer flags. One (Lhakpa) taught some basic words like 'hello' and 'thankyou' in Tibetan - showing how they are written in traditional Tibetan script.

Lhakpa teaches Tibetan
On a more serious note, the monks distributed information leaflets about their unfortunate situation in India. In 1959 the monks were exiled from the original Tashi Lhunpo temple in Shigatse in Tibet, following the Tibetan National Uprising. In 1972 a few monks managed to establish a new temple at Bylakuppe in the state of Karnataka in Southern India. The monastery has grown and now has 300 monks working there. However, the monastery now needs help to rebuild the temple.

visitors learn the basics of sand-art
With the support of the Dalai Lama and the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery UK Trust, the monks tour raising awareness, and support, for their work in India. A few of the monks are sufficiently familiar with English to discuss their project, and their philosophy. The UK Tour Manager, Jane Rasch, a devoted supporter of the monks' cause, was also in the Ship Studio to answer questions and aid communication between the visitors and the monks.

Let's not forget the volunteers!
Volunteer steward Cassandra Lorias
(here holding a Tibetan woodcut print)
manning the Ship Studio all day on Saturday

votive offerings
At 3.20 precisely - regardless of all other excitement at Dartington Hall - the monks, having achieved the apparently impossible and completed a perfect and incredibly intricate sand mandala, foregathered behind the mandala table, now adorned with symbolic dishes containing gifts of food, water and flowers, and sat in a dignified row to perform the blessing of the mandala, and all that it represents to them - in music.

Jane Rasch explains the ceremony
First they chanted. Inititally the sound was soft, a mesmerising caress. Then the gutteral 'throat chants' were overlaid, new voices joining the chant over and over again. Then came the instruments, large cornet-like horns, cymbals and a drum, adding their distinctive sound to the blessing and transporting everyone to high Tibetan plateau and its ancient religious traditions. Finally the process was repeated with each monk reverently donning his bright yellow fringed head-dress.

Very moving chanting and horn-playing
The whole ceremony took just 12 minutes and ended with the head-priest ringing a bell - and taking pinches of the carefully created sand mandala between thumb and forefinger, depositing each in a ceremonial bowl. Having watched the painstaking work of the monks, the visitors felt each pinch like a physical pain - but the monks have dedicated their lives to 'non-attachment'. They endeavour not to let what happens in the material world connect with their emotions - so that it can't control their experiences of pleasure, or pain!

the high priest rings a bell to
mark the end of the ceremony
the mandala is removed
pinch by pinch
and finally swept
into a heap

some of the sand is collected
When the nerve-wracking 'pinching' was completed, all the sand was summarily swept into a heap - all the vibrant colours of the pattern combining in a dull grey reminiscent of the marble from which it was originally made. A scoop or two were added to the pinches in the bowl and the monks processed, out of the Ship Studio, across the quad (picking up a few fascinated followers along the way), and through the beautiful ornamental gardens of the Hall to the stream.

some is left
- practice non-attachment!
Already in position on the far side of the stream (they move very fast!) the monks, in their ceremonial head-dresses, played instruments to welcome the remains of the mandala. Most prominent, and most affecting, were the huge 'tungchen' or long horns, larger versions of the horns used in the indoor ceremony. As their evocative notes died away, the head priest poured the collected sand into the stream - with due ceremony, of course.

The Tungchen
welcome the sand
Then, when all the sand was washed away, the monks removed their head-dresses, dismantled their instruments, and joined the visitors in a convivial stroll back to the Hall. On the way, they explained the significance of the ceremony and spiritual beliefs behind it.

the high priest performs the blessing
 Lhakpa, who they all agreed was best at English, gave an interview for Phonic FM - a very interesting and enlightening interview, which we can hear on the Classical Journey this Tuesday.

the sand begins
its journey to the sea

the monks return to the hall

For anyone who would like to experience the mandala ceremony,
and/or take part in Tibetan culture workshops,
the Tashi Lhunpo monks will be at Brixham Theatre
from Sunday to Tuesday 12-14 August.
Sunday 2-5pm: mandala construction
Monday 10am-4pm: workshops and continued construction
Tuesday 10am-1pm: workshops and continued construction
Cecilia Kean is taking bookings for both workshops: 01803 852108
Tuesday 3pm: blessing, destruction & ceremonial procession to Brixham Harbour
Tuesday 7.30pm: 'The Power of Compassion'
- prayers, music and masked dance
Tickets: £10 Box Office: 01803 850800 or Book Online
for further details: Brixham Arts & Theatre Society Website

Jackie Oates
As the Tashi Lhunpo monks made their way back, Jackie Oates was on the outdoor stage to play her violin and sing her distinctive English ballads and songs.

