By Deb Kloeden, Rock At Night Adelaide
REVIEW: WOMADelaide 2018, 9th march – 12th March, Adelaide
I’ve lost count of the number of WOMADelaide Festivals I have attended, but I would have to say that this year’s Festival was extra special in oh so many ways. You can taste the excitement in the air as you enter the beautiful Botanic Park pre dusk on DAY 1. Passing the trees full of hanging fruit bats, you enter a special world full of colour, music, dance, joy and celebration.
Each year there are many artists on the line-up that I am excited to see live, but discovering the lesser-known acts is also a great surprise. This year I began with TANK AND THE BANGAS, a lively band from USA who delighted their audience with their funky Jazz, Gospel and hip-hop. Legendary ANIUSHKA SHANKAR, daughter of Ravi Shankar, brought the delicate sounds of classical India to The Foundation Stage as twilight descended at the end of another hot day. Playing at the same time were HAT FITZ AND CARA, a dynamic blues duo I first saw at The Queenscliff Music Festival late last year. Drummer/vocalist Cara is a powerful front woman, behind her vintage drum kit while Hat Fitz provides the foot-stomping, string-plucking melody and backing vocals.
With out a doubt, the most spectacular, recurring event of the Festival was the French aerial ballet troop, PLACE DES ANGES (Place of Angels) by GRATTE CIEL. Above the large area in front of the Foundation Stage, huge wires were strung, creating the playground for these mischievous angels. Acrobats of the air were decorated in elaborate white costumes, angel wings and white painted faces. The crowd was awe-struck by this amazing 45-minute show every night. Aerial pillow fights and games of chasey were just a prelude to the theatrical tossing of tons of feathers onto the unsuspecting audience below. Just a few at first, then buckets and buckets of feathers drifted down like a virtual snowstorm, covering everyone in pristine white feathers. And the best thing about this show was that it occurred every night, with the grand finale on the last night lasting over 1 hour. Each day the number of feathers grew on the ground, swirling into piles like snowdrifts, many centimetres thick. They created a wonderful playground for children and a bizarre visual experience during the sweltering heat of the day.
Another visual spectacular was the Chinese TAO DANCE THEATRE. Strongly lit with side spotlights, the line of dancers bent and swayed in unison, creating a hypnotic and captivating spectacle. Keen to cram as much in as possible, I then moved to see the young singer-songwriter DIDIRRI who drew a large young audience. Musically, one of the highlights of Day 1 was the Mexican couple RODRIGO Y GABRIELA, who turned heavy metal songs into a fiesta with their frenetic, highly skilled guitar playing.
Despite the promise of a 36C day, I arrived early on DAY 2 to see well-known Australian singer/musician DEBORAH CONWAY. Upping the beat, I then enjoyed Chilean CHICO TRUJILLO for a mix of Rumba, Bolero and Ska/Punk. YID! is a band featuring some of Australia’s leading musicians who base their music on old Yiddish drinking songs. I had fun recognizing some of the artists in this band, who were not named in the program. BAKER BOY is an up-coming Indigenous artist who attracted a large crowd with his rap and hip-hop energy.
Another visual and sound spectacular of the festival was India’s THE MANGANIYAR SEDUCTION. Performing on a multi-layered structure like the facade of a high-rise building containing curtained windows, some 40-ish Rajasthani performers were gradually revealed, each set in a light bulb framed box. Their chanting grew from quiet devotion to a choir of celebration as more and more of these artists were revealed. They too performed each night of the Festival.
I had waited with high anticipation for USA’s gypsy/punk band GOGOL BORDELLO, who closed DAY 2. Their high energy and frenetic antics really got the crowd dancing. Front man Eugene Hutz raced around the stage, flinging red wine from a bottle and generally building up a fevered energy.
One of the surprises on DAY 3 was Australia’s DUSTYESKY, a troop of 28 ordinary men who get together weekly in rural Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay, to drink beer and sing Russian songs. Their presentation and passion was unforgettable. MAMA KIN SPENDER delivered an intimate workshop based on the different vocal ranges of voice. She divided the crowd into Soprano, Alto and Baritone, and had everyone singing along in harmony, just like a choir.
Renowned Australian Indigenous performer, DAN SULTAN was a huge crowd favourite. The now well-established singer-songwriter cleverly interweaves gospel, soul and electronica with gritty blues-rock. REMI X SAMPA (Remi and Sampa The Great) have teamed up to bring their funky hip-hop to WOMADelaide. They were a popular early evening performance.
One of the new treats for me was BASHKA, an Australian/Turkish band who wove old folk songs, gypsy ballads and dance music together. In high contrast, this was followed by THE AVALANCHES, who became famous 16 years ago for their universal hit ‘Since I Left You’. Their show was visually spectacular with large projected animations as a backdrop and stunning lighting. The night closed with HAVANA MEETS KINGSTON, a 14-piece Cuban/Jamaican band who play my ‘kinda’ music. It was a great way to finish with a solid dose of roots, reggae, dub and dancehall.
I eased into DAY 4 with the stunningly colourful JOJO ABOT from Ghana, who creatively blends Afrobeat, Jazz, Neo-soul, House and Reggae. Australia’s TEX, DON & CHARLIE (Tex Perkins, Don Walker and Charlie Owen) have reunited after 10 years to deliver a one-only show to WOMADelaide fans, bringing their tales of woe. THUNDERCAT was a refreshing treat with his amazing Jazz improvisations, very tight percussion and funky grooves. The last musical act of the festival was the absolutely amazing THIEVERY CORPORATION. Their marching bass player Hash, worked the stage to a continuous beat. The large band draws on the rich music history of Jamaica to combine reggae grooves, trip-hop and dub. This could only be followed by one last performance by GRATTE CIEL for the final feathery finale.
I know I have not mentioned the many wonderful speakers at ‘The planet Talks’, the great food stalls, the organic Kids Zone, The Taste The World restaurant, Architects of Air blow-up environment, the hand-made craft stalls and all the other wonders that are presented, as I have chosen to describe the music mainly here. But all of these amazing features help to make this festival one of the best I have ever attended, year, after year, after year.
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