WOMADelaide @ Botanic Park, Adelaide 14/3/2022

Day 4 of Womadelaide 2022 and you could not have asked for better weather. A quick walk to the Zoo Stage is first on the agenda to see Valanga Khoza from the band Makepisi doing a workshop. Valanga sang as well as played the Kalimba and guitar. The Kalimba is a thumb piano that consists of a small wooden board with metal tines that you pluck and it sounds wonderful. Valanga also told us stories about when he was growing up in Southern Africa in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and his fight to end apartheid. It was a very interactive session with the crowd singing and Valanga coming off the stage to join us. His bandmates from the Makepisi band joined him on stage for a great acapella song to finish things off.

Next up is the beautiful sounding Eishan Ensemble on Stage 7. They are led by Persian tar (lute) player Hamed Sadeghi with other members on percussion, sax, double bass and other guitar. We were treated to some gentle middle eastern music and it was a relaxing start to what lay ahead for me later in the day

I headed to the gym at the new Botanic High School to see the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra do an hour of musical pieces called Silence but was unfortunately turned away as the 250 capacity had been reached. The good news was that they will be performing it again later in the year.

Instead, I headed to the main stage to see Te Tangi O Te Ka’ara which were a fun ensemble from the Cook Islands that taught us the difference between the musical styles between the north and south islands. The south was more percussive whereas the north was more melody focussed with the ukulele. They told us about their various drums and we had dancing with champion women dancers as well.

Quickly back to Stage 7, I saw one of my highlights of the day with Cedric Burnside from the US who is doing an Australian tour after Womadelaide. He is an unassuming genuine guy who plays North Mississippi Hill Country Blues. His grandfather was famed bluesman RL Burnside and Cedric started out playing in his band many years ago. For the first three songs, it was just him and his guitar and from the fourth song onwards he was joined by drummer, Artemis Laseuer. What a sound they created together so incredibly rich which was amazing as it was just the two of them. They mostly played songs from his two most recent albums. Highlights were I’m Hurting, Hands Off That Girl and a newly recorded unreleased song about deadlines which was recorded in his newly built Juke Joint in Mississippi which Cedric invited us all to if we were in the area.

Next up is the exuberant Melbourne Ska Orchestra on the Foundation Stage. Today they had twenty performers on stage playing ever-popular ska music. Nicky Bomba is the bandleader and he is the king of getting the crowd involved. With an incredible animated brass section, the audience was dancing as one. They played many of their favourite tunes like He’s a Tripper, Get Smart Theme and a short cover of The Specials Message to Rudy. They were given an understandably extended set which was much appreciated.

On Stage 2 was King Stingray who are absolutely huge with the kids at the moment. They had two songs in last year’s Triple J Hottest 100 as well as winning Unearthed Artist of the year and quite rightly are the coolest of the cool and a very clever choice by Womadelaide. They did not disappoint. Their surf-rock hooks and catchy guitar riffs showed why they are so popular. For a band that only has three released songs, I was very interested to hear what else they would play. Apart from the great singles Milkumana (used in the Womadelaide commercials) and Hey Wanhaka they played the catchy insistent Camp Dog, Life Goes On and a tribute to their home called Sweet Arnhem Land among others. I look forward to seeing what these guys will do in the future.

At the Zoo Stage next was Karen Lee Andrews who I knew nothing about but was very impressed with her beautiful bluesy raspy voice and the tightness of her band. Journeyman, Adelaide born, Lachy Doley was on keyboards and he and Karen’s band were just so professional. This was Karen’s first time at Womad and I am hoping she plays in our state again soon. The crowd loved her but I found the annoying thing was that like a lot of performances that were designated as being non seated most people were. It was only towards the end of the set that the majority were up and dancing. The song Love You was an excellent showcase of the softer side of her voice and Lachy’s blues organ. The final song Higher really rocked out and was the highlight for me.

After a long walk to Stage 3, I saw a most excellent set by a group from Brazil that started in the 60s and 70s called Azymuth and Marcos Valle. The only thing I knew about this band was that my late brother really loved them and I felt I should go to a tribute to him. I was not disappointed. The set was in two parts with the three members Azymuth by themselves playing some jazz-funk songs that were so trippy and with brilliant double keyboards, drums and Robert Fripp like guitar work. Halfway through Marcos Valle and a Miles Davis like trumpet player were added and this just added to the incredible spaced-out sound. I was reminded of both Kamasi Washington and Thundercats who I had seen in previous years at Womadelaide on this very stage. A little after that Marcos sang some songs with guest Patrizia helping him out.

Back over to the Main Stage for the last set for the weekend on the main stages was Adelaide’s own Paul Kelly who had not played at Womadelaide since 2006 with his Stormwater Boys project. Paul Kelly was so much more popular now with the Triple J crowd on board and everybody’s favourite Aussie Christmas How to Make Gravy. The first song was Finally Something Good with its absolutely killer piano riff and then the hits Before too Long and Careless. I was very happy that Paul did not just give us the greatest hits as I have seen him more times than another other act in my life and was hoping for some more obscure cuts which he played. Some of those were The Oldest Story in the Book with its Venn diagram of relationships, Firewood and Candles with a guitar riff by Ash Naylor from Even and Midnight Rain and The Pretty Place (with Linda Bull) from the 2001 album Nothing but a Dream Where did that time go?

Just like every time I have seen Paul in the last 36 years his band is always in top form and helped him round out the night with some killer tracks like Sweet Guy (with Vika Bull on vocals), Dumb Things, Gravy, Deeper Water and quite appropriately From Little Things, Big Things Grow which to me mirrored the success of Womadelaide over the last 30 years

Another great four days of Womadelaide come to a close. Due to Covid, I noticed that there were fewer international acts this year and I hope that is changed back for the 2023 event.

WOMADelaide Review By Richard De Pizzol

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