To say that WOMADelaide 2016 was a huge success is probably the understatement of the year, and it is only March. You could check out all the facts and figures in our story here, or just read this, the diary of one of our writers/togs who enjoyed 4 days of the World’s Festival!
Dear Diary: I attended WOMADelaide and it was…
The first day, and I had my usual pre-festival jitters. Not nervous, just amped and ready to get stuck into 4 days of festival goodness.
First things first, to welcome the Festival I attended the Kaurna Welcome at the Foundation Stage (main stage). A traditional practise performed by the original custodians and elders of the Adelaide region. The display of dance and song brought a cheer from the crowd. A mark of respect and acknowledgement, giving way to the beginning of WOMAD for another year.
Immediately after the welcoming, Hazmat Modine (New York/USA) hit the stage. There is no messing about here, the first act brought an energetic vibe with their eight piece blues/folk/jazz band that infuses a multitude of musical influences particularly from the 1920s. From Hokum jug band, swing, New Orleans R&B to Jamaican rocksteady. Hazmat brought America’s roots back to the modern era and started the Festival at a toe-tapping pace.
I was so drawn in by Hazmat Modine, that I had to rush to Stage 2 to see the Violent Femmes (Milwaukee/USA). Already there was by far one of the most diverse crowds, ranging from youngsters to oldies. There was a slight anticipation in the air. Everyone was waiting for that classic tune, and Brian Ritchie delivered as soon as he walked up to the edge of the stage. Blister in the Sun, an anthem resonating even after a 15 year hiatus from the band.
I left Violent Femmes early to grab a bite to eat. Over 50 food vendors were spread along in what seemed to be a pop up food district. My first pick was the vegetarian choice from Parwana, eggplant on rice. Traditional Afghan cuisine produced by a family that migrated to Adelaide in 1987. They also have shopfronts on Ebenezer Place and Henley Beach Road. Would more than recommend!
My next pick was Angelique Kidjo (Benin) and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (Australia) at the Foundation Stage. Angelique is one of Africa’s most celebrated and accomplished divas, as well as a Grammy Award-Winning singer/songwriter. She pushed her talents again by collaborating with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, displaying an enthralling performance to a seated crowd.
After Angelique I was torn – Djuki Mala (Australia), an indigenous cross-cultural dance group OR Orange Blossom (France/Egypt). Considering I had seen Djuki Mala the year before at a concert and knew it would be a great show, but in a last minute decision I ran to Stage 3 to check out the the French/Egyptian electronica group. And I was not disappointed. African drums, Arabic rhythm, and heavy electronica. The lead singer, Hend Elway was commanding yet playful. Percussions were energetic and the violinist was rocking out on his knees. One of my favourite WOMAD acts.
The final act was back at the Foundation Stage and probably one of the most anticipated acts, Cat Empire (Australia). At the end of the night they were the perfect band to get everyone dancing. Latin, jazz, reggae, hip hop and funky tunes brought the stage alive. As well as hundreds of screaming teenagers.
After the first day I was left pondering… As a first time WOMAD-goer, I had constantly thought throughout the day ‘what have I been missing out on all these years…’. The vibe, the atmosphere and the environment brought an enchanting feel. Still so much to see and do.
Unfortunately I didn’t get into WOMAD till late in the afternoon. I got a bite to eat at Sookii La La, a South East Asian inspired food truck, grabbing tofu pad thai with chicken satay skewers. I then grabbed a coffee and made my way to Stage 3, for an act I was quite excited to see…
Two twins by the name of Ibeyi (Cuba/France) were playing (see our interview here). Daughters of Anga Diaz (ex Buena Vista Social Club), who was one of the most talented percussionists in the world. He was passionate about Yoruba culture a.k.a Cuba’s link to West Africa. His daughters, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz were proud to continue Anga’s legacy. A highly energetic duo, continuously getting people to stand up and dance to their hypnotic tunes.
As the weather started to cool down, my next act was Ester Rada (Ethiopia/Israel). Though I only saw her briefly she brought a very bouncy step to the crowd. A Middle-Eastern diva. Jazz, funk, soul and R&B reminiscent of Aretha Franklin and Eryka Badu.
