[EVENT ~ WORLD MUSIC ~ INT]
Botanic Park, Mon 9 Mar.
The last day of WOMADelaide for this year. The weather is almost perfect, crowd numbers are good, let’s get it on! Once again, Botanic Park becomes the hub of a very special community.
Minyo Crusaders prove to be a very enjoyable listen. Their Japanese folk music carries a recurring reggae undercurrent, and it’s all very danceable. They sound great, and they are also very attractive from a visual perspective. The easygoing groove is contrasted with a gentle change of place mid-way, which is met with approval from the crowd. Once the collective breath has been caught, it’s back to the dancing…
Mavis Staples, one of the highlights of this year’s program, appears with her band on the Foundation Stage. The first song, Stronger, signals both the musical and emotional intent of the performance. Slow-burning soul infused with passion. “Good evenin’ y’all,” she greets the massive crowd, bringing greetings from Chicago and much joy to Adelaide. We Get By, the title song from her latest album, is another powerful piece. The band is straightforward: three voices, bass, drums and guitar. It’s a perfect example of less being more. They are absolutely brilliant.
The four giant puppets that comprise Company Archibald Caramantran dance their way through the middle of the crowd. Despite the distraction, it only adds to the enjoyment of the concert, and to the overall wonder of WOMADelaide.
As well as the fabulous songs from the new album, there are other treats. Standouts include Freedom Highway, from the 1965 album of the same name (and all that goes with it), a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and a rousing Respect Yourself. At 80 years of age, Staples is in fine form; she sings powerfully and her between-song commentary is full of wit and passion. She’s no fan of Trump and suggests that she might even run for US Presidency. She’s joking, of course, but it brings more cheering and applause from the audience. As she leaves the stage the crowd is well aware that they have just seen something very special.
UK folkster Laura Marling plays solo on Stage 2, presenting her acoustic songs in front of an attentive crowd. She apologises more than once for not being ideal festival fodder but there’s no need. She fits perfectly into the WOMADelaide mix and proves a popular choice. Her beautiful voice, along with her interesting and sometimes pointed lyrics are accompanied by her assured guitar playing.
Wales and Senegal come together for a sunset concert by Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita. The harp and kora blend beautifully as the pieces traverses a wide and varied musical landscape. It’s an almost transcendental experience. Keita’s occasional vocals only add to the magic. Day turns to night, and the bats circle overhead, preparing to go in search of food.
My penultimate concert is back on Stage 2, where I witness the one-of-a-kind Ifriqiyya Electrique. Four musicians, powered by an unseen wall of sound, sing repetitive lines, almost chanting, with a passion that has to be seen and heard to be believed. The giant video backdrop only adds to the dramatic larger than life feel.
To end my WOMADelaide 2020 experience, it’s over to the Frome Park Pavilion to see Nottingham’s Sleaford Mods. It’s an hour of laptop-driven punk. The backline is mainly low-fi sounding drum and bass with the occasional flourish, topped with angry, ranting, sweary vocals, railing against all that is wrong with the world. The audience loves it. It’s a high-energy climax to the long weekend…
As I pass through the exit gates, the tiredness and sensory overload become apparent, but it’s been well worth it. Farewell WOMADelaide, see you in 2021…
All images courtesy of David Robinson