I feel that we are so lucky to have Womadelaide as in my opinion, it is a world-class festival. I believe this year will crack the magic 100,000 for the weekend due to the fantastic programming this year with the incredible Gratte Ciel performing Place des Anges and with a little help from the good weather
Womadelaide on a Saturday is the best value for the adventurous and for people with stamina as it starts just past 9:00 am in the morning and finishes just after midnight. Every Saturday Morning for many years we get to experience the ABC Radio National Music Show with Andrew Ford broadcasting live for the first two hours. Andrew interviews artists performing and they usually do two songs live. This is an excellent way of getting a sample of artists and then making the decision to see or not see them later in the festival. This morning we saw and heard from Blick Bassy from Cameroon and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble amongst others.
The day starts properly for me with Elephant Sessions from Scotland playing at the Moreton Bay Stage which is a beautiful stage near leafy Moreton Bay Fig trees. It was the biggest crowd I had seen at this stage and I suspected it was because everyone wanted to get out of the sun. This was the first time the band had played in Australia and they told us that it was the hottest they had ever felt. They started playing their infectious grooves and the audience was up on their feet almost straight away dancing. The crowd was loving it. Their take on Scottish Folk music is given a modern twist with adding drums, guitar and bass to the violin and mandolin. They played most of the songs from their award-winning 2017 album All We Have is Now and 2 from there first album. Elephant Sessions were so good that I will be changing my weekend plans and go see them again. There is usually a few bands each year that I do that for.
Next up was Lura at the Zoo Stage. Lura was raised in Portugal by her parents who come from Cape Verde Islands off of Africa and she gets most of her musical influences from them. I can hear western influences in her work as well. Lura’s guitarist plays in an African style but her keyboard player played with the accordion setting more often than not and it sounded french in style to me. Lura has an excellent presence on stage and she had a wonderful voice. The set consisted mostly of songs from her first and her sixth and latest album Heranca.
Next is the long walk to Stage Three to see Dayme’ Arocena, a soul and jazz singer from Cuba. Dayme’ has a fantastic voice and she really sang her heart out for the appreciative audience sweltering in the thirty five degree sun. Her band of keyboards, bass and drums were very accomplished and this set up really suited her jazz songs. She started the set with some Afro Cuban Jazz spirituals and then upped the tempo with some dance numbers. She ended the set with a sensual song called Don’t unplug my Body which really got the crowd moving.
Back to the Zoo Stage to see an act called Bedouine which sounds like your typical Womadelaide act but in reality sounded like a very pleasant American female and male folk act. Bedouine is actually the name of the duo consisting of Azniv Korkejian and Gus Seyffert who plays bass, harmonizes and who produced the album. The set consisted of her just-released first album with a new untitled song thrown in for good measure.
Onto Stage Two to see Jojo Abot from Ghana. Jojo combines Afrobeat with electronica and neo-soul. She has a keyboard player and an excellent drummer who were both world class. Her back up dancers wearing bright red and yellow were wonderful. The highlight of the show for me was the call response song called To Li from one of her EPs. In this song, the audience calls back with To Li after each line. To Li means “bullshit” and is a dramatic term that cuts through the bullshit and calls it for what it is. Jojo ends the set with a homage to Missy Elliot called Mega Kpenu Nao which references lyrics from Work It. At the start of her set Jojo promised us good music, love and higher vibrations and for the most part, she delivered this.
My Bubba was next at the Zoo Stage a splendid female folk duo from Iceland and Sweden who were reminiscent of the sister duo First Aid Kit from Sweden. They started with an acapella version of a song called Dogs Laying Around Playing which like most of their songs had exquisite harmonizing. The only instruments they used was a guitar and lap harp. Most songs were sung in English but one that stood out was the most popular children’s lullaby sung in Icelandic. The story they tell about it is that it is sung by an outlaw’s wife to her newborn before she throws the baby into a waterfall to go on the lam with her husband. Quite Grim!. They round out there set with a cover of a Bob Dylan song called You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go which was brilliant.
Next on the main stage was not a music act but a performance from a company called Gratte Ciel called “Place des Anges” (Place of Angels). The act is performed on high wires above the main stage and this exclusive to Womadelaide 2018 act was a masterstroke selection. It is usually performed between tall buildings but was modified for Womadelaide. The performers and soundtrack are brilliant and I will remember the feathers falling down for many years to come. I have never experienced snow before but now I think I know what it would be like. The carpet of feathers on the main stage area was an incredible site.
Lastly, tonight is Gogol Bordello a Gypsy Folk Punk band that originated in New York in 1999 and over the years has become a truly international band with members from various countries and was the perfect band to close the main stage. Gogol Bordello, in my opinion, is very much like our own Cat Empire who are not as good on album as they are live. I had some reservations about seeing them but by the second song, I knew I had made the right choice as they were incredible.
They have an unbelievable energy on stage which lasted for the 95 minute set. They played songs from all their six albums and would have played more but ran out of time. A highlight for me was Mishto an extended jam which they prefaced with “there was a time when jazz and gypsy music and we are now going to take you there” The only person still in the band from 1999 is the lead singer Eugene Hutz who is a brash, enigmatic singer. At various times during the set people were picking up bundles of the massive feathers on the ground and throwing them in the air or on their friends
I then met up with some friends I had not seen all day to swap stories of the wonderful acts we had seen and what we are going to see tomorrow. I left the park kicking up the feathers in the air just like a kid.
Review by Richard De Pizzol