Over the weekend around 90,000 local, national and international guests helped celebrate WOMADelaide’s 25th birthday at Botanic Park. No other festival on the circuit has the diversity that WOMAD offers, and this year was no different with over 400 artists from 30 different countries all offering their own unique flair and flavour. Yewth was there for the four-day festival, and as a recap our editor Caleb Sweeting shares some standout moments.
THE KAURNA OPENING
Kaurna elder, Steve Gadlabarti Goldsmith opened WOMADelaide 2017 and spoke of his people’s original ownership of Botanic Park – it was an appropriate time to reflect on the history of the land we were drinking, eating and dancing on over the long-weekend. He welcomed those who were there to celebrate WOMAD’s 25th birthday, whether it was their first or 25th time; it really felt like a big family gathering.
A friend recommended we check out Ana Tijoux, a respected Español rapper – I’m glad we did. Her fierce, but tender flavour of rap revolves around politics and social injustice. Between songs she spoke of International Women’s Day - “This week it was the day of power for women, and this should be everyday”. You couldn’t help but feel positive about the future for women with trailblazers like Ana Tijoux leading the next generation of girls looking for real change.
Montaigne also delivered a breathtaking show. I’ve seen the Sydney singer on three other occasions before WOMAD… the first was actually a gig presented by this publication. That was about a year ago, and since then she has not only grown as a vocalist, but has such a magnetic stage presence that is truly incomparable.
Over at the Zoo Stage I bumped into Matthew Lambert (also known as Suffa of the Hilltop Hoods) gettin’ down to Darwin singer-songwriter, Caiti Baker. This was the first time I had heard Caiti Baker live and solo (a few times before with A.B. Original) and she owned the spotlight with a whole lotta soul and groove that you can’t help but move your feet to.
Oof, A.B. Original blew their set out the water. This was the fourth time I had seen Briggs and Trials perform together – the first when they had just released their debut record, Reclaim Australia, and since then every set has seen more and more people singing along (a very positive indicator that AB are changing the way we think of Australian history). Their WOMAD set was like one massive fuck you party to White Australia, which still has a black history. Only days prior they took out the Australian Music Prize as the first Indigenous act to win the prestigious annual prize and they had the likes of Caiti Baker and Dan Sultan on stage to celebrate. The crowd lit up when they saw swag-man Dan Sultan join the stage for a high energy performance of ‘January 26’. However, Caiti Baker's soaring vocals and fiery stage presence stole the show. If you haven’t seen A.B. Original live yet, I highly recommend you do.
I wasn’t even born at the time of Archie Roach’s debut performance at WOMADelaide in 1992, but 25 years later there I was witnessing the ‘voice of indigenous Australia’ for the first time. The heavens opened up on the Saturday and instead of hindering the set, the rain added to the spiritual performance under the trees in Botanic Park. At moments I found myself closing my eyes as the drops of rain lightly sprinkled over my eye lids, the atmosphere was incredible. No matter how cliché it sounds, music really can heal wounds especially when delivered by performers like Archie.
Hanoi Masters presented a meaningful performance with songs about the aftermath of the Vietnam War. I was moved by the themes and emotions and drawn into the conversations about the unique Vietnamese instruments that were being played on stage. Most intriguing of all was a fiddle-like instrument called the k’ni, played with a bow, where the player also uses their mouth as an amplifier. The dan bau was another one-stringed instrument, but don’t be fooled by it’s simplicity - Van-Anh Vo of Hanoi Masters performed the craziest cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ I’ve ever seen/heard. She can shred.
HEAPS OF LOCAL TALENT
This year there was no shortage of Adelaidians – Electric Fields, Jesse Davidson, Xanga, Joy & Sparks, Flamingo and Hemingstein all had standout performances, with local songstress MANE maybe even needing a bigger stage for the packed out audience who were there to see her at the Moreton Bay Stage.
Columbia’s La Mambanegra’s performance was nothing less than HOT. They were one of the final acts I saw after boogying for four nights and three days and the nine-piece’s sassy, sexy and high energy mixture of funk, hip-hop and salsa motivated me to dance my hardest for the final moments of WOMADelaide 2017.
Photos by Wade Whitingon, Georgia Matthews & Reuben Gore.
Stay tuned for our full WOMADelaide gallery coming soon.