It was blue skies and smooth sailing as we embarked on Day Two of the World’s Festival at Botanic Park once again, with another jam-packed day of global adventures awaiting the masses as WOMADelaide 2018 hits the halfway mark. Opting to secure a base under one of the gorgeous Moreton Bay fig trees conveniently placed next to the Botanic Gin Bar, we wasted no time in hitting the stages to experience this day’s acts.
First off, Mama Kin Spender and a massive 24 strong choir (Gospo Collective) opened the day with an amazing layer of harmonies reminiscent of being in a Saturday church session. The music is deeply spiritual in essence but without any overt emphasis on any particular faith. It was a smooth start to the day and primed us for another massive day in the park.
As the sun beat down on die hard Vitamin D seekers, Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier gave a splendid performance accompanied by their 3 daughters on backing vocals. (Our recent interview with Conway here) Ageless and vocally still ‘alive and brilliant, the husband and wife team of Conway & Zygier have an evidently great chemistry on stage and they are both musically on point. Her voice is unmistakeable and, together with Zygier’s masterful guitar skills, they compliment each other perfectly.
Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir’s amazing vocals and band showcased authentic Arabic music at its finest. The tight, high pitch percussion, woodwind and violin melded beautifully with the sharp textures contrasting with Shbeir’s flowing singing. The music was perfect for earlier in the day, and it was also good to hear some traditional Arabic music at the event.
Over on the far Novatech Stage, we also caught Yirrmal and the Miliyawutj, the latter word meaning the coming together of saltwater and freshwater. Rather apt in describing the Festival crowd, an unlikely yet fluid mixture of people and styles. Yirrmal has a strong connection with his Yolngu culture and express it beautifully through his music, acting more as a messenger than a creative medium. This lad has a truly captivating voice, earthy but at the same time mesmerising in its ability to define the sound of Australia.
In keeping with the ‘hot and spicy Latin’ theme, it was indeed sweltering on Stage 2 with San Lazaro turning up the heat with funky Cuban and sexy salsa tunes. Although Melbourne based, this group has a strong Latino background as evident in their hip swinging, brass heavy set.
This was the perfect warmup for the next act from Chile, Chico Trujillo, who got every person within hearing distance off their feet and grooving. Scorching sun or not, these guys got the party started with their Latin infused ska/punk influenced set that didn’t skip a beat from start to finish. To keep a crowd dancing in the heat of the day is a telling indicator as to how great they were. These were, for Day 2, the most fun of acts and will be back Monday night to farewell this years Festival off with a bang. Go See them, you won’t be able to resist the urge to dance!
Portuguese singer Lura is of Cape Verdean descent and her and her super tight band showcased the soft jazzy music of that region. With her fantastic vocals not dissimilar to a Brazilian jazz style, a sharp guitarist and rhythm section the music was sharp, classy and with the romance that comes from the softer side of the Latin and Caribbean musical spectrum.
Thinking that the heart rate had slowed down, we headed over to see YID!, a 22-piece concoction of some of Australia’s most accomplished musicians. As the name suggests, it’s heavily Jewish influenced drinking music with some Jazz thrown in for good measure. One couldn’t help but get the hips and feet moving again, as this was music with ‘matzo balls’. The Yiddish version of Simon & Garfunkels’ ‘The Boxer’ gave a whole new dimension to this song, it was magnificent.
Before taking a break to rehydrate and check out the non-music offerings, we checked out Cuba’s Dayme Arocena, slightly jazzy and absolutely classy with a kind of Rhumba feel to it. If you can imagine sitting by the beach with a cocktail chilling out, then this would be perfect as the soundtrack.
It was time to rehydrate and take a breather to check out the non-performance aspects of WOMADelaide, so we embarked on a tour of the Botanic Park to evaluate what was happening away from the stages. Of course we needed a beverage for the short journey and headed to the Coopers Bar near the zoo for a deliciously chilled Session Ale. The introduction of cashless bars was seemingly well-received, as most punters came well-prepared for this and either charged up their RFID wrist bands or used cards to make purchases. It likely takes some pressure of vendors and free’s up time handling cash, so all in all a positive move.
