World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) Singapore



World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) Singapore was an arts event that made its debut in 1998 at the Festival of Arts. The first WOMAD to be held in Southeast Asia,1 the event ran for 10 years in Singapore before it was put on hold in 2007.

Origins
WOMAD was founded in the United Kingdom in 1982 by rock stars Peter Gabriel and Thomas Brooman. It features performers from around the world who have mastered the traditions of their respective countries and are interested in making them accessible to a wider audience. Since its formation, WOMAD has become an international music festival, staging two- to four-day festivals in countries such as the United States, Australia, France, Japan and Singapore.2

 
Music, dance and more
The first WOMAD in Singapore was staged over four days, from 28 to 31 May 1998, at Fort Canning Park. It was brought in by its Singapore-based operations director, Audrey Perera.3 Presented by the National Arts Council as a curtain-raiser for the Festival of Arts,4 it featured more than 100 artistes from 20 countries, including singer Yungchen Lhamo from Tibet, Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota, and vocalist Marta Sebestyen with the Muzsikas group.5 The performances took place on four stages within Fort Canning, and were interspersed with workshops for adults and children in music, art and dance, as well as stalls selling crafts, food and beverages.6 Then Minister for Information and the Arts, Brigadier-General (NS) George Yeo, graced the event on 28 May with his family.7 The event was attended by 14,000 people.8

In the following year, WOMAD was staged as a stand-alone event, again at Fort Canning, from 9 to 12 September. The four-day event saw performances by 18 international artistes,9 including local rocker Ramli Sarip, also known as “Papa Rock”.10 It was attended by 12,000 people.11 The organisers also introduced the Late Nite Dance Club for participants who wanted to continue dancing after the event; this attracted about 200 revellers.12 In the same year, it was announced that WOMAD would become an annual event on the Singapore arts scene. WOMAD Singapore continued to be held at Fort Canning Park until 2007, for a total of 10 years.13

WOMAD 2000 introduced another new feature – the Taste of Womad, held from 3 to 4 March. Meant to be a curtain-raiser, the pre-festival event was headed by two Scottish acts.14 The main event, held from 1 to 3 September, was helmed by 18 acts from 14 countries,15 including three local acts: Expect Music, Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts and the Chinese Opera Society.16 The popular Late Nite Dance Club also returned that year.17 Participants for the event numbered 14,000.18

The trend of curtain-raiser events continued in 2001, with a pre-festival show, Womadness, held on 24, 25 and 29 August at Chijmes,19 and a launch party on 30 August featuring two Singapore disc jockeys, Andrew Chow and Ashidiq.20 WOMAD 2001 took place from 30 August to 2 September21 and consisted of 10 acts, a lower number than previous years due to the later starting times of the acts.22 The event recorded a 16,000-strong audience, by far the largest for WOMAD Singapore.23

WOMAD 2002 achieved another first in its programme line-up – the fusion of local groups with foreign acts.24 From 30 August to 1 September,25 14 acts performed to a crowd of more than 15,000,26 with a large percentage of teenagers.27

WOMAD 2003 recorded a lower attendance of 15,000 people due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak.28 From 29 to 31 August, WOMAD 2003 showcased 12 acts from 17 countries.29 It also marked the first time WOMAD was brought to the heartlands, through fringe activities at Pasir Ris Beach and Bishan Community Centre.30

WOMAD 2004 featured 22 acts from 17 countries during its run from 27 to 29 August,31 including a record number of seven local acts such as Aspara Arts and Wicked Aura Batucada.32 Efforts to bring WOMAD to the heartlands continued in 2004 and 2005, with performances at Tampines in 2004,33 and Sengkang and Punggol in 2005.34 WOMAD 2004 drew a crowd of 16,000 while WOMAD 2005, which was held from 26 to 28 August and presented 16 groups from 13 countries,35 attracted 17,000 people to Fort Canning Park.36 WOMAD 2005 was also the finale of Celebrate Singapore, a month-long event held to celebrate Singapore’s 40th birthday.37

In 2006, WOMAD Singapore added a culinary stage and Asian short films to its repertoire of performances, workshops, and heartland outreach programmes in Hougang. The festival in 2007 began on 25 August, with performances by 16 groups across 13 countries.38 By the time it ended on 27 August, a record 20,000 participants had taken part, the highest in WOMAD Singapore’s 10-year history.39