After five years as a solo artist, Jackie has a new album out - 'Saturnine' - featuring twelve of her most delightfully moving performances.

Bristol Reggae Orchestra
As Jackie finished her set another round of workshops began - the number and variety of artists engaged by David Francis for the weekend is quite staggering!

In the Gatehouse, the Bristol Reggae Orchestra were holding a masterclass in reggae composition, using classical instruments, and inviting everyone to join in with the percussion.

The Krar Collective
Steve Knightley and Phil Beer ('Show of Hands') were in the Ship Studio working on a song for the evening - and encouraging those attending the workshop to help with the chorus.

The Krar Collective were in the Great Hall educating us all in the Ethoipian dance rhythms of Guragigna and Wello. Temesegan Tareken played an electric version of the Ethiopian 'Krar' (a six stringed harp) while Robel Tesfaya played the traditional Ethiopian Kebero drums.

Nicky Swann
In the Barn Theatre Nicky Swann was playing acoustic guitar and singing soft American ballads - what a wealth of choice, and every act as wonderful as the next.

Christopher Delaney

And the next act was truly wonderful! The charismatic vocalist from Cardiff, Charlotte Church, took centre stage. In the quad to see her perform was a familiar local figure - Father Christopher Delaney, a Benedictine monk at Buckfast Abbey. Father Christopher recently returned to Buckfast to further the educational work of the Abbey, after 43 Years as Parish Priest in the Canton district of Cardiff. Father Christopher had special reason to come and see Charlotte perform - it was he who christened the infant Charlotte at Llanfair Yr Angylion (St Mary of the Angels) in 1986 - and christened Charlotte's daughter, Ruby Megan, at the same church in 2008.

Charlotte Church
Charlotte first became famous for her exquisite singing of sacred music. On Saturday, however, the songs were all from her popular repertoire - which includes 'Confessional Song' and the verse 'I was born a Catholic, poor Father Delanay, now I'm on a guilt trip, which I try to suppress.' An unexpected and surprising connection, and perhaps a slightly uncomfortable one, but Charlotte was clearly loving being in Devon - especially in the grounds of Dartington Hall. She sang the praises of Dartington's beauty and atmosphere, wishing she could spend more time here, and added to the beauty of the setting with her beautiful singing.

in concert on centre stage
in the beautiful Dartington Quadrangle

Divinité Baga
Even as Charlotte was singing on stage, another group from Cardiff were at work down the road at Dartington Space.
In 'Studio 1' Idrissa Camara was holding an open workshop with 'Ballet Nimba'. Idrissa Camara is a member of the Baga tribe of the former French colony of Guinea-Conakry in West Africa. In Guinea and Senegal he has worked as artistic director of 'Ballets Africains' and ' Ballet Bougarabou', following his apprenticeship with 'Ballet Bassikolo du Guinea' under the great Bangalli Bangoura.

The smaller mask
used by the dancers
While touring the UK with the 'Dragon' carnival, and the 'South Wales Intercultural Community Arts' project, 'Magick', Idrissa was offered funding by the Arts Council of Wales to create a new ballet company. The result is 'Ballet Nimba', based in Cardiff. 'Nimba' refers to the Baga tribe's traditional D'mba mask, which represents female fertility, and features in many ceremonies and dances. The D'mba is vast, weighing several stone and increasing a person's height to about eight feet. Idrissa uses much smaller, stylised, Nimba masks which feature in many of their dances.

As well as teaching dance techniques, Idrissa was developing moves for a ballet performance later the same evening . . .