The KidZone, as reviewed by yours truly’s 12 and 10 year old boys who were in attendance, was mostly good all round with Architects of Air’s ‘Arboria‘ making a welcome return to WOMADelaide after proving popular several years back. It’s an open air tent like structure with different colours and themes, and whilst Master’s 12 and 10 said it was amazing inside, it was also like being in an oven due to it being a vinyl tent in the open sun. There’s no pleasing some.:) All of the KidZone activities are free and run by a team of dedicated volunteers year after year- a real testament to the generous spirit of Adelaideans- thank you!
Most of the stalls were typical of the WOMADelaide theme, with political and environmental issues being present along with some really cool things to buy. Food offerings were much the same as in previous years, with many of the same vendors coming back year after year. Not that it’s a bad thing, but for regular WOMAD-goers it can get a little predictable. Prices were mostly reasonable measured against portion sizes, and everyone was catered for from vegan to carnivore.
One of the surprise features around the park is the Ackroyd and Harvey exhibition near Stage 3. They took portraits of crowd members last year and have amazingly transferred 8 of them onto living grass, becoming effectively ‘living portraits’. It’s clever and well worth a look. For us though, it was time to hit the stages again.
Syrian born American indie folk singer Bedouine allowed for some more chill out vibes in the afternoon with some soft romantic ballads. On acoustic and accompanied by a single bass player, her philosophical quietly emotional music was a great opportunity to lay back and relax while conserving energy for later on.
The phenomenal Jojo Abot not only sounded unreal with a combination of African influenced sounds and broader electronic and vocal samples, but her dancers were just magnetic with aggressive dance moves and sharp choreography. The combination of sounds and on stage imagery in tandem was magnetic, surreal and show stopping. The inclusion of an Aboriginal smoking ceremony was a beautiful touch, showing cultural sensitivity and respect to our first people.
The Russian male choir Dustyesky had a communal charisma that simply could not be denied. With no less than twenty eight members, wearing what appeared to be traditional peasant clothing, the visual effect was like that you’d expect from a theatrical production. Their complex and rich harmonies carried an exuberance that brought another dimension to the show and the music was strangely reminiscent of Soviet era propaganda recordings.
More subdued and laid back were My Bubba, a duo of Nordic women whose vocal harmonies are ethereal and blissful, and when supported by a Norwegian Cittra (lap harp) it creates an enchanted forest atmosphere.
But alas, New Orleans had arrived in Adelaide, as Melbourne’s Jazz Party lived up to their name on the Novatech stage with slick Jazz tunes and a wild, swinging brass section. These guys sure know how to blow, and as one of their songs implies- they can ‘butter one’s bread’. One of Australia’s finest collaboration of Jazz practitioners in this writers opinion.
The entire production of The Manganiyar Seduction was nothing short of magnificent. The seated musicians we’re all placed in an elaborate grid like scaffolding stage with three levels. There were lights for each box which went on and off depending on what elements of the composition were engaged. The music was comprised of top shelf Hindi singing over the classical Indian strings with different forms of Indian percussion. There were too many singers to count making the vocal component very dense and somewhat trancelike. This multi-sensory spectacle was one of the most unique shows ever seen at the event and definitely worth trying to get a good seat for, which was ever so hard, given the hype. These were the same people who brought The Manganiyar Classroom to us last year.
New York based gypsy rockers Gogol Bordello brought their very high energy music and exuberant stage presence to close out the main stage on Saturday. The accordion work brought a different dynamic to the rock music, bringing out the Eastern European flavours reflecting the original background of the members. The act’s singers used up as much of the stage as possible with their over the top theatrics and high level of engagement and the punchy gypsy influenced rock was tailor made for a big stage.
To finish the night on the Novatech stage was drum and bass legend DJ Marky, who generated one of the best dancefloors ever experienced or witnessed at WOMADadelaide. With very high tempo drum and bass and a super pumped MC, the legend ensured if you weren’t exhausted before his set, you certainly used up all your last reserves to close out what was a very memorable Saturday at the festival.
Dazz Hassan & Gav De Almeida
Pics: John Kol – www.jkfoto.net