|Festival vibe: rug, snacks, anticipation.|
Best of all the BT River of Music has one of its six free stages, all along the River Thames here - which look set to entertain half a million people. The Americas and Europe stages were fully booked instantly; the Africa, Asia and Oceania were a bit slower to "sell" out. Nowadays even free concerts seem to involve buying a ticket - for a £3 booking fee.
|Narasirato from Solomon Islands in London.|
Show stealers for Lola and Nell's first festival were -of course - the bamboo pipe band from Solomon Islands. The group are from 'Are 'Are lagoon, a wonderful place in Malaita (it's where I learnt to speak Pijin, paddle a canoe, etc). It's also where Gary Barlow thought erroneously he was going to be eaten, but enough of that. The band, Narasirato, have two albums and a history of touring big music festivals (including New Zealand and Japan. The pan pipes are made from bamboo, it's all very traditional but the extra oomph comes from the Solomon Islanders' staggering energy on stage - they just keep on dancing; and the drums (also made from bamboo pipes but whacked with rubber similar to a flip-flop) seem to give it a rocky sound. If you missed this, you can see them at Womad 2012.
Get this party started
We heard George Telek from Papua New Guinea, then bands from Milne Bay, also PNG, the Marshall Islands, Guam, East Timor and the Aborigine musician Frank Yamma sedately from a picnic rug (the same place for New Zealand's Hollie Smith). It was like being in an issue of the world music magazine, Songlines. But when Narasirato picked up their pan pipes half the audience rushed to the front or got up and danced. It was marvellous, and later we had a quick chat with the band while they munched on chicken and chips.
Pete actually stayed on our picnic rug so watched -with some incredulity - his family at the front of the stage dancing along when focus-on-the-crazy-members-of-the-audience were flashed on to the big screens. In 2011 during our long stint in Solomon Islands I insisted we went to several hotel "tourist" dances in the hopes that we'd see the famous pan pipe entertainers. We never did - it was mostly Kiribati sashaying of the hips or Belonna stomping (although the latter was fab). As the proverb says, "good things come to those who wait". There's never any reason to rush off around the world, nearly always the world comes to you... so it was with BT's River of Music festival at the Oceania stage.
|Pete and Nell try a Greenwich sofa.|
On the way home, we were distracted by more of the things Greenwich has to offer - a street market of delicious food (flat white coffee, vegetarian burgers brazenly named after their ingredients (carrot, greens), Scotch eggs served with a runny egg and a sprinkle of celery salt, at bearable prices, located just by the Old Royal Naval College. We then ate these on a vast atro-turf covered sofa surely designed to give you an Alice-in-Wonderland feel.
Over to you
Have you discovered free events thanks to the Olympics? Or has the Olympics tempted to you to find out about another country's cultural heritage? And have you seen a Gamesmaker yet in their bright purple jackets?