As the time approached seven o'clock Patrick Duff brought his South West Music School students to the Barn Theatre to play their own compositions. Sam Perry, Ben Cipolla and Paddy Benedict each sang a selection of their own compositions. Then they came together to sing the song created in Patrick's workshop during the day, and on the previous evening. 'I'm the Prince of Who-Knows-Where' was very well received, with many people asking if it might be recorded, and a CD made available.
a remarkably cool dude
(Patrick Duff)
South West Music School
student Sam Perry

Sam, together with
Ben Cipolla (R) & Paddy Benedict (L)
perform the workshop composition
'I'm the Prince of Who-Knows-Where'
Sun Lotus Taiko
Sun Lotus Taiko were in Studio 2 at Dartington Space by this time, for a workshop in taiko drumming - limited to just six participants. Six lucky people!

Ricardo Czureja
In the Great Hall, more lucky people were enjoying Polish roma music by Ricardo Czureja's 'Romany Diamonds'. Violin, guitar, accordion, double bass - cimbalom. What a combination! Great singing and dancing too.

later the same evening
From eight 'till nine, centre stage was in action again as 'Show of Hands were the centre of attention. Phil Beer and Steve Knightley demonstrated why they are considered the greatest roots ensemble, with mandolin and guitar by Steve, and Phil's captivating violin (not to mention Miranda Sykes' solid double bass playing) and incredibly moving singing by both men. Bruce Springsteen's 'Youngstown' took us to nineteenth century Ohio, and the rise and fall of the steel industry, its part in the civil war - and the later depredations of the wars of the twentieth century. A very accomplished performance.

centre stage is taken over

by 'Show of Hands'
Phil Beer and Steve Knightley
(double bass: Miranda Sykes)

'Youngstown' by Bruce Springsteen

James Froud
At nine, the theme of industrial blues was continued in the Barn Theatre by the James Froud Band, with double bass and fiddle accompanied by the extraordinary Dobro guitar (that resonant slide guitar from the US).

Up in the Gatehouse, Iranian music journalist, Sir Ali, held a special session with a select audience to share his personal passion - Jazz.

Patrick Duff had his own select audience, at a secluded location in the Dartington gardens, to perform some of his own song compositions.

Festival Director of Arts
David Francis
      introduces . . .
In the Great Hall, at about that time, something very exciting was about to start. Idrissa Camara's 'Ballet Nimba', having developed some new moves in Studio 1, were ready to burst onto the stage in the Great Hall. White tape demarcated the performance area, which extended to more than twice the area of the stage. Enthusiastic onlookers filled the remaining space right up to the line, some standing, some sitting on the floor.

Baba-Galle Kante
from Guinea-Conakry
playing Fulani flute
The festival's Artistic Director, David Francis, was there to introduce the musicians and dancers, and to make everyone feel welcome. As David left the stage, an imposing figure dressed all in white entered from backstage - Baba-Galle Kante, playing his Fulani flute. The flute is a traditional instrument of the Fula tribe of Guinea-Conakry, which was first brought to the world's attention by the supremely talented Bailo Bah of 'Ballet Koteba'.

Baba-Galle played with enormous energy, flexing his body and interspersing his flute playing with notes sung with his own voice, to create a sense of overwhelming excitement and emotion.

Sidiki Dembele
from Côte D'Ivoire
playing djembe

Baba-Galle was joined on stage by a four more musicians. Sidiki Dembele and Mohamed Camara played djembe drums with huge energy (although Sidiki also demonstrated his extreme delicacy when playing the 'jeli ngoni' (story teller's harp - thought to be the forerunner of the American banjo). Ibroh Soumah and Mamadou Keita played the 'doundoun Kangabaa' (drums from the Kangaba region just over the border from Guinea in Mali). Ibroh played the middle sized 'sangban' vertically, while Mamadou played the smallest and the largest (the 'kenkeni' and 'dununba') horizontally.

