The Taste the World stage invites artists from the music stages to come and cook a favourite dish from home in front of an audience. This year’s programme is shaping up to be a finger licking, ear-tickling experience of food, live music, and cultural connections. Hot-footing it from the main stages to the green and pleasant surroundings of the arboretum are artists from Madagascar, Norway, Ukraine, Ghana, Canada, Turkey, Scotland, India, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Finland, and Guinea Conakry. Musicians will be donning their aprons and swapping their instruments for wooden spoons, whisks, and woks.
Here is just a glimpse of the artists appearing on the stage over the weekend.
From India, Anandi Battacharrya will be cooking a traditional Bengali Curry: ‘Chicken Rezala’ which dates back to the Indo-Persian era at the centre of the Mughal Empire – combining delicate flavours from Iranian, Eastern and Southern Asian cuisine. From Turkey, BaBa ZuLa brings you ‘Manti’ a wonderful home-made Turkish dumpling or ravioli type dish usually topped with caramelised tomato sauce and garlicky yoghurt sauce. Lemon Bucket Orchestra have dreamt up a trio of ‘Pierogi’, originating from the Slavic word for ‘feast or festival’. Come and find out how this traditional Eastern European dish has become a ubiquitous staple in parts of Canada. And, if it’s a chilli kick you’re after then JoJo Abot is cooking up ‘Red Red’ a dish to knock your socks off, with black-eyed beans, fried plantain and a host of spices to seduce the taste buds and transport you to the heart of West Africa.
There will also be the Children’s Cookery Class each morning, giving youngsters the chance to learn how to cook totally tasty tapas, irresistible vegan-style sweet tasting ‘kicker balls’ and smoothies, or some lip-smacking ‘nori’ vegetable rolls with luscious dipping sauce. There are so many amazing artists appearing on the stage over the weekend, this is just a small glimpse, download the app closer to the festival for the full timetable.
To celebrate Taste the World and the amazing food, music and artists we will see this year, I sat down with Annie Mentor to get the low down. Annie has been running the stage since the beginning and has been an integral part of the WOMAD family. Here she is to give some history to how Taste the World started and a few of her favourite moments.
What makes Taste the World different from a regular cookery show?
Taste the World is not your regular cookery show because it’s not about preparing the perfect dish. It’s not about slick presentation. It is not about the hype and selling the latest food fad or celebrity chefs.
It’s about the artist’s personal stories, discovered through food, memories triggered by a particular dish, the universal pleasures of spending time together eating, drinking and talking. Audience questions are vital and the food is the conduit for the conversations, connecting us to a personal history…the route into the back story of a particular artist if you like. Taste the World encounters are a fascinating opportunity to enter into the world of the artist, share their food and be part of some brilliant musical moments.
…and all of this happens as a result of a fantastic team on stage and often including two very special sous chefs and a wonderful host who ensure it all happens in the nick of time.
How and when did Taste the World begin? How does it fit with the ethos of WOMAD?
The idea for Taste the World began on a bus travelling across North America during a WOMAD tour in 1993 but it was some years later that the seed of the idea actually took root and has since blossomed into the hugely popular WOMAD event that it is today. Talking with artists on that tour it became evident that the things they really missed when away from home were food and family and that many of them, male and female loved to cook. As we talked, stories emerged, spontaneous music happened and it became obvious this was an exciting concept that WOMAD could share with its audiences. The first Taste the World took place in Australia in 2005 and from there it has moved around the world but nowhere becoming more popular than here in the UK, where Roger, our Taste the World host welcomes artists on to the stage and whilst they cook and play music he seems to magically entice them to share not only their recipes but their stories, their histories, musical journeys, and traditions. Every conversation reveals a rich field of inquiry and can touch on family, childhood, religion, language, politics, colonialism, ecology, in fact, anything they choose to talk about but inevitably music and food are there.
Since 1982 WOMAD has been bringing artists together from around the world. Through those festivals, we have been introduced to musical traditions, innovations, intimate duets, full-scale orchestras and everything in between. Remarkable collaborations, exquisite solo performances. Sharing music connects us to one another, it is a meeting point; of influences, hopes, aspirations, movements of peoples, protest; of feelings of love, nostalgia, belonging and delight. And so it is with food, we eat with others, celebrate and renew friendships, discuss politics and share a joke.
