THE tent’s gone up, the sun’s gone down and the unmistakable sound of desert blues, all the way from the Sahara, wafts across a glorious corner of the Wiltshire countryside.

The four-day feast of music and magic that is WOMAD is off the ground with Imarhan, an Algerian five-piece at the forefront of a younger breed of wailing, psychedelically inclined North African blues.

They are sharp, they are on fire….and they set a sky-high standard for scores of artistes from all corners of the planet to follow at the globe’s most prestigious world music festival.

As the final strains of Imarhan’s set fades into the warm night, the Earl of Suffolk’s ample back garden at Charlton Park near Malmesbury explodes with pulsating mixture electronica, hip-hop and bhangra.

The Asian Dub Foundation immediately find their feet – as do thousands of festivalgoers rammed in front of the Open Air Stage for a thunderous set.

The next day, Friday, finds us in Columbia – or at least that’s what it feels like as La Mambanegra treat the Siam Tent to a heady dollop of brassy salsa.

Soon afterwards the outstanding Aziza Brahim stunned us with her powerful voice and flowing robes.

WOMAD is full of surprises and none more so than The Grit Orchestra, complete with bagpipes, bassoon and a phalanx of double-basses who poignantly brought to life the singular Gaelic music of Scottish singer Martyn Bennett who died of cancer at 33 more than a decade ago. A sweeping, heart-warming performance.

The spirit of soul’s greatest star James Brown was evoked by a full-on stomp and style by self-acclaimed “genuine lover boy” Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires while John Grant, one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters of recent years seemed to fill the entire site with his resonant baritone, gorgeous melodies and spiky, bitter sweet pop.

Mali’s Bamba Wassoulou Groove dazzled with their full tilt, three guitar Afro pop while Kachupa from Southern Italy filled the Sian Tent at midday Saturday with furious brand of gypsy folk.

What better on sunny July afternoon than a heavyweight dose of roots, rock reggae. Meta & The Cornerstones delivered a scorching set at the Open Air Stage after which Meta summed up the feelings of pretty much the entire 30,000 crowd with the words: “Thanks to Peter Gabriel (WOMAD founder) for doing this for people around the world….joining the people as one.”

It was standing room only in The Siam Tent for Anoushka Shankar who, like her late father Ravi – India’s best known musician – has mastered the art of the sitar. Absolutely breathtaking.

One of the true African greats, Senegal’s Baaba Maal lived up to his not inconsiderable reputation with one of the finest sets of the festival. His voice simply goes to places others can only dream of.

But if it’s funk you want, then the daddy of them all George Clinton, Doctor Funkenstein himself, is yer man. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Rock and Rock Hall of Fame inductee and the man behind Parliament and Funkadelic. The funk came fast and furious and it didn’t let up.

One very lovely English country park under a groove!