Following on from a spectacular opening night, we ventured back to Botanic Park to indulge in the busiest of days at WOMADelaide on a beautifully warm, mild sunny day.
The first act we caught was Emma Swift & Robyn Hitchcock (Aus/UK), a pairing that considers their music sadcore. It was mellow and gentle for sure, but would have been better later at night to chill out to. The Tjintu Desert Band (Aus) on Stage 2 were great, singing in Luritja language that emanated the spirit of ancient Australia. Their version of instrumental surf hit ‘Wipeout’ was a nice surprise
The ‘one woman wonder’, Margaret Leng Tan (Singapore/US) was an interesting act, performing her ‘avant-garde’ sounds using an array of instruments in a mostly lullaby like set that was accompanied by the nearby Siamang monkeys at the Adelaide Zoo, who seemed to be howling in unison. OK, they weren’t actually but this is WOMADelaide, and it added to the atmosphere. Depedro (Spain) had everyone dancing in the now blazing sun, making their audience almost as hot as their Latino/Afro-beat grooves. Both young and old were on their feet enjoying the music, seemingly oblivious to the heat.
Jambinai (South Korea) were given a huge Adelaide welcome as deliciously cool breeze began to sweep through. This act was a personal favourite, blending traditional haegum (fiddle/erhu like instrument) with rock guitar and ending up in an industrial explosion of sound. This was special!
On the smaller Moreton Bay stage, Robert Forster (ex Go-Betweens) teamed up with our own Zephyr Quartet & Jherek Bischoff to perform a smooth and suave set, showing that he’s still in fine voice and looking dapper. Blending modern rock with traditional Khmer pop, Astronomy Class (Aus) with Srey Channthy in a sexy, shimmering disco dress on vocals reminded me of Dengue Fever in their style, although had their own uniqueness and hip-hop slant. Luzmila Carpio (Bolivia) sang ancient songs of the Andes in her 2000 year old Quecha tongue, possibly the most moving performance of the day if not the festival given the depth and meaning in the songs she sang.
Getting away from music temporarily, you could hardly miss Osadia, a Spanish street performance team that takes an ordinary head and turns it into a hair engineering feat of eye-popping proportions. An older, bearded gentleman had his hair and beard transformed into living art, and the unique thing about Osadia’s work is that it is ongoing as their subjects walk around and get noticed.
The Kidzone this year had a good selection of free activities for the little ones, and is always a constant hive of activity all day. Carclew are always on hand with workshops to occupy the kids, and to give mum and dad a short break. The SA Museum Explorers Tent and Nylon Zoo are also welcome regulars at WOMADelaide.
Back to the music, and on Stage 7 The Malawi Mice Boys (Malawi) dished up some African interpretations of gospel music accompanied by their scrap tin instruments and improvised instruments, showing true innovation and spirit. Soley (Iceland) on the Moreton Bay stage was much more serene yet sometimes dark and poetic in her lyrics accompanied by electronic pop music.
In a seated performance, the Abdullah Ibrahim Quartet (South Africa) was both jazzy and symphonic. The woodwind turned the park into an enchanted forest, albeit briefly. Another standout performance was C.W Stoneking (Aus), a blues guru that gets the trophy for ‘coolest’ act on ground. His blues are of the slick rock’ n gospel type, and he could hardly go wrong with having Vika & Linda Bull accompanying him on vocals.
As evening started to arrive, Balkan Beat Box (Brooklyn/Tel Aviv) got the party officially rocking with energetic, vibrant, brass-laden rhythms that were made for dancing to. Meeta Pandit (India) had a seated audience spellbound by her amazing 3 octave voice, carrying on a 200 year old tradition from her family of elite singers. She has a rich, authentic Indian sound and is very captivating.
Another indigenous act from Australia were The Painted Ladies, who sang some of Vic Simms’ protest songs of the struggles of the aboriginal people, and also of the beauty of this land. Simultaneously, Barra featuring Djalu Gurruwiwi and Gotye held an Artists in Conversation session that included traditional Arnhem Land music. Seeing aboriginal performances at the festival is a breath of fresh air, and it’s difficult to explain the spiritual impact it has on you.
Welshman Gruff Rhys, most famous for his band Super Furry Animals, reminded me of Richie Havens at Woodstock. One man, a guitar, and a bunch of powerful songs served by a booming voice. It was Bob Dylan-esque in its presentation with a Rhys twist. Flavia Coelho (Brazil) upped the ante on Stage 2 with her signature blend of Caribbean/Brazilian bossa nova, and her bold, colourful sassy-ness. Lycra never looked so good!
A quick dinner break left one spoiled for choice, as the selection of food vendors is quite diverse and makes it difficult to choose from. It’s reasonably priced and servings are fair. I went with the Firepit pumpkin, goats curd, macadamia nuts and saltbush over near Stage 7- healthy and delicious. The only negative I could really draw was the lack of toilets yet again. The lineups are horrendous, particularly for the ladies who don’t have the same ability to ‘improvise’ as us lads. Organizers are experienced enough to know the attendance numbers, and it’s disappointing that they under provided bathroom facilities. Rant over.
As we headed back to the main area, Canzoniere Greciano Salentino (Italy) had the Zoo stage’s attention, entrancing them with what could best be described as traditional Italian pizzica (traditional folk) meets rock. Jupiter & Okwess International (DR Congo)helped the post-dinner crowd work it off, their set keeping people moving with an Afro Jazz/funk hybrid which he called Bofenia rock. It was fun.
Melbourne based Mista Savone, teaming up with Randy Valentine and Jamaican legend Prince Alla back at Stage 7, were jammin’ with raw reggae and hip-hop blends in a Jamaican showcase. Prince Alla’s battle cry was ‘Rastafaria’, but it was more like Rasta Far Out!
Following on with the laid back feel of Stage 7, Criolo (Brazil) was jazzy, smooth and a good wind down as he dropped some rap/soul on the still pumped crowd.
Toumani & Sidiki Diabate (Mali) were a great discovery, playing the 21 string African instrument known as the kora. The father and son team carry the torch of 71 generations of music tradition- just amazing.
Myele Manzanza (NZ) were also brilliant on the Moreton Bay stage and another surprise find. A wall of percussion combined with funky soul voice of Bella Kalolo & Rachel Fraser made for a slick show that would be well suited to a jazz club. Four Play String Quartet (Aus) were great over at the Zoo Stage with a sophisticated, elegant, and stylish set with a few modern twists.
Our final act was Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club (Cuba) who need little introduction. Arriving to a raucous applause, there’s not much that can be said about the elder statesman of traditional Cuban music. They were masterful and completely adored.
All this and the Festival is only half way through. More to come tomorrow!
By Darren Hassan
https://www.womadelaide.com.au WOMADelaide Festival. 6-9 March 2015. Botanic Park Adelaide