A hot long weekend drew large crowds to WOMADelaide once again this year to enjoy the usual diverse range of music and the many other associated events on offer. There were also the many food outlets, as well as retailers and promoters and, of course, the bars, which seemed to be doing very good business all weekend, thanks to the weather.
Some performances were designated as seated audiences only, but a good many were aligned as much to dancers as to listeners, meaning that everybody stood. Those who only intended to listen were soon swaying and half dancing anyway.
A group that is always very popular, the Soweto Gospel Choir, drew a good crowd, and their broad smiles, marvellous harmonies, colourful costumes, and enthusiastic dancing generated copious applause.
Compagnie Luc Amoros with their fascinating work, Blank Page, had their own performance space between stages 1 and 3. With six performers, using nine illuminated panels, and with one other musician to the side, they combined music, movement, art, and text, making some strong political and social statements in a unique way.
Hugh Masekela drew an expectedly huge crowd of admiring and enthusiastic music lovers keen to hear his singing and trumpet playing, backed by a lively group of musicians. He did not disappoint.
Shunsuke Kimura & Etsuro Ono, playing tsugaru-shamisen, Japanese versions of banjos, with one occasionally switching to flute, combined traditional and contemporary styles in a completely captivating performance. Ayarkhaan is a group of three young Yakut ladies from the Sakha Republic in Siberia with most unusual musical skills in which the khomus, or Jew’s (jaws) harp features prominently, along with remarkable vocals. At times they even sounded a little like electronic music. The Volatinsky Trio brought the music of Russia and the Balkans to the festival, with cimbalom, or hammered dulcimer, cello, and domra, a Russian mandolin, and guitar. All of these were on the Moreton Bay Stage where, unfortunately, the thunder of bass from stage 3 could still be clearly heard, spoiling the Shunsuke Kimura & Etsuro Ono performance by the distraction.
Increasing volume levels and the emphasis on bass and drums has been a growing problem over the years and it was most noticeable on Stage 2 this year where the bass rumble even caused feedback, which took the operator a while to control. This is the sort of mixing that is prevalent in a dance club, or pub, and is inappropriate for the sort of music that WOMADelaide presents. This spilled over into the lighting, with bright lights from the rear of Stage 1 making it often impossible to see the bands at night, as these light displays blinded the audience. It is to be hoped that the quality of sound and lighting will be discussed before next year.
Tuba Skinny brought 1920s New Orleans to life again with their infectious music, attracting both listeners and dancers in large numbers. Their traditional Jazz sound was a winner with both young and old alike, and at Stage 3 their performance had a massive audience, stretching out in all directions, with hundreds dancing in front of the stage.
The weekend was too quickly over, and now there is another year to wait to do it all once again.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.
Venue: Botanic Park, Adelaide
Season: Fri 8th to Mon 11th March 2013