Balkans off to WOMAD

OPA! Balkan Alien Sound will take their grooves to WOMAD this weekend. (2707JC1 - photo courtesy of GC Photographics)
OPA! Balkan Alien Sound will take their grooves to WOMAD this weekend. (2707JC1 - photo courtesy of GC Photographics)

One of Derry’s most popular live bands, Balkan Alien Sound, will this weekend represent their city at the world-famous WOMAD 2012 Festival in England, sharing a bill with legends such as Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and reggae icon Jimmy Cliff.

The seven-strong group, famous locally for their irresistibly chaotic Gypsy, Klezmer and Balkan grooves, are thrilled to have landed such a high-profile gig.

They’ll leave Derry this afternoon, bound for Charlton Park in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, where they’ll perform on Sunday night.

Marty Coyle, one of the founding members of Balkan Alien Sound, spoke to the ‘Journal’ ahead of this weekend’s big gig.

“We received word very early this year that we would be going across to Charlton Park to play WOMAD and we couldn’t quite believe it,” Marty Coyle beams.

“We did have to keep the news under our hats for a few months, though, which was really difficult as we were bursting to tell people!”

Balkan Alien Sounds consists of Marty on bouzouki, Robert Peoples (violin), Steven Carlin (accordions), Aideen McGinn (vocals), Gary Cunningham (guitar), Marc Forbes (bass) and Andy Dalton on drums. Their slot at WOMAD came about as a result of many years of forging working relationships with multi-cultural organisations both in Derry and across Northern Ireland, notably Beyond Skin.

“The prestige that comes with playing at this festival is second to none,” Marty goes on. “Some of the acts that have played here in the past are like a who’s who of world and roots music. This year we are on the same bill as Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and the fantastic Jimmy Cliff, so we are really proud to have been invited to play.”

With this weekend potentially being the biggest gig they’ve ever played, he adds: “This is a massive performance, so of course we have some pre-gig nerves, but these nerves have been channelled into making sure we are rehearsed and confident enough to play our set backwards if needs be.

“We are all massive fans of the festival, and of a lot of the bands who play there, so it’s important that we represent ourselves as best we can but still enjoy everything.”

As well as all seven Balkan Aliens departing today, they’ll also be taking their partners, wives and children along too.

“It’s great to have people in the crowd that you know, as I’m sure most people have never heard of us before,” he says.

“We’re going to try and make our performance as memorable as possible and we have a few special guests joining us on stage too.”

“It’s a massive thing representing Derry at WOMAD 2012, especially as Derry was the first ever city to decline the festival in this it’s 30th year. Any contact we have with the WOMAD officials we will make sure they know that their festival would have been welcomed with open arms by the people of Derry, in a city draped in musical history.

“We are proud to be going across as representatives of our city and will make sure WOMAD knows what Derry is all about.”

Speaking of next year’s City of Culture celebrations, Marty adds: “It’s a really exciting time right now and you can feel that things are about to blossom.

“The Ebrington concerts are such a positive thing to see, especially for the younger generation, and things like the Clipper Festival show that if large events are put on in the city, the people of Derry will turn out in their thousands!”

The Balkans will wow WOMAD this Sunday, July 29, and Marty adds: “It’s the largest World Music and Dance Festival in the world and the largest crowd we’ve ever performed to, so it’s exciting times!”