So we’ve come to that time of year again when, amidst the madness of March, we get to take in the more cultured of the big events happening in our fair city- WOMADelaide. It’s impossible to ever tire of such a well curated long weekend, as the lineups keep exceeding expectations year after year.
Attending opening night formalities and drinks, which is always jokingly run on the same template- to have the loudest band playing on the closest stage during speeches, you can feel that the vibe and the energy on opening night is always frenetic. It’s fantastic to mingle with organisers and artists alike, and it always follows through with an amazing long weekend of music and dance experiences.
The music team at Glam Adelaide always do our best to catch as many acts as possible, to share with you our collective experiences and to highlight as many acts as possible. It’s a 4 day weekend of running between stages to catch a show, trying to experience all the Around The Park events and workshops, and sampling the food and drink offerings while trying to soak in the harmonious atmosphere. We love it!
After a Welcome to Country by Jamie Goldsmith which was dedicated to his late father Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith, it was straight out of the gate for the first night of ‘WOMADness’ as Bixiga 70 ripped into some serious funky Afrobeats, occasionally slowing down a number or two to catch their breath. These were the guys providing the background music whilst Premier Jay Weatherill was trying to deliver his opening speech. Personally, I thought Bixiga 70 were far more entertaining. (Sorry Jay:)
Having seen them backstage, Tank and The Bangas brought the New Orleans attitude to Stage 2, and were literally banging out a set laced with Hip Hop under the command of slam poet Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball. She’s a colourful character in her own right, twerking with a huge dose of sass, having the audience eating out of her hand. This was solid brass, bass, and percussion- the perfect funk recipe. Pity that they’re only performing the one show, they were fab!
Star in the making, Baker Boy from the NT demonstrated the talent that has excited many in Australia’s music media. With rapid fire rapping, pumping rhythms over catchy refrains, a lot of people left knowing they are watching a star in the making. The icing on the cake was the unexpectedly amazing dance moves.
Also performing an only show at WOMADelaide, Grammy nominated Anoushka Shankar lived well and truly up to her family name (her father, Ravi Shankar was a renowned sitar guru, and Norah Jones is her half sister). To suggest that her music is purely sitar based is underplaying her talents as a musician, as her set not only encompasses traditional raga music, but delves into trance like electronic beats. It is a great listen and a perfect fusion of old meets new.
Meanwhile, Hat Fitz and Cara on the Zoo Stage were belting out some extremely cool blues & roots music, the stuff that gets your feet tapping. These two are Festival veterans, gaining a solid following wherever they go. If you love Bluegrass and a nice shot of whiskey, these guys will fix you up.
In one of the most captivating and haunting moments through the first night French group Cie Bivouac’s production “Erica’s Dream” was something to behold. The rich opera vocals and the brilliantly layered sample set the soundtrack to some amazing physical theatre and dance. The stage set was wonderfully rustic with some confrontational costumes and props, as well as the high quality theatre acting. This was certainly one of the highlights of the first night. The show was nothing short of stunning and definitely one to check out, or even try and find on YouTube if you can’t make it this year.
Few people in Australian music are as talented as nu-soul singer guitarist Nai Palm of the Grammy nominated ensemble Hiatus Kaiyote. With three young back up singers providing rich and complex harmonies, her show was something to remember. The sound of her guitar was sublime and her vocals as unique and nuanced as always, but it was the combination of her voice harmonising with her back up singers which took the show to a whole other level.
The highlight of the night though, was definitely Place des Ange (Place of Angels), an aerial ballet from France who are performing nightly at 8:45pm. To say that this is breathtaking is well understated, as they risk their lives dangling over the crowd in a visually stunning performance that is beautiful to behold. (We’ve included the promo video below for our readers to enjoy if you aren’t able to make it this weekend). The performers buzz overhead, executing choreographed moves whilst suspended by harnesses and cables. As they manouevre themselves between points (which are suspended by cranes), they scatter white feathers on the crowd below. By the end of the performance, it looks as if the ground and sky is awash with snow- all we can say is WOW!!
It was a very hard act to follow, but we still had a bunch of shows to see and next up was TAO Dance Theater from China. It’s great to see that the ‘D’ in WOMADelaide is being highlighted this year, but whilst the dancers were undoubtedly disciplined and synchronised as they moved to trance like mantras, the seated performance was a little repetitive.
Young indie folk act Didirri is growing in stature and was a perfect fit for the subdued Moreton Bay stage. With his delicate voice and contemplative lyrics his show was a perfect excuse to sit down on the grass and chill for a while. Whilst young, his sense of narrative and awareness allowed for lovely transitions between songs.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from the US certainly brought the party with their upbeat jazz music. The sharply dressed jazz act were one of the other highlights of the night, with their huge stage energy and pristine sound. They certainly kicked up a bit of a dancefloor and the levels of crowd engagement were particularly high.
Mexican come Irish guitarists Rodrigo Y Gabriella put on a unique show with their percussive acoustic guitar music and lead classical work. The uptempo guitar work varied throughout the set and there were some real sweet moments there.
Legendary British dub DJ Adrian Sherwood served up the best kind of music history lesson to close out the night. As one of the most culturally significant dub DJs, his exploration of the genre as well as reggae was certainly illuminating. The vibe at the end of the night was definitely on a high thanks to his set.
If you haven’t yet experienced WOMADelaide then please do it at least once in your lifetime. It’s a great environment for the family, and kids under 12 are free with loads of activities for them to see and do. And, you’ll get to experience some of the most eclectic and entertaining acts on the planet.
All this and it’s only been Day One! We’re back all weekend and will be trying to experience as much as possible to share with you, our readers. You must though, get a taste of WOMAdelaide yourself through – you’ll thank yourselves for it.
Dazz Hassan & Gav De Almeida
Pics: John Kol