Botanic Gardens Adelaide
About to do a cull of apps on my phone and saw the excellent Womadelaide app so a quickish review before the icon goes poof.
I have written reviews of previous years which are available in the archive. Lovely location, close to city, rarely any rain etc. I don’t go every year preferring to review the lineup before committing. With the occasional exception, more on this later, Womadelaide restricts artists to 2 years only so it becomes a bitt of a challenge coming up with new headline acts without overstretching the “world music” label. But this year had enough of interest and a group of 6 booked an airb’n’b house 10 mins walk from the gate. Proved an excellent decision for comfort convenience and cost.
The drawcards for me were Anoushka Shankar , Pat Thomas from Ghana and Tinariwen.
Anoushka had a mix of traditional instruments plus a trap drum kit. I thought she was fantastic with her soundscapes though others who had seen her previously preferred her more traditional performance of a previous year.
Pat Thomas would be well into his seventies and was big when Ghanaian highlife was big in the 60s and 70s. He drifted out of the business as popularity waned but was sought out and encouraged to do some classic highlife. A band called Kwashibu Area from err Kwashibu Area were teamed up with him, being the only musicians in Accra able to play classic highlife sufficiently well. And that they did. 2 shows, the second one on a hot Sunday afternoon being the better show. Lovely loose languid melodies, that distinctive highlife guitar and some wonderful funky keyboards. Their record is well worth investigating and I will post a clip below.
Tinariwen. Well. I first saw this band when they played a Womad in the 90’s. They were unknown and playing in a small tent. I was right up front and those indigo robes, leathery skins and biting guitar riffs were a revelation. This was their third Womad( the exception I referred to) and each performance has been less and less impressive. Someone has to call this mob out. Last time they one if not 2 of the key members never fronted. Don’t know if a late cancellation but certainly never disclosed in advance. Womad people were asked before the festival if they would be there this time and it eas confirmed. Yeah they were there but some of the backing singers weren’t and they were down to a 5 piece. Desultory, perfunctory, lacklustre actually fucking boring. I walked over and then walked right on. There’s a bunch of good Tuareg bands around that and Womadelaide should look at them rather than Tinariwen.
A delight of Womad is the discovery of new musics and bands. This year it was Constantinople and Ablaye Cissoko. Here is a quote from Roots World ……..Constantinople,formed in Montreal in 1998, comprises Kiya Tabassian (voice, setar), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba) and Ziya Tabassian (tombak, percussion). Over the years the ensemble has collaborated with the likes of Frank London, Loren Sklamberg, Savina Yannatou, and many other artists from Mexico, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, India, China, Mongolia and Uzbekistan.
Joining Constantinople here is Senegalese kora player, singer and composer Ablaye Cissoko, who hails from a line of Mandinka griots. The project’s conceptual “itinerant garden” cultivates a spiritual communion wherein Persian strains (the Tabassians were born in Tehran) engage West African and Western classical elements on mutual aural terrain. Viola and percussion underpin the kora, setar and voice, fostering a deferential exchange that conjures sonic beauty through graceful simplicity. The music was simply beautiful and one a warm late summers evening in these beautiful gardens was the perfect place to discover them. I have been playing their 2015 album Jardins Migrateurs constantly.
Rahim AlHaj is a master oud player from Iraq his trio include santour and percussion. Their uncluttered, minimally amplified music was another perfect act for the environment.
Rajab Suleiman and Kitharas are a Taarab Orchestra from Zanzibar. I love Taarab music esp those 2 Globestyle records from the 80’s. It was a stinking hot afternoon and stage 2 cops face on so most of the crowd cowers under trees leaving the front of stage empty. This detracts from the show. I thought they were a bit average, the singer Saada Nassor looked the part but I was hoping something more.
Jake Savona is a Melbourne guy who has worked with a lot of Jamaican artists keeping the ld sounds alive. Havana Meets Cuba was touted as the first cross-cultural collaboration, Sly and Robbie, musicians from Buena Vista and Chucho Valdes’s band. if it has taken this long for collaboration – there is a reason for it. it doesn’t work. It’s like oil and water. Havana and Kingston might be close geographically but musically they are very far apart.
Womad always have performance artists, often French, not that there is anything wrong with that. High wire artists in white against a starry southern sky and feathers, lots of white feathers everywhere. Nice on day one but repeated every night and having feathers blowing everywhere looked more like mess than fun.
The biggest act in terms of performers and crowd-drawing capacity was the Maganiyar Seduction. To quote the Womad site “…..This extraordinary work is like nothing you will have seen before, with 40 musicians seated and gradually revealed in a purpose-built ‘jewel box’ like staging to create a dramatic and astounding build-up of instruments and voice. Spanning 3 generations of Manganiyars, a caste of musicians from the heart of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, this exuberant and joyful performance is a celebration of life itself.” And it really was good. The musical and visual power when all curtains were open was truly memorable.
But the highlight? Kamasi Washington. Truly creative jazz seamless with driving funk and shit hot musicians. What I liked best was him stopping and saying, “OK we’ve got 20 minutes left, let’s think about this” before deciding what to play next. None of your what’s next on the set list at my feet. It was all about being in the moment and what a moment it was. Kamasi for Prez!
A mix of old and young, hippies, hipsters, families and seniors such as your correspondent.
It made me think..
Been going to this festival since its inception. It was a very dry summer and this compounded byt ehamount of vehicle and foot traffic in setting the festival up meant some areas lose their grass. Once the crowds camein stomping around clouds of dust wrre raised and, being so still, they tended to hang in the air. People were walking around with facemasks on – hardly a good look for enviro Womad .I didn’t wear one and should have. I ended up with bad asthma and was sick for 3 weeks when I got home. Not sure what they can do about it but for me and others it is presenting as a genuine health risk.