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Last updated May 2008 .
4-6th March 2005 .Botanic Park. Adelaide.
Womadelaide 2005 : A Subjective Review.
I always attend Womadelaide , its mandatory, only extreme sickness or death will keep me away , but the inclusion of Richie Havens on the bill for 2006 meant that it was SUPER mandatory for me to attend. First ever appearance in Australia and I’d never seen him before either when I resided in the UK. For once, my friend Ian, who had been my fellow attendee since 1997, was way overseas, so I was going to the show with John and Suzanne, who were attending for the first time.
For a change , the weekend promised to be fairly cool, in fact it it was wet on Friday night ,an almost unheard of thing for the festival. I have been cold , but never wet before. One thing though, it wasn't windy and the rain just came down gently. So it was really quite pleasant .
The Kronos Quartet © Jurgen
I was on my own early on Friday night, so I went along to see the Kronos quartet on stage one , but after they had played the Star Spangled Banner and Purple Haze opener the fire seemed to go out of their bellies, so I wandered over to see the most excellent Yair Dalal on stage three, which snuggles down in a dell to the right of stage one .
It was dark by the time I arrived and the ensemble were cooking gently as I ambled down to the far end of the stage and took up a position in front of the stack about 20 feet from the stage. Now I have seen Yair Dalal ensemble several times before and I am aware that they are a magical unit, their set was, as usual , mesmerising and in the gentle rain, which fell vertically , the fine shafts illuminated in the lights, the whole atmosphere felt just perfect. After five minutes or so I felt a presence next to me, it turned out to be the good Dr Kelly who materialised at my side. Nothing was said, neither of us wished break the vibe of the moment , so we stood shoulder to shoulder in the rain for the rest of what was a brilliant, laid back and out of this world 40 or so minutes. One song in particular stood out, it started with a unaccompanied vocal , which lasted several minutes , and which or less repeated the same phrase , with minor variations. During this one could hear a pin drop – a pretty remarkable feat for an audience of several thousand , at the end of this the band gradually began to add to the song, and the audience ,still transfixed, were transported somewhere else, I know I wasn't on earth for the duration, it was one of those "womad "moments that those of us who are regular participants are VERY familiar with . This festival seemed to have quite a few of these….
The pressure was off for the next hour as neither of us were particularly keen to see Zap Mama so Dave and I had a leisurely beer in the tent and chewed the fat for a bit about music. Its rare to have this sort of time free at Womad or to have someone to talk to when the time IS free as usually we all split up and go off to see various bands and then meet up again at the end of the night, so this was an excellent change of tack. All the usual elements of a great Womadelaide were in place . La Compagnie Carabosse with their strange fire sculptures and machines were installed on the mound in front of stages one and three , I think the rain may have affected them somewhat on Friday as I can’t remember them being visible. Buddha's bowl was still churning out chai and vegetarian curries and most of the stages were in their usual places.
However there were, once again, no TV cams so we knew there weren't going to be any ABC film specials on the festival. Grumbling gently about this waste as by now it was time to move over to stage two to see one of my favourite Womadelaide acts , the French band Lo'jo. Not a lot of changes to their line up or their music, it was , as before, theirs and theirs alone, with their bald headed front man delivering the lead vocal in his own inimitable style and the two sisters ( one thin and the other well padded) alternating between backup and lead vocals. Great set and they were once again well received. This was a band I was going to try to see as many times as I could over the weekend.
Lo'Jo finished in enough time for me to get over to stage one and grab a good position to see the nights headliner - Alpha Blondy and the Solar system . This was new territory for me , as I had never heard this outfit before, although Blondy has been active since the early 80s apparently .
It was STILL raining , as when Blondy came onstage he was greeted with a chorus of "put your umbrellas down"aimed at the people in the front who were blocking the view of those behind. The brollys descended as the band broke into a short and intense version of Led Zeppelins" Black Dog".
disappointed, in floppy hat and dreads, Alpha delivered an excellent set .
After the Zep chorus , the band segued into a warm reggae groove which warmed
the crowd up nicely before they then dropped the pace into an atmospheric
slow paced intro that once again led into a stone groove reggae song Jerusalem
. Many of the lyrics were in French , but it didn't matter, it was just what
we needed after a long wet evening and the crowd happily danced the night
away to numbers like New Dawn . My only complaint was that it was a bit samey,
a great band, but many of the compositions were paced at the same reggae shuffle
tempo. Brilliant horn section though which really propelled the band along.
I think I missed Ustad Raschid Khan as John and Suzanne wanted to get home, if I did attend, I have no memory of doing so. I do remember being absolutely soaked to the skin though, so it must have rained a great deal. Very unusual for this time of year.
Was much warmer and above all DRY . The first act we caught was Yair Dalal, which was something of a re-run of the previous night , without the rain and on a bigger stage. Not as magical, as the dark and the setting were all part of the occasion. Saw Dulsori for a while , but the Asian drummers leave me cold, too repetitive for my liking, so instead wandered over to watch Matarae i Orehu perform their intimidating Maori dances on stage six, but could not get close enough , the 'stage 'is actually a piece of grass and because the dancers were surrounded I could not see much .
