For the second day of WOMADelaide 2017 audiences enjoyed mild temperatures, cloud cover to minimise sunburn, and very little rain until well into the evening.
So there was little excuse for people not to join in the workshop run by Dancenorth, Lucy Guerin Inc & Senyawa on the Zoo Stage. Rully Shabara’s improvised vocal soundscapes provided dancers Samantha Hines and Ashley McLellan the inspiration for their moves and, ultimately, the model for audience participation. Participants were soon seduced into forming a cacophonous ‘choir’ of their own sounds and some were later invited to improvise their own movements to sounds supplied through inner ear pieces.
Japan’s Oki Dub Ainu Band, fronted by Oki Kano, a master of the Tonkori, delivered some intoxicating soundscapes that incorporated traditional instrumentation into hypnotic trancelike grooves underpinned, at times, by deep, driving bass sounds. They conjured up a mix of influences rich in aural imagery that took the listener into a headspace that was at once alien but at the same time, comfortably familiar. A great start to the day’s musical journey.
Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence offered their audience an experience in pure exuberance and excitement in a set immersed in infectious Afro-Cuban rhythm. Their offer was accepted without hesitation. This 12 member collective had the audience dancing deliriously from the outset, loving the colour, the movement and the feverish energy of the band.
Keeping up the momentum, the Bamba Wassoulou Groove, out of Mali, also served up more delicious and joyful African rhythm. The hypnotic intertwining rhythmic lines of the band’s three guitarists locked into musical patterns that built collectively into a powerful and irresistible wave of ecstatic happiness. A magnificent hour of music at its most uplifting.
On the Moreton Bay Stage, local singer-songwriter Mane drew a large and appreciative crowd who wanted to hear her indie-folk compositions that have made waves recently on Triple J Unearthed. Mane has an excellent voice, albeit with occasional Lene Lovich vocal inflections, and her songs are engaging. She was not fazed by the large crowd and her performance suggested she will be playing to even larger crowds very soon.
The Warsaw Village Band are an odd concoction. It is as if, somewhere in the Polish countryside this band, instead of finding Elvis Presley records, discovered a cache of recordings by obscure avant-garde composers that provided the inspiration for them to form a band.
Fronted by two violinists and a dulcimer player, and backed by a bass drum player and another with a tambour, along with a bass player and a trumpeter, they created a mix of folk chanting and dischordant melodies that somehow meld into a captivating whole. Their paean to spring, The Owl, for instance, celebrates the changing of the season in a tune that is one part peasant folk, and one part akin to the Mission Impossible theme tune. Intriguing.
Back at the Zoo Stage for the first part of Brushy One String’s set. The Jamaican’s sweet and soulful Caribbean lilt was the perfect fit for a summer afternoon under the trees. His signature characteristic is that he plays a one-string acoustic guitar, and whilst this is unusual, it is soon apparent that this stark musical accompaniment actually allows his appealing vocal style to be heard to full effect. It was a crowd-pleasing performance of humility and humour.
Korean percussionists, TAGO, provided the most theatrical performance of the day. Their synchronised and choreographed drumming was something you needed to see rather than hear. Utilising a variety of percussive instruments and objects the group delivered a show that was a little like seeing an Asian version of the stage show, Stomp. An invigorating and exhausting performance.
Multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, Toni Childs, finished the day session with a set of largely new tunes that failed to connect fully with the audience. Plagued by what she thought to be sound mix issues, she did not look like she was that keen to be on stage.
Sinkane took to the main stage for the dinner time slot, with a slick blend of cultures and genres culminating in one very appealing package. The US based outfit came armed with a nice sense of groove and some excellent melodies and garnered a strong reaction from the early evening crowd.
Angus Stone project, Dope Lemon really suited the vibe over on Stage 3. While their show at the Gov last year was first rate, the music worked even better when played in Botanic Park at sunset, with an atmosphere mirroring Stone’s relaxed persona. Enthusing about his enjoyment of WOMADelaide, he confessed that he’d even managed a nap while chilling out at the main stage earlier in the day. With a great collection of songs from last year’s album, the band works really well together, at times verging into Pink Floyd style instrumental jams. Winding up with the popular ‘Uptown Folk’, it was a very pleasing set.
The Waifs made a welcome return to WOMADelaide over on the Foundation Stage, reminding us just how many great songs they’ve got in the back-catalogue. With terrific harmonies, they enjoy the sort of connection that comes from playing together for so long (quipping halfway through the set that the newest member of the band joined 15 years ago). The Waifs clearly love performing and, although large raindrops were now falling, this served only to energise both band and audience. They may have been doing songs like ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘London Still’ for around 15 years now, but manage to make this material sound fresh and vital.
The late night slot on the main stage was filled by Emir Kusturica, the Serbian Palme d’Or winning film-maker, who also turns out to be a terrific bandleader with his No Smoking Orchestra.
While the crowd had thinned a little by this stage, those who had stayed on were up for a dance, with even the photographers working in the pit moving to the music at the start of the set. It was highly enjoyable stuff, although inviting a group of women onto the stage during one song and getting them to do push-ups was a questionable and unnecessary move.
With half of the festival still to come, WOMADelaide Day 2 was another wonderful celebration of diversity, passion and musical virtuosity.
Reviewed by Ken Grady and Matthew Trainor
Photos by Tessa Manning