The combined sound was overpowering, but enchanting to hear, and never detracted from the gentle playing on the other instruments - or the singing of Ballet Nimba's vocal star, Mary-Ann Roberts.

vocalist Mary-Ann Roberts
from Trinidad

Sidiki Dembele
playing jeli ngoni

Sidike Dembele also sings - with:
Mohamed 'MobeCamara - djembe . . . Ibroh Soumah - sangban
Mamadou Keita - kenkeni & dununba  (all from Guinea-Conakry)
Once the audience were fully swept up in the irresistable energy of the West African music, the dancers appeared, and immediately amazed everyone with their boundless energy and vitality. The dances were athletic and skilled, bringing the dancers right to the edge of the performance area, almost into contact with the audience. No one was worried, however, as it was clear that these dancers were exceptionally skilled. The frenetic dance moves of the men were precisely reproduced - in triplicate - everything was clearly very carefully choreographed - by Idrissa Camara himself.

The Dancers:
Idrissa Camara is flanked by
Yaw Coffie and
Tetteh Adolph ('Amazing') Amatey
(both from Ghana)

every move
is carefully choreographed

After the men, the three women appeared, and danced with equal energy and skill. Finally they all danced together in a maelstrom of muscular movement which defied detailed comprehension. The audience just had to experience the incredible complexity of what was going on right in front of them.

for three men - and three women
Kenzi Ireland from the UK
Aissatou Diop from Senegal
Vanessa Guevara from Mexico

Slowly, without words, except the words of the songs - which weren't in English, a story began to unfold. Idrissa reveals himself to be a rather moody character, breaking off from the dancing to play seductively on a very ancient Fula instrument, the bolon bata. Idrissa's moodiness and narcissism alienate him from the other dancers, who won't dance with him any more.

Idrissa Camara
from Guinea-Conakry
plays the ancient bolon bata
Idrissa is reviled
for his vanity

As Idrissa tries to join in the dance he gets into a confrontation with Vanessa Guevara, the company's vivacious Mexican dancer. There seems to be an element of unrequited love here, and Idrissa's advances are not welcome. Forcing his attentions on Vanessa, Idrissa playfully kicks her, but too hard. She falls down in a dead faint. Later it transpires that Idrissa has killed Vanessa in his clumsy enthusiasm.

Idrissa leaves the stage still preening and seeking approval - not yet aware of what he has done.

His victim - Vanessa - is carried to her funeral

The awful truth is soon revealed as Tetteh Amatey and Yaw Coffie come in bearing Vanessa's dead body shoulder high. To avoid having props on the stage, Vanessa is not carried on a bier. Instead she holds her body rigid as she is carried - which must require incredible strength.

Mobe, Ibro and Mamadou
provide the funeral music
The 'women' (one is Idrissa)
approach Vanessa's spirit in masks

As Vanessa is laid out in front of the audience, the drummers play a subdued funeral beat, with Mohamed Camara producing a new, and mournful, sound using another instrument from Guinea, the krin or slit-drum made from an incised wooden log.

Three female figures appear holding wooden masks in front of their faces. It is not clear whether they are mourners or spirits. One is actually Idrissa - making up numbers, or is this an important part of the plot? As they approach Vanessa is reanimated and draws a wooden mask over her own face - symbolising her transformation into a spirit perhaps. No explanation is necessary.

Finally Idrissa, racked with remorse, performs a slow dance of penitence. His earlier frenzy is condensed into incredibly powerful, but slow, movements culminating in his final expression of grief and regret.

Vanessa's 'ghost'
wears her own mask
Idrissa shows his contrition
- in dance  

The audience were utterly transfixed and overcome by the whole experience - the sounds, the movement, the beauty, and the emotional intensity of the story. Everyone was so surprised by the intensity of expression of the dancers and the musicians they could barely communicate the wonder that they felt. This was ballet, taken to a new level, which hits right at the heart.

And Ballet Nimba fully intended to continue in the same vein. After a short break, the music began again and the dancers put on an astounding display of virtuoso dancing. There were more synchronised moves in threes and sixes, and each dancer performed a solo routine - dazzling the audience with their individual prowess.

  the sad tale is followed by -
more sensational choreography
- and more  

- and more 

the women return

the men reappear - in the women's costumes

Throughout the evening, the drummers had clearly been led by the inspired rhythm and virtuosity of Sidiki Dembele. He also sprang into the action periodically to give impassioned solo performances on the djembe. Sometimes he was joined by the other djembe player, Momamed Camara. Eventually he gave way and let Mobe have the stage to himself. Mobe amazed everyone with an oustanding solo of his own - but Sidiki would not be outdone! Taking his djembe he beat out the fastest most thrilling rhythm yet - approaching face to face with the audience and inviting them to shout with the beat at the end of each phrase - and they did it with a will, shouting, yelling, 'drumming' on anything to hand.

