Botanic Park, Fri 6 Mar.
Having lost count of the number of WOMADelaide’s I have attended since they started way back in 1992, there is always something warmly familiar about walking through the gates into this wondrous celebration of music, dance, food, culture and people. In a world where there are some those attempting to weaponise the differences between us, WOMADelaide serves to show us we are all the same despite differences in our beliefs, religions, culture, skin tones, sexualities. We are all people and we all need to celebrate our similarities and common ground. This festival, more than any other, offers an almost Utopian atmosphere where people aren’t squabbling about things, kids are running around, people of all ages are eating exotic food, dancing to new sounds and there is a LOT of smiling.
It’s a beautiful 24 degrees and perfect WOMADelaide weather as people pour into the site for the wonderful Welcome To Country before the legendary Blind Boys Of Alabama get to some fantastic gospel blues. Their mash-up of House Of The Rising Sun and Amazing Grace was easily an early highlight for the weekend. Kate Miller-Heidke has a massive crowd for her six o’clock set full of ‘popera’ songs new and old like Can’t Shake It, Last Day On Earth and You’ve Underestimated Me Dude. A long and captivating version of Humiliation showcases the remarkable guitar skills of Miller-Heidke’s husband Keir Nuttall. Including the song Sarah – a harrowing true story about her friend going missing at a music festival – might have been slightly misjudged at a music festival, but when she finished with last year’s Australian Eurovision entry Zero Gravity everybody went bananas.
Cuban big band Orquseta Akokan set hearts racing with mambo magic with front man and striking front man Jose Pepito Gomez in his white suit mesmerising everybody. Taiwanese dance company B-Dance combined ballet and martial arts in a breathtaking ethereal display with their piece Floating Flowers.
The size of the crowd for Australia’s own Cat Empire is massive. It’s the bands fifth appearance at WOMADelaide (in its sixteen year history) and they are clearly festival favourites. Opening with Kila from the most recent album Stolen Diamonds the main field in front of the Foundation Stage is a sea of arms, legs and movement; a swirling mix of funk, South American rhythms, dub reggae, ska and pop. It got a little too jazz fusion me at one point so I went off for food and returned in time for a bombastic encore including the exuberant Hello Hello and The Chariot.
Heading over to the Frome Road stages I ran into jungle legend General Levy giving it some ragga and drum ‘n’ bass chucking in some Aussie Aussie Aussie into the mix. Nice to hear some jungle so close to the zoo; I hope the tigers appreciated it. Adelaide’s own DJ legend Late Nite Tuff Guy, as ever, was seamlessly killing it with a set of disco era deep cuts that had dancers beating the chilly evening by keeping their pulses racing.
What wonders will the rest of the weekend hold?
WOMADelaide continues at Botanic Park from 11am until Mon 9 Mar.
Book at womadelaide.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Images courtesy of Ian Bell