Since nothing was getting done much around here anyway, Dan and I scooted to the 20th anniversary of the Womadelaide Festival, March 2012. Our delightful and ever heart-warming engineer, James Boundy, expressed to us that it was not a festival to be missed, and having missed the first 19, we thought maybe it was time.
I will forever more be initially attracted to any festival you can attend from a Hotel. No mud and tents at Womad?? No sir-ree – Book me in!!
Set in the idilylic Botanic Gardens of Adelaide sits around about 7 stages of all different shapes and sizes, including grand piano’s in a large grassy knoll, and a whole load of grass and amazing trees for you to whimsey about and through.
We arrived through the “not main gate – no lines here” Fromme street entrance to find ourselves at Stage 6 – or “Speaker’s Corner” where Shivkumar Sharma was serenading on an 100 string hammered dulcimer – a Santoor, as the trees towered god-like around and above us and dusk set nonchalantly behind them. Please excuse my Byron Bay roots for a second, but what struck me, was people’s faces. Looking around this first audience; peoples faces were open. I had no other word to describe it. Eyes, ears, smiles, faces: open. Calm, smiling, gentle, real people. No drunken louts, no whiney children… just people wearing nice clothes and chilling out, dressed up and out we were to attend a four day concert. Picnic blankeys and bags of grapes. Something struck me in this first concert initiation to Womad. This was going to be a special few days.
And, I was right. It was four days of lovely people, perfect weather, good coffee and mind splitting music. Pleasant Adelaidians.
I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t know of a lot of the bands that were going to play. I’m afraid I’m just not that hip to Mongolian chanting and accordion players, but for me, it was better this way. I was eternally happy to drift and smile. Instead of run and try to catch.
For my own notes, I want to write some of the highlights so I don’t forget them and what they did to my brain…
Electric Wire Hustle. I was standing there taking their music apart, and putting it back together again, watching them and learning from their approach. They’re framed as New Soul… But somewhere there I wisely turned my brain off. Closed my eyes and just danced. Thank you. They are angular, multi-layered, and jigsawy… and I liked it.
Staff Benda Bilili. Amazing harmonies. Beautiful. A band of people in wheelchairs from polio, singing sweet african harmonies and teaching people how to feel music with your body. I learnt.
Kimmo Pohjonen. A thor-like Finnish Accordion player. Rewriting how accordions should be played and how stages should be lit. I gotta tell you, I was a little bit scared but mainly hypnotized. Spent the first few songs thinking how airline staff must feel when he walks in and signs his accordion over. I wouldn’t be chucking his gear around. He would smite thee.
Grace Barbe. Stunning WoMan. A sexy wonderful woman who was proud to have a big butt. Knew how to jiggle it too.
Nano Stern. *note to self, practise my spanish and sing Nano songs. It was beautiful. And many congratulations to Adam Biggs, my friend on FOH sound. Hooray for you!
Penguin Cafe. Chill Out Music with capital letters. Made me feel very serene. Something about it made me crave orange juice.
Dobet Gnahore. Probably the most amazing female vocal tone of the whole festival. Definitely truly amazing dancer. Energy and strength. Sort of like, but nothing like Angelique Kidjo, but more like a head warrior.
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Quit your bitching – they make Ukulele’s cool. and Sheep.
Bonobo. Featuring Andreya Triana. … I apologize but Bonobo made me feel a little bit old. We went right up the front and hustled up close. But I just wanted to close my eyes and dance, and up the front it’s all about the iphones and the small, similar-group dance moves. They were beautiful musicians, but it wasn’t a stage show- there was no Mongolian lamb ceremony. I headed out and round to the back, found some space and moved and grooved. I must be old… It used to be about getting close. Andreya had that black sweet honey vocal tone that sounds good even as a murmur. It’s always a well learnt lesson: when you can learn that when an artist makes an effortless, honest sound, that is just – how they sound – that that is GOOD. It’s not “trying to sound good”. Just knowing and doing what you do. Do you know what I mean?
Shantala Shivalingappa. Stunning classical south Indian dancer. Unfortunately this was on late and I had no socks… so I was slowly freezing, fossil-like into the grassy earth. That being said, she was stunning and beautiful and drew amazing pictures in my mind with the clarity of the lines and shapes she drew with her body. I appreciated the delicate commentary between the dances, describing and informing us about things of which I knew nothing about within classical south indian things and stuff.
The Amazing Drumming Monkeys. The real reason we went to Womad. *Did not dissapoint. Always visit the kid zone of festivals. That shit is the bomb. Kids know where it’s at.
Toninho Ferragutti & Bebe Kramer. Stunning piano accordion duo (Piano accordion has the piano down one side, accordion accordion has loads of buttons on each side). Sat in the shade drinking iced coffee whilst people watching, wishing I lived in Buenos Aires and that I knew how to Tango… But then Byron Bay and knowing how to mango ain’t bad either…
Diego Guerrero y El Solar de Artistas. This mans voice, and band, for that matter, sound like they’ve lived for a thousand years and have a million stories to tell. And then you work your way up close and Diego Guerrero looks younger than me, and the band is young, spunky and killer. He wears a nice coat too. This was the one album I particularly wanted to buy. Easy to listen to whilst still getting right into you heart. But I guess that’s latin rhythms for you….
Tete. I’ve heard of Tete for a ages and finally caught his show at Womad. Gorgeous tone. Warm heart. Lovely trees.
Chapelier Fou was a skinny, sweet French DJ, who played and looped and effected his live violin samples and writhed and moved like a true music lover. No too-cool-for-school DJ straight face no stage. He was sweet and it shone from the stage, he took risks and made a hell of a groove.
And we finished our Womad 2012 with the ten piece Mongolian band Anda Union, which was probably the single most gob smacking, amazing band of sounds and sights. It was like Rachelle Farrell crossed with an extremely rhythmical, very well dressed, lute playing and stylish goat. They were amazing. I loved the single female vocal shining among the male tones. I loved the Mongolian skanking. It was amazing to see live. I loved it.
The whole thing was a testament to amazing live world music. It’s just not the same on Youtube. You gotta freeze into the ground, loosing your shit over the Mongolians…. and it was probably like a hot summers night for them… I think we’re gonna make up a country and create a new language to see if we can play here one day….
My tips for Womad & Radelaide:
Take a recyclable keep-cup, or whatever cup, for all the coffee. Dammit, take a fork. It’s a very eco-friendly festival and I wish I had’ve done more.
Don’t forget your hat – it’s sunny as a bitch. And then don’t forget something warm, as soon as the sun drops my little toesies froze with it. Cold at night! But I am a woos.
No deodorant required. No North Coast humidity in SA.
If you reserve a shady spot in the middle of the sunny day, expect me to sit on your rug till you return. I’m really very nice and I won’t muddy it. But you can’t save a patch of grass for an hour. It’s grass and it’s shade. It’s not yours forever more. xx
Take a bag of grapes.
Stay longer than the Womad Festival dates and go to the Fringe Fest, The Garden of Unearthly Delights, or any number of the other festivals Adelaide thinks it’s a good idea to put on in the same week. And something about a market. Apparently the market is markety.
Hire a car, or jump a winery tour and go sip the “NV The Peppermint Paddock Sparkling Chambourcin Shiraz” (pictured below) at the D’Arenberg Winery. That wine is my favourite colour. 🙂 Oh yeah… and wine dogs…. it’s a thing.
Thank you Womad.
You were beautiful