47SOUL (Palestine/Jordan/Syria) was a band that I knew nothing about but was told to check them out by numerous fellow WOMADians. When I made my way to Stage 2 the crowd was overflowing. Electric guitar, bongos, drum machines, synthesisers, and arabic verses made one of the most energetic and entertaining groups of WOMAD. A new sound that they themselves dubbed ‘electro-mijwez, shamstep, and choubi’. As well as their energetic performance they also sung about the political issues and conflicts around the Middle East. A call for freedom of movement on dance floors and across borders was their message. Another one of my favourites during WOMAD. A cross between the Hilltop Hoods, Shaggy and the Middle East.
Next was Sampa the Great (Zambia/Australia) at the Novatech Stage. And if you follow the up and coming Australian hip hop scene, this girl will be on top of the list. Full of energy, laughter, rhythm and attitude. The kids back in Botswana where she grew up said she’ll never make it as a rapper because she was a girl. Sampa will no doubt turn heads this year. Another favourite.
The last show of the night was probably one of the most influential alternative hip hop groups in the world. Having such a broad demographic, De La Soul (New York/USA) brought in one of the biggest crowds of the Festival. Energetic, animated and playful. Each song singable and De La Soul made sure you contributed. In between songs, friendly banter kept everyone entertained including solos from each of their 8 piece band.
De La Soul definitely capped off the night leaving the crowd singing its crowd favourite ‘A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays’. Walking out the venue with the entire crowd made me feel a little disappointed that I was only able to attend a few hours for the last two days to follow. To this point WOMAD had been an amazing experience. My little paradise isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city right next door.
“Now is the time,
To act the fool tonight,
Forget about your worries and you will be all right,
It’s Saturday, Saturday
Saturday, it’s Saturday
Saturday, it’s Saturday
Saturday, it’s Saturday-ay-ay-ay-ay-ay…”
Like I said, Day 3 unfortunately meant less hours spent at the haven I had found in WOMAD. But for the few that I was there it felt like the most active day. A larger demographic. A family day and a relaxing Sunday session. I laid in the shade of the large Moreton Bay Fig trees, accompanied with some friends that I bumped into and hadn’t seen in quite a while. We talked and ate while the Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa) group sung their truly hypnotic hymns. An isicathamiya singing style or better known as an a cappella form of chant. Bongos and percussions resonated throughout most of the venue. It felt as if I had been transported to the remote villages of South Africa.
We ate a dish from BabaQ, a live Mediterranean charcoal BBQ. Lamb skewers, toasted turkish bread, and a Greek style salad. Cooked on the spot. It was mouth watering.
Next on stage was Sarah Blasko (Australia). Her soothing and soulful voice drew a large crowd despite the warmth from the sun. Well known by most locals, I watched from afar and still saw plenty of people enjoying the music while relaxing under the shade on their picnic blankets.
I also briefly checked out the other attractions that WOMAD had to offer. ‘The Speakers Corner’, presented by the University of South Australia, brought in academics and leaders of their respected fields – environmentalists, economists, politicians, etc. to create a conversation. An engaging lecture-like program which brought light to the issues and problems of our environment and sustainable relationship with the planet. ‘Taste the World’, presented by SMEG, gave a platform for the audience to meet WOMAD musicians as they cooked up their favourite dishes. Lastly, Jeremy Deller’s (United Kingdom) ‘Sacrilege’ brought an inflatable life-sized replica of Stonehenge. Because a normal jumping castle just isn’t enough these days.
Hurrah a Monday and it is a public holiday, but it also meant the last day of the Festival. Oh well, that just means you have to make the most of it!
First up was Alsarah & the Nubatones (Sudan/USA). East African retro-pop opened up a whole new genre for me. Each song demanded more people to stand up and join the dancing area, and I will admit as soon as I got out of the photo pit I joined in. Captivating vocals, and rhythmic beats meant you couldn’t keep your hands still. Kids were at the back doing handstands. Toddlers were sitting on shoulders while playing bongos on their father’s head.
The last show for me was Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro (Japan). I overheard that these guys were a must see the day before. If you think that jazz and funk aren’t coming back, then you are wrong. This group of 6 friends brought back the 1970’s soul with up-tempo jazz, ghetto-funk and psychedelia. Eccentric and passionate on stage, everyone was grooving.
WOMADelaide is an annual experience you don’t want to miss out on. The music and vibes are unlike any other festival. Whether you go as a family or with friends, grab a picnic blanket, tune out to your regular life, dress in boho and bask in the culture that the world has to offer. My time at WOMADelaide was truly filled with joy, curiosity and boogie-ing feet. All that is left to say is see you in 2017, WOMADelaide!