WOMAD USA Cheats Death, Returns With Afro-Celt Sound System

Split between producers leads to dueling world music events in Seattle.

SEATTLE, Washington — First there was a WOMAD USA, then there wasn't and now there is again.

The on-again-off-again festival appeared dead following a split between its two producers, the UK-based WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) organization and Seattle's One Reel, earlier this year. But after protracted negotiations, the fourth annual WOMAD USA "will go ahead" July 28-30 in Marymoor Park, outside Seattle, according to King County Parks Department spokesman Al Dams.

As recently as a few weeks ago, One Reel considered staging its own event, the Mondopop Music Festival, on the same weekend at the same location. But that fell through. According to spokesperson Amy Wilcox, the company decided not to produce Mondopop for a number of reasons, including "the economy, difficulty acquiring sponsorship, higher artist fees than in the past, a less favorable agreement with King County, the recent earthquake and other risks."

One Reel, however will still compete with WOMAD that weekend by staging world music as part of the AT&T Summer Nights at the Pier series they present on the Seattle waterfront. Confirmed acts for the weekend include British reggae band Steel Pulse, New Orleans' Neville Brothers and Mali's legendary Super Rail Band.

Although WOMAD is partnering with a local organization, the Workshop, to stage the festival, logistical problems may still arise. For each of the three previous years, acts that have appeared in the British version of the event (held in Reading, England) have flown over for the American event. This year, however, the two events will take place the same weekend.

One of WOMAD USA's headliners is expected to be Afro Celt Sound System, whose new album, Volume 3: Further in Time, appears in June.

WOMAD began producing world music festivals in 1981 and currently stages between 13 and 17 events annually in different parts of the globe.