Botanic Park, Fri 11 Mar
Stage Two – 47SOUL
Having rested up during the day after Friday night’s festivities had me writing deep into Saturday morning, I rocked up to WOMADelaide just in time to catch the end of Middle Eastern hip-hop act 47SOUL’s 7:00pm Stage Two set, which packed the surrounding area tight with dancing party people as the sunset painted the clouds pink. I really enjoyed the laid back revolving synths of Meeli, and following an interlude where they warned the audience to get down low to duck simulated gunfire and make sure everyone was ok after, they closed with a commanding Intro To Shamstep.
I love that 47SOUL’s beats are danceable and their synths are trippy, but also that their songs all have a strong pop sensibility to them. They sound like if Kraftwerk had come from Syria and grown up on Public Enemy CD’s, and they put on a great, energetic live show packed with positivity despite the acknowledged state of the world. They’re playing again Sunday night and are worth checking out if you’re attending and missed them.
Foundation Stage – Asha Bhosle
I quickly made my way around the Foundation Stage to grab a spot up front for Indian singing legend Asha Bhosle, whose WOMADelaide bio prompted a double-take when I saw that she’s been singing in Bollywood films and concerts for over seventy years and has contributed to more than 12,000 tracks, a statistic I can’t even comprehend the tabulation for, much less the implications of.
She was in fine voice and completely in command of the stage, issuing gestures to her band and keeping a tight grip on a performance that appeared designed to allow for improvisation. She enlisted the assistance of her fourteen-year-old grand-daughter so that she could take breaks, first as a featured dancer and then later as a vocalist for two songs and a family duet during which Asha took charge of her protégé, motioning direction to her as they sang together.
The Bollywood fans in the audience were delighted, and sang along to the classics that they knew. I felt sad that I wasn’t more familiar with the music of someone who is so revered around the world, and couldn’t fully understand the performance I’m reviewing, but felt somewhat absolved when Bhosle advised us, “Money, love, and music: no need for language.”
Her band was sharp and highly danceable, making it somewhat regrettable that this concert was seated only, as it would have been an ideal concert to dance to. This unfortunately became an issue later on when one woman insisted on dancing at the front of the stage. Warned multiple times by security that she was obstructing the sitting audience’s view, a guard attempted to physically remove her, to which she responded by kicking him and struggling, eventually being wrestled away by two guards, to the horror of the audience up front. I understand that this was a family-friendly performance and that the seated format is intended to safely facilitate all-ages enjoyment, but the enforcement quickly escalated beyond what one might expect at an arts festival.
Stage Two – Australian Dance Theatre: The Beginning of Nature (World Premiere)
I quickly made my way around to another seated event, but thankfully, this time the only people dancing were onstage.
No sooner had I found a seat toward the rear of the Stage Two lawn than the Australian Dance Theatre was introduced, with a few words to explain that they would be premiering a new dance performance involving the idea of the rhythms of nature, with the live accompaniment of Zephyr Quartet. The introduction also noted that the performance would incorporate Kaurna language, and acknowledged the bond of the Kaurna people with the land.
What followed was a fantastic marriage of contemporary dance and ambient music. The dancers were masterful, moving fluidly through complex choreography and demonstrating personal technique and ensemble cohesion as they danced through several different conceptual pieces, each as interesting as the last. The piece involved demanding lifts, baton work with what appeared to be sticks painted bright green, a stage-length tapestry, and at one point, a sequence during which the dancers walked around on the shoulders of their fellow dancers in a revolving, standing two-storey stack, only to dismantle it as smoothly as they’d constructed it.
All the while, the audience sat silent as the sound of the Zephyr Quartet’s oscillating string echoes washed over them, aided by the chants of vocalists Shountai Batzke and Vonda Last. At times the dancers were dancing quickly, in rhythm and sync with each other despite the fact that there was no audible rhythm being played, only sustained tones from the strings, prompting me to wonder if they were dancing to the rhythm of their movement, or perhaps an unseen visual cue. Stagecraft aside, the performance was stunning, and the audience stood to applaud the dancers’ bows when the dance came to a close.
Foundation Stage – De La Soul
The crowd packed tightly in advance of De La Soul’s 10:15 set, but it was a good-natured bunch that still left enough room to groove and interact. The classic hip-hop outfit came to party, and immediately got to working the crowd and rhyming through Verbal Clap, It’s Like That and Vibration. The MC’s both decided that their respective sides of the audience were the best/smartest/loudest, and played us against each other for laughs and cheers.
Pos let us know that they were finishing up their new album for a midyear release, and that they are moving away from sample-based music. Their band allayed all concerns as they demonstrated the funky lockstep precision of a turntable with the versatility of trained musicians.
We waved our hands in the air, grooving and singing along when prompted as the group moved through Pass The Peas, Jenifa Taught Me and I Am I Be. They pulled out their breakout hit Me, Myself, and I, and then followed up with a bit of Al Green’s Love And Happiness. The crowd work continued; it was an open-air venue, but the roof was still on fire. There were calls and responses. Both the artists and the audience were having a great time, and while the timetable had De La down for an hour, that stretched to an hour and a half as they rocked through Saturdays, Ring Ring Ring, Sunshine and finished with the band rocking through jams on Walk This Way and For The Love Of Money.
As I made my way out of Botanic Park, I marvelled to myself that I had experienced Dabke, Bollywood, Contemporary Dance and Golden Age Hip-Hop in rapid succession and come away without some form of cultural whiplash. Such is the embarrassment of riches that passes for normal at WOMADelaide.
WOMADelaide continues at Adelaide Botanic Park from 11am until Mon 14 Mar.
Book at BASS or www.adelaidefestival.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of David Robinson.