Photos by John Kol. Words by Peter Coombs.
You know when you’ve had the perfect cup of coffee, the one with the perfectly roasted beans, the right temperature of milk and balanced crema. Despite numerous good cups, I find I always think of that perfect cup. Music festivals are the same, and despite having so much excellence on offer, there will always be the stand-outs.
Returning for WOMAD Sunday, I had high hopes after a full Saturday of music and dance. Catching The Seven Ups, Jason Heerah & Otentik Groove, Baloji and Thandoleft me smiling and wondering if I’d have sore calves in the morning.
Arriving at midday, the yoga sessions are still in session and the 5 Angry Men are about to start their acrobatic bell ringing. Its energetic, a bit slapstick and a brilliant entrée before wandering over to Frome Park Paviilion to learn about The Magic of Mushrooms and how they may save our planet.
The Frome corner of the event has grown, and is now home to the many ‘green‘ groups. It is also the location of the best sounding stage location – the Novatech Stage. At the farthest end of this space, Frenchman Olivier Grossetête was overseeing the creation of Ephemeral City, a beautiful structure constructed of recycled cardboard and packing tape with the assistance of able handed volunteers lifting turning the structure to slide the next sections underneath. Over the day the spiral rose higher and higher into the sky. It truly is a work of wonder – I only wish it was right in the middle of the event.
On my way to see Sona Jobarteh I stopped by Zamba Bem. The audience could best be described as performing Latin Line Dance, as they were shown the moves and encouraged to be adventurous. It was an uplifting and perfect way to stretch the muscles and swing your hips. WOMAD is well spread out and there’s an enjoyable stroll between stages. In fact, being slightly overcast and with no scooters or ants, its very relaxing too.
The second Sona Jobarteh band started playing, and most of the crowd stood up as if a president was arriving, but there was no anthem, only beautiful conga drum, like a heartbeat, along with applause and the sway of the crowd. With Sona’s first note on her Kora you are transported to another time another place. It could well be midnight but its only 2pm. You could listen to this all day long, this is music of the soul (reminiscent of Youssou N’Dour).
Silkroad Ensemble were described in the Boston Globe as “a roving musical laboratory without walls.” I couldn’t put it better myself. They were hypnotic, moving from eastern to celtic in a simple skip. Despite being early, it felt like siesta – a time of flickering dreams.
When Malian singer and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara started to play, I had no idea what she was saying. I felt she might have been singing of trees and animals in the wind on an island. For that matter, she may have been singing about doing the washing. Whatever the words meant, it was beautiful like stroking fingers of sound inviting you to come on a journey.
In comparison, Canzoniere Grecaico Salentino were like a Village Square Fiesta with manic mad energy and perhaps Eastern Euro / Turkish. It was like being at a big celebration, a wedding even, with an array of instruments, from drums like bodram, squeeze box to (bag) pipes, and at 4:30pm between sounds, the chortling Flying Foxes hanging overhead sounded like nature itself was applauding.
Ukulele Death Squad were a collection of three ukes, alto sax and voice. You wanted to click your fingers, laugh and dance. They were a lot of fun like a raucous night in an Irish pub.
Listening to Julia Jacklin is like being with a beautiful songbird. I felt blessed to hear her voice and thoughtful band. As day turned to night with the flying foxes beginning to play in the trees above, this was truly special experience.
Next up was local performer Adrian Eagle. He delivered a stunning soul experience. I really can’t put it in to word other than it being like eating smooth Swiss chocolate.
Shantel & Bucovina Club Okestar were a delight. These guys (and girl) were true showmen, revving up the crowd with everyone grooving, jumping, waving and taking part. If this were the last thing I saw I would have been a very happy WOMAD-er.
My final show for the night was Angelique Kidjo. I’ve seen her numerous times in Oz and overseas. Last night she was the queen of WOMADelaide delivering many songs from David Byrne / Remain in Light. Angelique strutted, danced and played throughout her 90-minute performance. When she left the stage and walked though the audience within touching distance, I screamed like a teenage groupie. And when the rain began, no-one cared and kept on dancing. After a massive on stage dance off with crew from other shows, she finished with the classic Burning Down the House, and yes, she brought the house down.
This morning my face is sore from so much smiling and my calves feel as if I’ve climbed twenty flights of stairs.
**Spotify has a WOMAD 2019 playlist https://open.spotify.com/playlist/02SgM3JgpY8rYiiJOBUGKM