Adelaide Botanic Park, Fri Mar 6
Wandering down the hill, towards Botanic Park, I silently count my blessings. It’s a beautiful early autumn day and I am headed to WOMADelaide.
The gates haven’t been open long. It appears that people are joining the end of the queue in larger numbers than they are getting in, so I decide to join the line up. Within five minutes, I have passed under the arch and I am a different person. I am now a citizen of this physically impermanent village, and will be for days to come. Let the fun begin.
People are smiling, excitedly chattering about who they cannot wait to see and hear. Many are dressed in what I suspect are once-a-year wardrobe items; baggy, brightly coloured, seldom seen in Rundle Mall… High in the trees, hundreds of bats hang upside down near Speakers’ Corner. I suspect they have no idea of the sonic cornucopia that is coming their way.
Barcelona’s colourful hairdressers, Osadia, are already at work, as is Mr Culbuto, the 320kg human kelly doll. The Spandexx Ballet troupe is leading the crowd through an ‘80s-style aerobic warm-up on the Zoo Stage.
The Kaurna Welcome on the Centre Stage provides an appropriate moment for both thought and reflection, and is followed by a set from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists The Painted Ladies. The band is showcasing their take on Vic Simms’ little-known 1973 album, The Loner. The size of the ensemble moves between three and 12 people during the performance. Half-way through, the band is joined by Simms himself, and he tells a little more of his story, and sings a few songs. Living My Life By The Days, dedicated to the condemned members of the Bali 9, is the highlight.
On Stage 2, the growing crowd is treated to some funky, bluesy North African sounds from Niger’s Bombino. The band members, resplendent in bright colours and sunglasses, present their “sounds of the desert” to dedicated listeners and passers-by alike. Layers of rhythmic guitar wash over the landscape.
I go for a wander among the bazaars and food stalls. The sights and aromas are delightful. There are a host of non-musical diversions at WOMADelaide, and they all play a wonderful part in creating an atmosphere of an enduring global community. Franco-Indian collaboration Artonik passes through the crowd, spreading The Colour of Time across the park.
A little later, in the early evening darkness, I hear the strains of C.W. Stoneking as he plays to fans at the Speakers’ Corner Stage. I see the loud and vibrant Romanian group Fanfare Ciocarlia on Stage 2, the “24-legged brass beast”. The stars are out and there’s a cool breeze blowing, providing a little relief after the warm sun of the afternoon.
I catch a few moments of Canada’s Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, thrilling folks with a manic musical meltdown on the Zoo Stage. I make my way to the Centre Stage for what is, I suppose, the headline act of the evening; a performance by Canada’s Rufus Wainwright.
Wainwright jokes with the audience, switches between piano and guitar, and invites his sister (Lucy Wainwright-Roche) on to the stage to join him in a song or two. He forgets the chords to one of his songs, blaming the immense talents he witnessed during the Buena Vista Sessions for blowing his mind. His voice is beautifully suited to the time and place of this performance. The rising full moon looks down on us, enjoying the show. Hallelujah is, unsurprisingly, a favourite of the huge crowd that has gathered to be part of this almost magical climax to the evening. If I had a lighter, I’d light it.
I’ve already seen so much. And missed so much. This is one big weekend, when music reigns over Adelaide.
Image courtesy of David Robinson