"This is my music, this is what I do, my way."
These are the words of Cameroonian singer, songwriter, and musician Muntu Valdo, who visited the NYUAD campus on Tuesday afternoon for a music workshop. Valdo is in town for the World of Music, Arts, and Dance (WOMAD) Festival, which starts tonight on the Abu Dhabi corniche and at the Al Ain Fort. The artists, coming from myriad nations with expertise in a wide range of genres, will showcase their talents through April 9.
During the workshop, Valdo shared his unique musical style — a style he calls "the one and the many," but which has also been referred to as "sour blues" — by performing four original songs for an audience of NYUAD students. His music incorporated guitar, harmonica, and various electronic devices that allow him to record and play back to create his songs.
After the performance, Valdo held a question and answer session, during which he revealed that it was law, not music, that he studied in college. However, music had struck a cord with him early on (he became interested in the harmonica at the age of 14) and he learned the "universal language" of music through books. Since then, after starting a band and being discovered while playing backup at a festival in France, Valdo has enjoyed a long musical career.
Following the Q&A, Manuel Nivia, NYUAD Class of 2014, brought his own guitar on stage to jam with Valdo. Together, they created a song in a matter of minutes with a little help from Valdo's electronics. Nacif Taousse, NYUAD Class of 2014, was also courageous enough to play with Valdo, who accompanied Toausse on the harmonica and even did a little beat boxing.
In addition to the workshop, four NYUAD students, including Nivia, spent the week working on a music remix with WOMAD artist Mr. Benn, who is known for his dancehall hits that blend reggae grooves with hip hop beats. The remix is slated to be the musical score of a film created by Zayed University students that will be shown tonight during the festival.
In its almost 30-year history, WOMAD has showcased almost 1,000 performers of 100 different nationalities and has held more than 160 festivals in 27 countries. The three-day festival is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.