The final day of WOMADelaide 2017 provided many of the festival’s highlights. The rains had cleared, giving way to perfect autumnal weather that stretched into the late evening, and the slightly lower crowd numbers made for a wonderfully chilled vibe. Add to that a terrific line-up of acts, and it all made for a great end to the weekend.
Lamine Sonko got the party started early in the day at Stage 2 with an energetic blend of afro-beat, reggae and woodwind/brass. A performance brimming with optimism and conviction, he declared his backing band, the African Intelligence, to be ‘the FBI of world peace’. They were a joy to watch, with infectious grooves and some great solos over the hour long set.
Nattali Rize made a welcome return to WOMADelaide this weekend; having previously lit up the stage with Blue King Brown, she was back with her dynamic solo project, and you can feel the impact of her relocation to Jamaica in this new material (even recording a duet with Julian Marley). Featuring energetic use of percussion and a mix that was heavy on the bass, Rize’s commanding performance, powerful voice and activist passion made this a completely engaging WOMAD set.
The prominence of hip hop has really grown in recent years at WOMADelaide. Once the domain of the smaller stages and late night sets, L-FRESH The Lion graced Stage 3 mid-afternoon to a large, enthusiastic crowd. Warming us up with a DJ set featuring the likes of Bowie and INXS, L-FRESH made quite an entrance. Well supported by a three-piece ensemble, DJ and backing singer, it was a polished, life-affirming set that showed just how much this genre (and the WOMAD festival) has evolved.
BaBa Zula was next on the Foundation Stage, with a vibrant mix of psychedelia, traditional Turkish music and colour. It was a whole lot of fun. Read our interview with the band here.
In a day full of great sets, the standout was A.B. Original on Stage 2. Armed with what was probably the most important album release in this country last year (or for many years), this was a dynamic and instructive performance. If L-FRESH was indicative of hip hop’s evolution at WOMAD, A.B. Original was undertaking a full-scale take over, and it was simply stunning, bringing the crowd with them, confronting some uncomfortable truths about Australia. And while the topics covered were often grim, they are so engaging in performance, making excellent use of humour, such that the audience was always with them. Half way through the set the pair gave over to New York DJ Total Eclipse, whose skill with a turntable is quite astounding. One of the joys of a festival like WOMADelaide is the opportunity to witness collaborations, and the fact that two artist who contributed to the Reclaim Australia LP happened to be in town (Caiti Baker for WOMAD and Dan Sultan for Adelaide Festival’s 1967) made for one of those perfect festival moments. The set built a great momentum, culminating in a recreation of the Triple J Like a Version cover of Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb Things’ and big single, ‘January 26’, where Sultan let loose.
Back at the Foundation Stage, Columbian Mambo orchestra La Mambanegra kept the party going, presenting an intoxicating blend of latin music with modern funk and hip hop grooves. It was all so much fun, that despite the fatigue of being deep into day four, the feet of the crowd were still dancing right along. For those who missed out or want an extra dose of La Mambanegra, they play the Riverbank Palais 9:30 tonight, with tickets available here or at the door.
Inna Modja was the final act of the weekend on Stage 2; confronting a range of social issues, her music is bright and polished, delivered with charm and a strong vocal performance. Rear projections were an effective enhancement to the show.
UK ska pioneers, The Specials were an appropriately scheduled final main act of the festival. They still play with style and conviction, building a powerful wall of sound from opening number ‘Ghost Town’ and maintaining that throughout the feature set.
WOMADelaide 2017 was another triumph of diversity, bringing the world to our doorstep in a celebration of music and dance.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Photos by Tessa Manning