Bringing people together is something WOMAD does best and Taste the World has become a perfect way of sharing and celebrating that compelling mix that is music, food, and conversation.
What has been your most memorable performance?
Too many to mention and it’s true to say that almost each and every one of over 300 performances over the last fourteen years has been memorable in some way! Somehow as the cooking smells start, memories are triggered. An early Taste the World session that utterly met the vision that I’d had, was with Etran Finatawa from Niger who immersed us all in their Tuareg culture. While an enormous pot of stew was bubbling on the stove another couple of musicians sat cross-legged brewing up tiny pots of desert tea on minute charcoal stoves and passing the hot sweetly bitter brew to the audience, others were gently singing and clapping and others had spread out an indigo cloth with a scattering of their exquisite silver jewellery made by others of their tribe who were not on tour…..those who had travelled were making sure there was more than one way to share their culture. Alhousseini who was cooking was transported back to when he learned to cook in a refugee camp and when asked what the desert was like, closed his eyes for a second saying ’It was paradise’; movingly describing the beauty of the sand dunes, the heat, the smells, the light, and the silence … It was hard to get anyone to leave our little tent that afternoon but for sure they took away some of the magic we’d all experienced.
More recently we’ve had a Georgian Choir who came fully dressed in flaming red outfits, thigh high boots and with a suitcase of herbs and dried plums for the dish they were cooking. Toto La Mompasina brought her entire family transporting us straight back to her kitchen in Colombia. A session that completely seduced the audience with 3 generations playing, singing and cooking and the food was amazing. More recently Amaparo Sanchez of Amparanoia took us back to her time as a rebellious teenager in a small village in southern Spain, powerfully describing her need to leave the strict religious confines to make a living singing and playing music. She recalled going through a period of punk, rejecting tradition but now coming full circle back to researching traditional songs and incorporating them into her repertoire with love and respect. Her set was moving, funny and a celebration of the journey that she’d made.
How long have you been with WOMAD?
I was at the first WOMAD in Shepton Mallet in 1982, having made costumes and props for a group of school children’s performances and after a bursary to study traditional textiles in Nigeria in 1985, I came in as a freelance artist to run workshops, create backdrops, costumes & site deco and then finally became a fully paid-up member of the festival team in 1997. Initially, my role was as ‘special projects’ co-ordinator, sourcing artists from around the world, moving through various job titles to finally become Director of the WOMAD Foundation, the educational arm of the festival. In 2017 I stepped away to become an independent producer but wonderfully I’m still invited to come back each year to curate the Taste the World stage and so keep the connections with the world that has been so much part of my life for over 20 years.
Where’s the most interesting place you have been with Taste the World?
It’s not a cop-out to say every single place has been interesting and has given me the opportunity to explore and get to know a town or city, meet the locals and source our ingredients. Taste the World has popped up in WOMAD festivals around the world. In plazas in Spain and Gran Canaria, in the middle of a forest in Russia, in the Botanical Gardens of Adelaide, Australia, on a beach in Abu Dhabi and on a hillside in Singapore. Sourcing ingredients in local markets is a treat. The Central Market in Adelaide has a wealth of the finest produce you could ever hope to find – if there’s a favourite time we have taken artists to choose their fish, a particular cut of meat, an unusual type of vegetable, spices or cheese, it would be there. Sometimes we’ve had an amazing stage ‘set’ built for us, as in Russia and Abu Dhabi, other times we’ve had to operate with camping gas and borrowed pans and equipment from a local restaurant but every time artists have managed to charm the audience, dishing up a potent mix of music, food, and memories. Caceres crowds were very vocal, shouting encouragement or offering advice. It always amazes me that whatever the dish – Bambouti fish from Egypt, Mussa from Jamaica, Yak butter Tea from Tibet, Buriat Buuz from Mongolia – WOMAD audiences can’t wait to ‘have their taste’
See the full music line-up here.
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