Review: WOMADelaide Day 4

On WOMAD Day 4, Adelaide was in full-flung festival mode – WOMAD in Botanic Park, cricket at the Oval, the Future Music Festival at the Showgrounds, and the Fringe everywhere else.

UnknownOn WOMAD Day 4, Adelaide was in full-flung festival mode – WOMAD in Botanic Park, cricket at the Oval, the Future Music Festival at the Showgrounds, and the Fringe everywhere else.

At 1pm, Emma Donovan and the Putbacks (Aus) commanded the Centre Stage. The band’s jams, funky at times, were made soulful by powerful, dominant female leads. The audience swayed to their music, though that may have just been the early afternoon heat (which thankfully dissipated quickly) as they were sensational the previous night. Glam Adelaide Music team’s pick of the festival Jambinai (S Korea) were preparing food and interacting with the audience at TTW, and were fun to watch as they prepared a dish called Tteok Galbi, or a ‘Korean Rissole with Coleslaw’ as the Aussie cook in attendance humorously called it. The taste was mild by comparison to previous experiences Korean cuisine heavily laden with chili.

Arriving to Stage 2 at 2pm felt like walking the backstreets at midnight. Bagpipes and accordion provided highlights of Italian act Canzoniere Greciano Salentino (Italy), who would have seemed equally at home as the house band of a haunted house. They kicked ass, dressed in red and black. FourPlay String Quartet (Aus) sounded much more exotic today, kind of like an Asian cinematic score. Luzmila Carpio’s (Bolivia) workshop on the MB stage was interesting, with her explanations of how her people use natural resources to make musical instruments where possible. At the end, she sang a traditional tender lullaby for ‘correcting the wayward child’- absolutely lovely!

Over on Centre Stage at 3pm, jumping Spanish punk reggae act Che Sudaka (Arg/Col/Spain) made the crowd bounce, and their comments between songs came in the WOMADelaide tradition of politically charged acts like Billy Bragg and Emel Mathlouthi (2014). Some of their opinions weren’t for the politically faint-hearted, but they were well worth their while for an afternoon dance. On the shady Zoo Stage, Cairns based troupe Kamerunga were energetic and came up with an Australiana/folk/jazz hybrid that was completely dance-worthy, so it’s surprising that the audience remained seated during their performance. Meanwhile, in the Kidzone, Andy Griffiths (Aus) encouraged kids to bark like dogs and irritate their teachers. The prolific Australian author entertained a sprawling crowd with tales of flying fish (and flying chips), and had a few jokes for the adults too (“my books take 10 minutes to write, a month for Terry [Denton] to illustrate, and a year to get published”).

At 4pm, Jupiter & Okwess International relaxed a crowd with smooth Congolese beats on Stage 2. “Good morning!” beamed the lead singer, and they proceeded to make the sun rise. Over in the Speaker’s Corner, Nick Waterhouse brought old South Californian charm and a Motown-style band to a small-ish cluster of folk. And boy, the kid can sing. Meanwhile, The Gloaming (Ireland) on Stage 3 played relaxing traditional music to a seated audience who you could see wanted to sometimes dance to the reels, jigs and slides that they masterfully played. The sound of the fiddle recreated the sounds of the Emerald isle, and made for a very soothing, sophisticated show.

Warbling into the ether at 5pm, Canadian-American songstress Buffy Sainte-Marie (Canada) had a voice that could slay vampires. 50 years into her remarkable career, her music carries as much punch as it ever did. But the highlight of the hour once again had to be The Colour of Time Parade, a parade of music and colour that culminated in a circle of dance. It began with the dancers plowing a line through the crowd, clearing a thick line of bare grass with the sharp, distinct movements of modern dance. They gyrated and flipped one another, and began to remove their clothes, dancing close to each other, before putting on white outfits. As the music became more distinctly Indian, so too did the performance as the white-clad dancers strapped belts to their hips carrying sacks of coloured powder before dispersing the powder amongst each other. They then caressing with blue palms and shaking powder from green fists in scenes reminiscent of India’s Festival of Colours, ‘Holi’.

