Coming into Botanic Park well before any of the scheduled stage performances begin is an education in itself. The exponentially increasing ‘snowdrifts’ of feathers gleam brightly in the sun and the gently synchronised movements of the yoga classes beneath the Moreton Bay figs creates a sense of the calm before the multicultural storm that awaits us all later in the day.
Stallholders are already starting to get busy as festival goers make the most of this relaxing time before getting down to some serious spectating. Even the beer tent is doing some trade distributing mid-morning flavoured hydration to already desperate sun-dodgers.
Soon, though, the Day 3 sessions begin, starting with Noura Mint Seymali from Mauritania on the Foundation Stage, snapping people out of their Sunday morning reverie with her Afro-funk and blues hybridisations. This woman’s slow and demure entrance on to the stage was misleading – she is a powerhouse of song, with a full-throated voice that resonated loudly throughout all of the park.
She sounded like a cross between the bluesy growl of Big Mama Thornton, but with a dose of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy – ‘Paralysed’ style – thrown in. At times, her voice was a little overpowering perhaps, but she always commanded your full attention!
Seymali’s band all played western instruments but coaxed original and unique sounds out of the traditional guitar, bass and percussion format. For one song she even sounded like she was performing a mutant cover of the Urban Dance Squad’s 1991 hit The Bureaucrat Of Flacco Street! An intriguing and challenging start to the day.
Changing tack completely, over at the Moreton Bay Stage, local band, Hana & Jessie Lee’s Bad Habits, served up some classy contemporary country and western tunes which brought a large crowd of ornery varmints to full attention.
Their set was full of terrific original songs that all sounded like they should have been staples on every Nashville radio station. There was no weak link on stage here.
Hana Brenecki has the perfect voice for this genre of music, extracting every nuance of emotion from these exquisitely constructed songs. She said she was nervous, but you could not tell. Her vocal control was perfect.
Jessie Lee Zubkevych, coming across as a coolly impassive Gretsch slingin’, twang-bar ridin’ guitar maverick, mustered up some of the best guitar licks this side of the Rio Torrens, and had the crowd whoopin’ and a hollerin’ after every one of her solos.
The rest of the band are all crack musicians too, and all were on form: Kat Mear on country fiddle, Julia Watt on drums, Mark ‘Achy Breaky’ Curtis on mandolin, and the superb driving rhythms of Annie Siegmann on bass were a crucially important part of the band’s sound. This lively, impassioned performance confirmed that our local musicians can easily hold their own against the best in the world.
Over at the Zoo Stage Cape Verde singer, Lura, was running a workshop, teaching the crowd how to recognise the various rhythms of the music of her homeland. Accompanied only by her guitarist, Johnny Fonseca, (as her drummer was, ‘in the beach’), she entranced the crowd with her disarmingly modest manner and her wonderful vocals.
She consistently transformed from coming across as a shy orator to a beguiling and hypnotic performer with each vocal performance, lithely demonstrating the dances that traditionally accompany each of the ten different rhythms she discussed. She also performed a brief and hilarious impersonation of Donald Trump! A captivating session.
Back at Stage 2, Dustyesky were back, and playing to a much larger crowd than had attended their last performance – such is the power of word of mouth!
As the performance continued, the crowd grew even bigger and the incredulous expressions on the faces of new arrivals soon turned to fascinated appreciation as this bunch of Aussies delivered an incredible set of traditional Russian choral songs, originating from the Steppes and the Gulags. They conjured up visions of vodka swilling Cossacks, and even in one instance, offered us a ‘sacred Russian song about a naval disaster’. Funny, but always jaw-droppingly good.
The charismatic Dan Sultan owned the Foundation Stage in the 5pm slot with a killer set of riff-laden soul. Sultan is a first rate performer and was completely in his in element, working the large, enthusiastic crowd. His band is excellent: super tight and with a substantial sound, and were blessed with an excellent mix.
From Aussie blues rock, it was over to the Malian desert blues of Tinariwen on Stage 2. The set was a little softer than expected at the start, opening up in an unassuming fashion and then building gradually in intensity to some very funky basslines and crowd clapping at the end. This genre, of which Tinariwen were pioneers, is producing some of the best guitar work in the world and we were treated to some fine examples of this. A joyous performance – catch them again today.
The insanely talented jazz phenomenon Kamasi Washington was a major coup for WOMADelaide and delivered, with one of the best performances to have graced the stages in Botanic Park. His band, featuring two drummers and his father on soprano sax, is simply awesome. The musicianship on display last night, as we journeyed through the layered, expansive compositions, was something to behold. It was the perfect set to enjoy with a wine or two as the night time took over.
The much anticipated one-off performance from The Avalanches had thousands cramming into any available space at Stage 2 after the daily ritual of the spectacular Place de Anges aerial display. It was more than a little intense – The Avalanches might have worked better on the bigger Foundation Stage. It was, however, a energetic, highly enjoyable performance, treating us to extended versions of material from both albums and complemented by a moving collage of visuals on the screen behind, well suited to the dazzling array of samples in the music.
Havana Meets Kingston was fantastic way to end Day 3 on the main stage. The project of Australian producer, Mista Savona, the act brings together musicians from Cuba and Jamaica in a very satisfying fusion that sounds like Bob Marley talking up membership with the Buena Vista Social Club.
WOMADelaide 2018 continues at Botanic Park today, with tickets available here: WOMADelaide 2018 tix
Reviewed by Ken Grady and Matthew Trainor
Photos by Dave Court and Ken Grady