WOMADELAIDE 2017: DAYREVIEW

Honduran songwriter, Aurelio and his band kicked off WOMADelaide Day 3 by chasing the rain away momentarily and replacing it with a spirits-raising set of sunshine and the offer of friendship.

Apologising for not being a headliner as yet, he promised to return at the top of the bill next time, so that more people would be in the mood for dancing and letting their hair down.

Bemoaning prohibitive immigration laws around the world, he had today’s crowd mimic pelicans – because they can travel visa free – and the sight of hundreds of rain poncho clad Adelaideans ‘flying’ around the parklands was a sight that won’t be easy to forget!

Aurelio’s band were propelled by three percussionists , a bass player and some wonderful lead guitar work – think the sound of ┬áSantana crossed with King Sunny Ade’s band.

nahtty man 2 small.jpgA great start to the day.

Now Melbourne based, Ethiopian funk and reggae artist, Nhatty Man and his band Gara, delivered possibly the most explosively exciting set of the Festival so far.

Nhatty Man was born to be in the spotlight and his high energy dance moves inspired a packed crowd to thrust and jump in unison for the entire hour of his set.

His red-hot band of fellow Ethiopians and Australian musos did not let the musical velocity slow for a minute, and made people forget that the weather was trying its hardest to dampen everyone’s spirits.

Nhatty Man 1 – Mother Nature 0.

Playing only their third gig ever, Bokante, a nine-piece multi-racial experimental jazz infused Creole-French collective refuse musical pigeonholing.

At times they sounded a little like Talking Heads in their Remain In Light era, and at other times they struck a more dreamy groove, and sultry and lithe chanteuse, Malika Tirolien, from Guadalope, hit ethereal notes a la Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins, and at other times she sounded a little like Meshell Ndegeocello.

As this band play more live shows together they will be come a sensational live act who offer innovative and original soundscapes overlaid with sensual vocals and, quite often, blazing guitar solos of such quality that Robert Fripp, or Adrian Belew, would be proud to call them their own.

Local boy Jesse Davidson made his WOMADelaide debut on the Moreton Bay Stage, and although he was a little overawed he and his band added a little bit of straight-edged indie rock into the WOMAD mix.

Davidson’s band, led by Chris Panousakis, aka Timberwolf, on guitar provided some musical punch to Davidson’s songs which at this early stage of his career still lack the edge that will be necessary to stand out in this genre.

archie 2 smallIt is a case of ‘watch this space’ to see if Davidson will evolve into the sort of performer who can consistently win an audience in what is an overcrowded market.

Archie Roach on Stage 3 played his lone WOMAD set to a large crowd of people hunkered down underneath umbrellas, raincoats and plastic shopping bags. It is a testimony to Roach that his audience should be so stoically committed to watching him perform.

Roach has arguably the most soulful voice in Australia, and delivered a beautiful set of songs stretching back to his earliest recordings.

A proud and dignified performance.

Chilean hip-hop artist, Ana Tijoux, took to the Foundation Stage and delivered a high octane performance, her band working up a delicious fusion of hip-hop and Latin tinged jazzy soul.

ana tijoux 3 small.jpgThe horn section revelled in the freedom to counterpoint Tijoux’s fast raps, that even though they were in Spanish, clearly conveyed her political passions.

Her sassy strolling around the stage and her comfortable relationship with her audience made for compelling viewing and listening.

The announcer on Stage 3 declared New York outfit, Sinkane, ‘defied categorisation’ but he was wrong.

They clearly belong in the category: ‘awesome’.

The band boasts a multi-racial line-up, and befitting this fact, their music is also formed by a melange of styles: funk, soul, bossa, reggae, R’n’B, psychedelia and technopop. This diversity is often apparent within the confines of one tune, but always integrated seamlessly and hypnotically into one cohesive whole.

Their tight muscled sound, their multi-instrumental skills, their powerful and affecting vocals, and even their ‘Enossifications’, combined to deliver one of the most impressive performances of the weekend.

bebel 2 smallBack at the Foundation Stage, Bebel Gilberto was playing a ‘seated performance’. This meant that everyone had to park themselves down on the wet ground and sit still for her performance. Not ideal.

Gilberto is a South American superstar so expectations were high.

Unfortunately her anaemic bossa stylings did not go down well on the night. Her performance seemed distracted and the songs were simply not dynamic enough to command attention, and at times it sounded as if her vocal were off pitch.

It was a misstep to schedule her in a prime evening slot, and for the first time this weekend crowd chatter largely drowned out her performance.

One of the big draws for the festival was the Phillip Glass Ensemble who were to play the soundtrack to the cult film, Koyaanisqatsi, in its entirety.

Another wet backside endurance test, the Ensemble played in front of a screening of the entire film which was projected on a screen at the back of the stage. This meant that, unless you were seated directly in front of the stage, most of the film was obscured from view.

To compound these sight-line issues, much of the piece is quiet and the incessant beats of the Bamba Wassoulou Groove over on Stage 3 bled into the performance at its most delicate points.

phillip glass 2 smallIt was a fascinating choice for an outdoor festival, and whilst many found the experience deeply moving, a small pocket of Adelaide’s less patient found it necessary to whoop and cheer at points in the film which showed beer being bottled and when it showed Pacman games being played!

The last sequence in the film when the space rocket explodes and falls flaming back to earth in slow motion still packs an incredible emotional punch.

Cold and damp, there was just enough energy left to catch the start of Welsh folk experimentalists, 9Bach, on the Zoo Stage.

Their mix of contemporary and traditional instrumentation and their beautiful Welsh accented vocals made this Welsh boy feel pangs of what I took to be homesickness – but what turned out to be the early stages of hypothermia – so I could not stay for the entire performance. But what I did hear made me want to check them out more closely in future.

Wow, what a day! And there is still another big day yet to come!

Reviewed by Ken Grady

Pictures by Tessa Manning

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