WOMADelaide 2012 was held from Friday 09 – Monday 12 March outdoors in Adelaide's beautiful Botanic Park.
The program features performances and workshops on seven stages by the world's best musicians, dancers and DJs, alongside street theatre artists and visual artists, the popular Taste the World cooking program, Artists in Conversations sessions and an All-Star Gala finale, plus around 100 food, crafts and display stalls and a KidZone.
Glam Adelaide's Barry Lenny was luckily enough to attend the festival this year to give you an insight into WOMADelaide.
First up on Internode Stage 1 was Pascals, from Japan, who, like another group seen at the last OsAsia Festival, use numerous toy instruments. Rocket Matsu leads this 16 piece orchestra who extend on the idea of French composer Pascal Comelade, who first composed for toy instruments. The group are not trained musicians, just enthusiasts who have learned to play these instruments. Their musicianship, however, is never in doubt as they have clearly mastered these toys and can play with great precision and panache. When they first formed, they played songs of well known composers such as Henry Mancini and Brian Eno, but now they play a wide variety of music in an almost infinite number of styles. Tongues are often firmly planted in cheeks as they inject plenty of humour, as well as enormous enthusiasm into their performance. The blend of great music and the novelty of the instruments is a real crowd pleaser. The unfamiliar sounds, within a familiar musical framework, clearly delighted the audience, who were left wanting more and discussing the performance for some time after. Try to catch them over the weekend.
In a complete contrast, next up on Stage 3 were Anda Union, from China, bringing the wonderfully atmospheric sounds of traditional music of the Mongol tribes. The name translates as 'band of blood brothers' and this fits nicely with members of nomadic tribes who have come together to preserve their heritage. They play on a range of traditional instruments with the morin huur, or horse head fiddle, predominant. Other instruments played include the are tobshur, hoomei, urtyn du, moadinchur, drums and percussion instruments. Of course, there is also the famous throat singing, a singularly important part of Mongolian music. Much of the music goes a long way back into the history of Mongolia and tells stories from the past. There is much happening in the music, but there is plenty to watch at the same time with these unusual instruments and the way in which they are played. These are sounds that you will not hear again in a hurry, so be sure to catch a performance over the weekend.
Meanwhile, over on Stage 2, the infectious music of Bollywood had drawn a huge crowd, with plenty of people waving their arms and dancing. The Bombay Royale, from Melbourne, dressed in an eclectic mix of costumes, kept the tempos fast and the energy up high, encouraging the audience to join in on the fun. Their enthusiasm for the music swept the audience along, with smiling faces all around and a lot of very small persons dancing with their parents and one another. This is a good family show.
Next up on Internode Stage 1 were Penguin Cafe from the UK, the successor to the much loved Penguin Cafe Orchestra and led by Arthur Jeffes, the son of Simon Jeffes, who started the earlier group. Most people would have heard Music for a Found Harmonium, probably the original group's best known piece and one that has moved into easily other genres, even being played by Irish traditional musicians in both casual sessions and on stage. Oddly, those who know, and even play the tune, often do not know its origin. With a small string section, ukuleles, keyboards, drums, percussion and a few oddities, this group embraces a vast range of styles, blending them into a quirky sound all their own. You will hear moments of jazz, folk, Celtic, classical influences and more in their music. It is bright and cheerful, full of fun and, naturally, attracted a massive audience of people who were either fans of the previous band, fans of this one or were just drawn over by the music.
Back to Stage 3 for Le Trio Joubran, the three brothers, Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran, all oud players from Nazareth in Palestine. They are joined by percussionist, Yousef Hbeisch, who emphasises the complex and changing rhythms. The music is exciting and the dexterity of the three musicians is astounding. The melodic lines weave around each other in a complicated aural dance producing quite amazing music. To hear three such accomplished oud players together is a rare treat indeed.
Back to Stage 1 for the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. If you did not know what was about to happen, you might think two string quartets were about to play together, as the eight musicians appeal clad in formal attire. As they begin to play, this is clearly not the case. Playing music from the movies, ranging from Valentino to Tarentino and all points in between, some old songs, some new(ish) songs and some comic numbers, this is a lively and jolly group of musicians who give the impression that they are probably having more fun than the audience. The audience, as it happens was enormous, stretching out in all directions. They even tackled Isaac Hayes's Theme from the film, Shaft, and Daniel Alomia Robles's El Cóndor Pasa. For great music, a bit of fun and some silliness, this one is going to be hard to beat.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.