March 13, 2007

Harmonising the World

Filed under: Archive,Womadelaide

Sounds of the Planet 2007
March 9 -11. Botanic Park, Adelaide.

Murray Bramwell

Womadelaide has celebrated its fifteenth birthday in high style. With record attendances and nudging the crowd capacity of twenty thousand on Saturday night, it is still, along with Big Day Out, Adelaide’s favourite music event. But unlike BDO, which sweats it out at the Wayville Showgrounds, Womad’s access to the splendid green sward of Botanic Park makes it especially favoured. If it hadn’t been for that fire ban in Belair National Park that necessitated the last minute shift to the CBD back in 1992, who knows where Womad would be now. Developed with all the resources of the Adelaide Festival by director Rob Brookman, Womad in the Botanic Park has remained high calibre– the music, the production values, and the range and quality of the amenities. For everyone who buys a ticket, it is a first class ride.

The ample variety of food and drink stalls, the Green-friendly house rules and strolling attractions, all make the whole site a lively, safe and orderly pleasure zone. Womad is for the music, but it is also a three day exeat from the world of work. For many it is a chance to be with friends or sleep under a tree. And where else can you write your mobile phone number on your child and let it roam the park with chums the way kids should be able to ?

The music program in 2007 is especially strong and well balanced. As always, there is the mix of high energy main stages and contemplative recitals under the Moreton Bay figs and by the zoo. Equally, the organizers have incorporated more for that younger audience who first attended with their parents and are now here in their own right – to see Lior, San Lazaro, Fat Freddie’s Drop, Augie March and late night DJs Mad Professor and Mr Scruff. The influence of electronica and house music has been evident since the Afro Celt Sound System first blasted Womad in 1997 and the event has promoted new sounds and mixes since then. This time, the Gotan Project, under dubmeister Philippe Cohen-Solal, delighted fans (and slightly peeved purists) with its snazzy version, in ice-cream white, of techno-tango in Paris.

This has been a Womad for women artists. The Mahotella Queens remain a steadfast trio of strong J-berg ladies, performing with unquenchable energy after forty years. Lila Downs, from Oaxaca, Mexico via California brings an exciting and chic edge to Hispanic music. With her weaving dance and colourful eclectic costume, we are reminded that she came to prominence with the soundtrack to Frida. With a snappy band, including Paul Cohen on clarinet and Celso Durate on harp and violin, Lila Downs sang marvelous songs of Mexican iguana mysticism and melancholy ballads from the old cantinas. Also pleasingly doleful was the Portuguese fado interpreter Mariza. Suave in black with her urchin blonde hair, she sang her sad and histrionic songs of loss (and even more loss) to the evident pleasure of the large Saturday night crowd.

But more memorable was Yasmin Levy singing ladino songs, Judeo Spanish music from the fifteenth century. Her captivating twilight set on Sunday which explained, translated and greatly entertained was a highlight. Also on Sunday Bollywood legend, Asha Bhosle‘s performance with the Kronos Quartet and Chinese pipa (lute) player Wu Man was a delight. Reviving songs by her late husband R D Burman, Ms Bhosle sang from her CD You’ve Stolen My Heart – and the huge attentive crowd agreed.

The Australian contingent brought many fine moments – the exemplary Kev Carmody singing From Little Things Big Things Grow with the marvelous Waifs, The Mornington Islanders and new artists, Nganampa Music from the APY lands at the workshops, Augie March singing from the Moo Choir songsheet and the Backsliders, brilliant with the blues.

The headliners also delivered. Femi Kuti’s band, an engine of horn players, tailfeather-shaking dancers and loud afrobeat sang about the Fight to Win and sampled the Eurythmics along the way, while Malian legend Salif Keita, with his fine-grained soaring voice led a fast-pitched band that had the groundlings gasping from dance fatigue. With only one performance Salif Keita had little time for his more contemplative material – and the lack of translation is unfortunate. It’s like hearing Leonard Cohen in Bambara dialect. That is the problem when the global village becomes clubland. But, quibbles aside, this Womad has been another great success with marvelous music, brilliant sound and the most congenial crowd you could imagine. With the burred throat sounds of the Tuvan singers, Huun-Huur Tu, in our ears, another magical Womadelaide has passed. And it is the Artistic Director’s last. Thanks Rob Brookman, for all the fish.

“Dancing to the rhythm of a global heartbeat” The Australian, March 13, 2007, p.12.

1 Comment »

  1. My girlfriend did some work at the boiantc gardens in Denver a few years ago. One of the programs she helped put together was their art cart. She had a bunch of different types of drawing materials and black and white pictures of plants for kids, and adults, to fill in. From what we hear now it is still a great success! We are both always happy to hear good things about museums, and the like. Thanks for adding more attention to the Denver Botanic gardens!

    Comment by Nashid — October 17, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

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