Despite slightly lower crowd numbers on the WOMAD Monday, the last day of the festival boasted some of the best performances. With more moderate temperatures than the previous three days and a little more space around park, it was a thoroughly pleasant end to the event.
Thirty years after their appearance on Paul Simon’s seminal Graceland album, Ladysmith Black Mambazo showed that they are still one of the best a cappella groups on the planet with a mid-afternoon performance on the Foundation Stage. The rich and penetrating harmonies are a thing of true beauty, making for quite a transcendental listening experience. The group’s performance was heartfelt and energetic, but also characterised with a playful sense of humour, and by the end of the set they had the audience singing along.
Debashish Bhattacharya showed us why he’s considered the world’s most accomplished slide guitarist. Monday’s cooler weather meant it was perfect conditions to sit at the Zoo Stage and enjoy Debashish’s blend of classical Indian and western music. The sound issues from this stage had been solved from the previous days, sending the stunning echoes of the vocalist and musicians across the park, meeting with thunderous applause from an appreciative audience
Stage Two drew an impressive crowd to hear New Zealand-born crooner Marlon Williams and his band, the Yarra Benders. A natural on the stage who chats easily with the crowd, Marlon’s set-list was an enjoyable mix of his haunting ballads and toe-tapping bluegrass. Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders are one of those acts you just have to see live to truly appreciate just how good they are.
Over on the Novatech Stage Ainslie Wills delivered a very satisfying performance, showcasing her powerful and beautiful voice. She also knows how to put together a great track, with sweet melodic hooks, insightful lyrical observations and some nice complexities to her song constructions. Wills’ vocal ability was matched by a tight band with a strong rhythm section. Under the atmospherics of the tall trees at the Frome Road end of the park, it was a highly enjoyable set.
Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro delivered on their promise of ‘Godzilla funk’ with a high energy, soulful performance on the main stage where the crowd were up and dancing. This was Japanese James Brown and a whole lot of fun.
Having included Music in Exile by Songhoy Blues in The Upside News best albums of 2015, we were certainly anticipating their WOMADelaide set, and the Malian desert blues outfit more than met expectations, delivering one the standout performances of the festival. Having fled from jihadists who outlawed the playing of instruments, this is a group who truly understand the importance of music and the pure joy that it brings, and this is something that really shines through in the way they play. Frontman Aliou Touré performed the entire set with a huge smile on his face, leaping about in distinctive dance moves (which he also taught to the crowd), while guitarist, Garba Touré, is a delight to watch as he reels off some fantastic licks. Their performance garnered a highly enthusiastic response from the Stage 3 audience who raucously called the band back for an encore at the end of their hour long set.
Meanwhile back on Stage 2 Iceland based, American singer/songwriter John Grant treated us to a diverse set with electro-pop, rock, ballads and some friendly banter. He even sang a song about his favourite ice cream: salted butterscotch.
Seun Kuti brought an immense musical legacy to the main stage for the 7:15 slot, fronting Egypt 80, the band founded by his late father, the Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti. In contrast with Sunday evening’s chilled vibe, Kuti hosted a closing night party (after some technical delays at the start of the set). He is a charismatic performer, who traded vocals with saxophone duties, and ending the set shirtless in a very energetic display. His songs might carry a serious political message, but there was a celebratory, carnival feel to the show, aided by two very athletic female dancers.
Hazmat Modine, who opened the main stage on Friday night were also the last band to perform on the Novatech Stage for the festival. A great collection of engaging songs and the occasional sousaphone solo provided a fantastic atmosphere for the revellers who had lasted to the last night of the four day event.
The closing act on the Foundation Stage was the Asian Dub Foundation. By festival’s end numbers had thinned a little, but this proved useful for finding your own space and dancing away to the eclectic drum and bass grooves. Meanwhile Alpine played a crowd-pleasing set on the Zoo Stage, showing why they are a band on the rise, with cleverly constructed indie-pop tunes.
Sadar Bahar’s late night DJ set was an awesome way to end the weekend. The Novatech Stage and surrounds were transformed into a 70s disco with infectious beats and funky jives. Festival revellers soaked in every last minute of the music under the stars, dancing the night away and sending off WOMADelaide 2016.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor and Libby Parker; pictures by Alyssa Morran and Matthew Trainor.