In a lively start to the day, Flavia Coelho backed up her evening performance of the previous day with a powerhouse repeat set on Stage 3. Commanding audience attention with her brilliant smile and lithe dancing, she had everyone cheering, raising their hands in the air and copying her Brazilian moves. Her music is a heady mix of funk, dubstep and Latin grooves that fits perfectly with WOMAD. But it’s the authentic joy that she takes in performing that makes Flavia most engaging. Her performances certainly indicate that next time she comes here she surely deserves a night-time spot on one of the bigger stages.
Melbourne artist Mista Savona took the sun drenched centre stage, collaborating with Jamaicans, Prince Alla and Randy Valentine to bring us a mix of old and new Reggae styles. Declaring an intention as they started to get us all dancing, the afternoon audience were very happy to comply.
The following performance spots offered some quieter moments. Father and son combination, Toumani and Sidiki Diabate, presented some exquisite West African classical music following their award winning album of 2014.
Meanwhile on Stage 3 it was good to see WOMADelaide giving a local artist an opportunity to shine, with Willunga singer Julia Henning showcasing her sweet voice and affecting songs. A developing artist, she adeptly covered Kate Bush and engaged with the appreciative audience, suggesting that we will hear more from her in the future.
The tempo escalated swiftly when Romanian Gypsy outfit Fanfare Ciocarila took to the Internode Centre Stage, announcing that it was party time and providing a rollicking good time for all with their brass and woodwind Balkan dance music.
Neneh Cherry is one of the Festival drawcards but, in some strange programming, her first performance was squeezed into the confines of the Speakers Corner Stage. With huge numbers flocking there for her set, it was difficult to get a decent viewing spot between the crowd and the trees. Cherry nevertheless gave a spirited and soulful performance with her slick baking duo, Rocketnumbernine+. Her rendition of “Woman” had particular resonance on International Women’s Day. At least her repeat set on Monday is programmed for the more accommodating Stage 3 and will be one to watch.
Given the quieter introspection of their recordings, First Aid Kit proved a surprise, full of fun and energy, and showed why they have graduated to a feature set on the main stage since their debut WOMADelaide performance of a few years back. With glorious harmonies and blending folk, pop and country, they drew a huge, appreciative audience. Amongst their own well-crafted songs, they also gave a moving cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” before showing that they are capable of rocking out with a Jack White number.
Astronomy Class provided a very WOMAD experience, mixing Aussie Hip Hop with the Cambodian pop of singer Srey Channthy in an engaging set of political and story-telling songs. It’s a strange blend of musical influences that shouldn’t work but it really does, especially under the magic of the Moreton Bay trees on a WOMADelaide evening.
The headline act of the night, and one of the main attractions of the Festival was Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour. He may have slowed slightly since his last WOMADelaide appearance eleven years ago, but he still has the sweetest of voices with amazing vocal control, one of the best bands in the business and an incredible back-catalogue of songs to choose from.
The special moment that everyone had anticipated with Neneh Cherry billed on the same festival came about in the latter half of the set with the two reuniting one stage for a beautiful rendition of their 1994 hit duet, “7 Seconds”. N’Dour told the appreciative audience that such a moment was “for this place only”. This is why we love WOMAD. The moment was slightly marred, however, by some ordinary sound mixing that was thankfully resolved by the second half of the song. N’Dour’s set was a high-energy spectacle, featuring acrobatics and solos aplenty; his music is all inspiration and joy. The extended performance spot came to a close with beautiful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, and everyone leaving with a smile.
Meanwhile on the Zoo Stage, Australian soul sensation Emma Donovan provided a bluesy late night session amongst the perfect atmosphere provided by the tree laden setting. Quietly spoken but with a massive voice, she had the support of a great band, in The Putbacks, and some beautiful harmonies with he backing vocalist. It’s great to see a local artist appropriating a very American style of music and making it her own. Donovan connects with her audience and shares her own stories and those of her family, with one very special moment being when she performed an indigenous song; the language she said came from “around these parts.”
The final set of the night came from the innovative Public Service Broadcasting, presenting a unique audio-visual spectacle that combines live instruments (including drums, guitar and banjo) with samples, loops and retro film. It’s all meticulously planned, including the quirk of speaking to the audience via computer voice, and makes for a very impressive performance. Incorporating both high energy dance music and moments of rousing beauty, this was the perfect way to round off WOMADelaide Day 3.
By Matthew Trainor and Libby Parker
Photos by Alyssa Morran and Rebecca Karlsson