Mobe challenges Sidiki's supremacy
as a djembe drummer
Sidiki answers!

When the excitement finally drew to a close, the audience were ecstatic in their praise and showed every sign of their appreciation. Ballet Nimba had brought the spirit of West Africa to the heart of Devon. They had brought the vibrancy and energy of their own cultural traditions to the very appropriate ancient setting of Dartington's historical Great Hall. They had poured out their energy and emotion in an endless stream of extreme expression. And we loved every second of it!

* * * * * * * * * *

You might be forgiven for thinking that Ballet Nimba's performance would mark the end of the entertainment at Dartington's HOME Festival - Not at all! As the excited audience crowded around the dancers and musicians of Idrissa Camara's ballet company, David Francis mounted the stage again to tell everyone what they had not noticed in the excitement. Outside, where it was now starting to get dark, the heavens had opened. Rain was pouring down with a force to match Sidiki Dembele's drumming, and no one could conceivably be expected to stand on the quad in the deluge to hear the next act.

Accordingly, the Krar Collective moved their act into the Great Hall. Following their afternoon workshop, Temesegan Tareken, Robel Tesfaya and Genet Asefa transported everyone from the West Africa of Ballet Nimba - to East Africa, and the Ethiopian sound of the Krar harp, Kebero drums and Genet Asefa's gorgeous vocals.

as Ballet Nimba leave the Great Hall
the Krar Collective return
with lead singer Genet Asefa

For those who had the staying power - and weren't worried about the rain outside - the entertainment continued at eleven with Andrew Cronshaw's 'SANS' group. Two familiar musicians made a return appearance - Tigran Aleksayan from Armenia with his traditional duduk, and Finnish singer-songwriter Sanna Kurki-Suonio - plus saxophonist Ian Blake. For those who preferred a late night film, Kevin Madconald's 'Marley' was showing in the Barn Theatre. Finally as the time approached one in the morning, Solarference played one last set in the Great Hall.

Sarah Owen and Nick Janaway - Solarference

Dartington HOME Festival exceeds all expectations, not just in the number and variety of inspiring things to see and hear, but also in the extremely high quality of all the performances - and the sheer excitement and energy of it all. For campers the experience was almost non-stop from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning - with all the beauty of Dartington Hall estate and the surrounding countryside to enjoy after that. Truly a festival to remember!

A final word of thanks to the tireless organisers - Director of Arts David Francis, WOMAD Artistic Director Thomas Brooman (who so kindly joined us on Phonic FM to make us aware of this amazing experience on our doorstep), the Dartington staff, and all the local volunteer stewards who worked day and night to make the Festival such a success.

Well done everyone!

We will be able to hear some of the great music that took place at the Festival - and interviews with the musicians - on Tuesday's 'Classical Journey': 3rd July, 10-12am, on Phonic FM (106.8 FM, with a distinct Dartington theme taking shape around 11am.

Hear Molly and Harriet play marimba, Jane Rasch and Lhakpa talk about the Tashi Lhunpa monastery and the mandala ceremony, Lisa Tregale discusses South West Music School, and we can hear Sidiki Dembele shaking the roof of the Great Hall with his drumming - and a personal interview with Ballet Nimba artistic director, Idrissa Camara!


  1. I like music Shows and Concerts.I love Classical Music Dance Styles.Where Can I Find Dance pictures for learning dance Steps and Moves.
    Learn musical instruments

    1. Hi Divya
      Great to hear from you
      I hope you noticed the link at the top of this blog to
      'Classical Journey Concerts' - to see what's on in the next couple of months.
      Idrissa's workshop at Dartington was the big opportunity to learn some of the moves. They will be back soon, I'm sure.
      They are in London at the moment, but you can contact the co-director, Lowri Angharad Myrddin, in Cardiff at
      Lowri has sent a link to their dance video:
      I hope this is helpful