Adelaide modern folk act Timberwolf then dominated Speaker’s Corner at 6. The local band were new to crowds of this size, but they got a large group of young-uns dancing up the front; and by the end, to be heard over them, the wolf roared more than he howled. Lake Street Dive (USA) proved they were indeed ‘the awesome foursome’ on Stage 2 with an upbeat blues/funk/jazz infusion that was totally cool. Their take on Van Halen’s Jump was a nice surprise.

On the Zoo Stage at 7, Bärra feat. Gurruwiwi and Gotye (Aus) was a crowd favourite, to the surprise of WOMADelaide organisers who clearly hadn’t set up the stage for such an audience. For those at the front, it was a moving hour of Indigenous music, with an Arnhem Land band accompanied by one of Australia’s most successful artists, bridging cultures and opening eyes to new musical forms. Sadly, at the back, it was more a matter of straining one’s ears to hear anything at all. At the same time on the ICS, Criolo (Brazil) was in his element with a bigger crowd than Saturday as he tore through an decidedly Latino groove session, creating a ‘wall of voodoo’ with heavy percussion.

At 8pm on Stage 2, Israeli sextet Balkan Beat Box proved quite difficult to describe. At times they sounded punjabi, at times more jazzy, and they threw in ska, hip-hop and swing elements as well. With two saxophones, two guitars, and two drum kits, they were heavy on the bass and light on their feet. Neneh Cherry yet again busted it out with Rocketnumbernine+ in a heavy drum and bass session that superceded her previous night’s energy. This girl is still cool as ice!

But the act of the night was always going to be Irish sensation Sinéad O’Connor, whose voice was like a stampede of buffalo and levelled several small towns. Clad in a clerical collar and a crucifix, O’Connor caressed her crowd into a Celtic commune of reverence and catharsis, embodying an era and a spirit unique to her music and her voice. Arguably, her most powerful moment was when she sung the words of Ireland’s literally revolutionary 1916 document ‘Proclamation of the Republic’ to the tune of the Irish national anthem, and dedicated it to Australia’s Aboriginal people. At the end, she received one of the biggest roars WOMAD has seen. But her performance was equally marked by faux shyness and wholehearted wit. One time, the stage lights were pointed directly into her eyes, and she couldn’t see the microphone – “and the mic’s black”, she noted, improvising. “Black mic, black kid, no difference.” Later, before playing one song, she played coy, and pretended that she’d play the ‘clean’ version, getting the audience to beg for the ‘unclean’ version – before changing The Healing Room‘s lyric “I have a universe inside of me” to “I have a cucumber inside of me”. For the second time in WOMAD’s history, an artist played an encore – Billy Bragg having been the first, in 2014.

We also had to see Jambinai play for the last time over at the Zoo Stage, and they were once again fantastic and kept their audience mesmerized with their ‘haegum meets Metallica’ style fusion of traditional Korean music and Soft Metal. Please do come again- you guys rocked! WOMADelaide closed with Invisible Cities DJs, over in Speaker’s Corner by the Frome Road entrance. Long into the night, the young folk danced to music that chopped and changed. It wasn’t the tightest of performances, nor the loudest, but people danced and had a good time – in other words, it was quintessentially WOMADelaide.

WOMADelaide is more than a world music festival, it’s also a living case study in decency, tolerance, respect, and understanding. With this many people of almost every possible proclivity and background, it is music and dance that transcends the self-imposed barriers we often place on our everyday lives and on others. Music doesn’t care about your political preference, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status or otherwise. All it cares about is that you listen and appreciate it. You can see the impact it has on the people who come to WOMADelaide. There were happy, smiling people everywhere and it served as a peaceful retreat from the barrage of negativity in our current lives. It may sound idealistic, but if greater society could inject some of the lessons that music teaches us into the world we live in, maybe we’d actually progress better as a species and stop striving for the wrong things. Imagine that!

“You may say I’m a dreamer”…….or so the song goes.

And so we say goodbye for another year –thanks WOMADelaide for the memories.


By Darren Hassan & Justin McArthur

Twitter: @DazzHassan


Sinead O'Connor

Sinead O’Connor

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