New Plymouth Botanical Gardens, North Island, New Zealand
New Zealand is the first country of size to herald in the new year.This year it may have been the last country to host a music festival before the “great shutdown”.
Womad ,as most will know, is a world music festival started by Peter Gabriel et al to promote musics from around the world. I have attended the festival in Adelaide – Womadelaide, reasonably regularly for many years. The last coule were very hot,crowded and with the foot traffic and heat, very dusty. For an asthmatic like me I had had enough. The Womad caravan continues on to NZ after Adelaide so this year a group of us decided to make the trip “across the ditch” take in the festival and tour the north island as well.
Things were getting tight, with the virus hitting the northern hemisphere but down here it was the relative calm before the storm. So off we go!
First impressions- what a beautiful lush park and as we turn into the first staging area there is the perfectly formed Mt Taranaki- overlooking proceedings.It is very hilly, unlike the flat grasslands of Adelaide, which made it taxing when your preferred stages are at top and bottom of a major slope.
Very well-attended despite the virus fears, nary a mask in sight and plenty of spliff about in this chilled environment.
The centre piece is a big natural ampitheatre to a stage set back in a water body. Looked great but the added distance did detract from the connection between artists and audience.The usual Womad type stalls and plenty of kiwi wine available.
The programme is thinner than Adelaide, 3 days instead of 4, more local acts, exacerbated by some cancellations including a headliner Ziggy Marley – a big loss for this reggae loving country. OK on to the highlights.
Salif Keita – his valedictory tour. I have been a fan since Les Ambassadeurs but lost interest in recent years but this was great. Still in fine voice, cracking band featuring a kora player who did possibly the best solo bits on kora I have heard. Still in Mali the Trio Da Kali- voice ,balafon and ngoni. Best balafon I have heard. They have a record out with the Kronos Quartet and this was reproduced with a local string quartet. A bit underconfident at the start but still pretty damn good.
Mali again! Sekou Keita on kora and Catrin Finch from Wales on harp. Simply wonderful. Kora focusing on bottom end playing from the base of the strings and the harp at the top of the strings at the upper end. They have a couple of records out( both recommended) so they now mesh really well with their different rhythms.
India- the master violinist L Subramaniam, ever reliable, ever wonderful. My only complaint being the scheduling. He was put on in the hot part of the day whereas Womadelaide often schedules classical Indian music at dusk or late evening,often the lat act where you just lie back on the lawn,stare at the stars and soak it in.
Scotland – RURA Celtic fiddle, guitar, pipes and accordion. Wonderful stuff.
Britains jazz outfilt Ezra Collective were good as was Laura Marling though the was a bit too “small” solo on a big stage which probably caused so much talking.
Orquestra Akokan provided classic Cuban mambos and Flor De Toloache provided so Latino pop albeit a bit too saccharine at times.
New Zealand has a strong tradition in light soul and Soth Pacific reggae -lighter stuff than from the Caribbean. Troy Kinggiand L.A.B. provided the representation. Enjoyable without being too spectacular. There was a bunch of other stuff but I preferred to see artists that I liked twice than seek to consume the full smorgasbord.
So a pretty good festival, blessed by the weather nad just in a nick of time.
I will attempt to post some photos in the comments,
Very Womad, young old, plenty of people of Maori origin, as far as I could tell, and considerate people. Kids climbing past would invariably say sorry or excuse me- remarkable.
It made me think..
Yep I reckon I will do this again, maybe head down to the South Island aftewards.