The lovely Botanic Park once again comes alive with the sounds and smells of the world, and this year’s lineup for WOMADelaide is as impressive as ever. Opening night weather was perfect for the launch of The World’s Festival, and the acts on offer did not disappoint one bit.
Kicking off the first day of the festival were Zimbabwean act Mokoomba, who provided the perfect welcome to the opening night crowd with a blend of Afrosound and traditional African music that you couldn’t help but dance to.
Buika (Guinea/Spain/USA) was a nice cool down from the previous group, with their cool, breezy Latin sound.
Local group Sitara (Australia) with sisters Erin & Tess Fowler had an exceptional and appreciative crowd clearly loving their stuff. The group’s harmonies are angelic and the band’s earthiness is a perfect fit for WOMADelaide. They impressed many locals and no doubt earned a stack of new fans. The singer’s booming voice really cut through.
Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen (UK/USA) drew a large first day crowd for their up-tempo soul RnB music. The fantastic rhythm section and velvety vocals would have been a perfect pacesetter for many.
Melanesian/PNG band Airileke was an interactive and educational highlight of day one on the zoo stage. Comprised of all vocals and Melanesian and Polynesian percussion, the music was really engaging and charismatic despite the lack of melody. At points the band got the crowd to run back and forth which was a thrill as was the call and response exercise.
Hanggai (China) delivered their unique Mongolian rock fusion in spectacular style, with the crowd really ready to party by now. Their hit songs Jiu-Ge (Drinking Song) and Xiger Xiger made it impossible not to feel the urge to dance as Hanggai lifted the energy level a notch or two.
Red Baraat (USA), with their Tijuana brass meets Bhangra style were also a high-energy act- the mix of horns and Indian beats are a perfect fusion of colour and light. The two styles perfectly blended in an up-tempo horn centric explosion of sound driven by tabla kits, Indian percussion and sparked by the frontman’s vocal interjections.
Helping the first night crowd to wind down, Adelaide Gypsy swingers Les Gitans Blanc (Australia) turned the Zoo Stage into a late night Parisian Tango. Their set included some traditional gypsy jazz numbers along with originals from their album Macro. It was great to see local bands receiving such a warm response from the discerning crowd.
For those with energy still to burn, DJ Yoda (UK) ripped up the Speakers Corner with a banging set that was imaginative and included Little Richard pumping out through the speakers. With a fundamentally cross-genre set that spanned too many styles to name the packed dance floor lapped it up.
It was time to call it a night, but the great thing is that it’s only day 1 with 3 packed days to go!
Reviewed by Darren Hassan and Gavin De Almeida