10-year anniversary
WOMAD Singapore celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007 with 15 acts performing at the festival from 24 to 26 August. Like previous editions, the festival boasted performances by international acts such as crowd favourites 2000, Asian Dub Foundation and local disc jockey Rajesh Hardwani (known as r-H). Possibly due to rainy weather, the turnout for WOMAD 2007 fell to 18,000.40 Aside from the three-day festival, WOMAD Singapore also collaborated with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to present WOMAD on Campus on 22 August, during which the NUS Chinese Orchestra performed with a Nigerian music group.41


In 2008, organiser WOMAD Project Singapore, a branch of WOMAD Limited in Britain,42 announced that the festival would be on hiatus for two years as it sought more funding. The festival was slated to return in 2010,43 but there is still no word on the event’s continuation in Singapore.44 The director of WOMAD mentioned in a 2009 interview that while they “remain committed to return to Singapore, at present there have been no approaches that would enable [them] to do so”.45



Author

Anasuya Balamurugam



References
1. Let the 100 musicians play. (1998, May 28). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. In the end, a big bang. (1998, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 5; It’s showtime, not showbiz. (1998, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. A music festival without borders. (1998, May 13). The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Let the 100 musicians play. (1998, May 28). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5 Festive days of music. (1998, June 1). The Business Times, p. 18; Striking gong fu on the charged drums. (1998, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. A feast, in every sense. (1998, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 5; It’s great kids’ play. (1998, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 7; Relax and go with the flow. (1998, May 20). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Festival of Arts opens to music. (1998, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Putting the mad back in Womad. (2000, July 28). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Womad begins with a bang. (1999, September 10). The Straits Times, p. 47; The fort is alive with the sound of music. (1999, September 9). The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Papa Rock will go to WOMAD. (1999, August 21). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Putting the mad back in Womad. (2000, July 28). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. They danced all night in the park. (1999, September 13). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Womad returns in September. (1999, March 15). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Scots to kick off Womad 2000. (2000, February 26). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. I am Womad, hear me roar. (2000, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 10; Treats galore at Womad S’pore. (2000, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Local flavours. (2000, July 29). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. I am Womad, hear me roar. (2000, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Hula, one big party. (2001, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Warm up with Womadness. (2001, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Bigger and better party at WOMAD 2001. (2001, August 10). Today, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Womad kicks off with party. (2001, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Warming up to Womad. (2001, August 18). The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Sensory overture. (2002, August 7). Today, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. United nations at Womad 2002. (2002, July 31). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. 14 groups from countries. (2002, August 27). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Stage presence. (2003, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Bigger, better, louder Womad. (2002, September 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Back, and bigger. (2004, August 26). The Business Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Get ready to dance. (2003, August 1). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Womad’s back with wider reach. (2003, August 22). The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Back, and bigger. (2004, August 26). The Business Times, p. 68. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Our homeboys are getting the world stage. (2004, August 27). Today, p. 43; Louder local beat. (2004, August 20). The Business Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Womad preview wows Tampines. (2004, 23 August). Today, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Dirty, hot and they’re loving it. (2005, August 26). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Mix and match bag of fine tricks. (2005, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 2; A feast of fusion sounds. (2005, August 26). The Business Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Satisfaction guaranteed. (2006, August 30). Today, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Womad’s here to wow – again. (2005, June 24). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Womad promises exciting lineup and new culinary stage. (2006, June 23). The Business Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Womad 2006 is another big success. (2006, September 1). The Business Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Womad – 10 and still going strong. (2007, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 51; Womad celebrates a decade here. (2007, August 24). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Speaking through music. (2007, August 22). Today, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Womad – 10 and still going strong. (2007, August 28). The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Womad takes a two-year break. (2008, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Challenges of staging music festivals. (2014, March 6). The Straits Times, pp. 4-5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Rocking the music scene. (2009, November 13). The Business Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG



The information in this article is valid as at 18 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Performing arts
Arts>>Performing Arts
Performing arts--Singapore
Arts>>Dance
Arts>>Music
Arts>>Theatre