I then caught Ustad Rashid Khan , who is a great singer , but again , no recollection. I know I saw Capercallie , who were very good, but lacking heart somehow . A friend who was backstage said that their singer was not particularly friendly. Whereas many artists would happily chat to fans backstage , she remained rather aloof. Capercallie have the great Michael McGoldrick as their fiddle player and it was worth the price of admission just to see him when he appeared with Sharon Shannon in 2007. The crowd liked Capercaillie’s up tempo material, but out of the traditional folk bands I have seen at Womadelaide over the years they are probably one of the least impressive.
I did not used to be a Not Drowning Waving fan but I have become one gradually over the years, they delivered a good set , accompanied by Telek .I didn't stay to see all of their set though as we wanted to get a good psotion to see Richie Havens . We plonked outsleves right in front of the centre of stage one. It was seven pm when he took the stage and the wait was worth it, accompanied by moustachiod guitarist Walter Parks , he was just superb. He was warm, entertaining and funny. My mate Ian T got into a 15 minute conversation with him backstage. Apparently he was alone and when Ian ambled up he was happy to talk to him even though he wasn't a particular fan. I guess everyone else was backstage was too intimidated to approach him .....
The sound had a few problems at first, which is every rare at Womadelaide, but it was sorted eventually and did not really spoil the set too much . The duo delivered a set of around 60 minutes , starting with "All Along The Watchtower", moving into "Paradise" and a moving " Blood On The Wire". The pairing of "Tupelo Honey" and "Just Like a Woman" was particularly nice , with great fills by Parkes that wove around Havens vocals and guitar . By the time they finished off with "Woodstock", we were in heaven .
After this ultra moving and peaceful set most things would have been an anticlimax, but over on stage one , Ozomatli were ready to blast me into the stratosphere, but I just didn't know it !
John and Suzanne went to get some grub and I wandered to see this band which I had heard were hot. HOT, they were bloody great, especially when they all jumped into the crowd at the end of the set and continued to play for another 20 minutes or so.
Many in the crowd formed a conga line that followed the band around , every now and again they would stop, motion the crowd to squat and when we had all hunkered down they would proceed to blow a weird fanfare , then we would all stand up again and they would move through the crowd and repeat the procedure. Magical stuff .
Ozomatli ramp it up! © Jurgen
Because of this I missed the beginning of Lo'jo's set , for the first and only time the organisers had arranged for the band to play under a large tree near the Compagnie Carabosse fire installations - which were situated some way in front of stage one . The program stated that the band would be playing on stage two, but of course this did not happen. Unfortunately Alpha Blondy was playing on stage one , so there was some sound spill from his set anyway. However this did not really spoil Lo'jo's set , as long as one got in really close.
I found the band eventually nestled under the tree , illuminated by dozens of firepots , they sounded and looked fabulous. Of course because they were performing on the ground, it was hard to see them and the audience was quite small. This gave the set an intimacy that usually is only felt on the smallest of stages at Womadelaide. There was something truly wondrous about this set and I can't explain what it was, you had to be there, I suppose it might be due to the natural light and also the quality of Lo'jos songs, which defy categorisation. Very French, but also fused with North African influences check them out, they are a really great band .
After all those highs , I was somewhat let down by Daara J, the African Rap band, who failed to move me much , after Lo'Jo their music seemed forced. Instead I had a wander around the strange fire sculpture that La Compagnie Carabosse had installed behind the stage one bar. Weird thin chimneys what were fed by almost white hot fires burned blue and gave forth great gouts of flame when their beret clad operators pushed and pulled their levers . A huge installation , suspended about 60 feet in the air by a huge crane , glowed eerily above the trees and steam rose rom the water that was dropped onto red hot surfaces from the randomly moving iron creations that scattered the field. Definitely one of the best ever Womadelaide installations .
I don't remember what I did next regarding watching bands, I rather think I had a good wander around the site and waited to find my companions at the gate. This took some time as we somehow missed each other and it took forever to make what should have been a simple liaison . !
The day began with a fine set from George Rrurrambu and Birdwave. George was always a great performer and this was sadly the last time I saw him, used to love the Warrumpi band . RIP George.The rest of the afternoon was spent catching artists I had already seen ,Not Drowning Waving, Capercaillie , but most especially Lo'Jo and Richie Havens yet again . Both these acts were really wonderful in their very different ways, Havens repeated only one number from his previous set and finished with a great version of Freedom !
The only new act we took for a whole set was Les Yeux Noirs , who proved to have masses of energy and great playing chops, although I found a few of their numbers rather smooth for my liking . Apart from the All Star Jam, held early in the evening , not a lot of the acts who appeared were all that memorable.We did take in part of Australian mouth harp player Harper's set. He was very good and he showed that he was a real viruoso on his preferred instrument. We dipped into a few of the other acts but nothing really held our fancy for long.
The jam , which featured Yair Dalal as director, was generally very good, especially when Richie Havens joined in after about 20 minutes and they launched into a gentle mystical groove, with two violins , courtesy of Yair Dalal and the violinist from Les Yeux Noirs, the addition of a member from Zap Mama gave the jam a boost, her vocals, underpinned by a bass profundo delivered by one of the members of Lojo, gave the jam an otherworldly feel,as the violins meandered in and out of the mix, Silvia Encheva leant her keening voice to a wordless improvisation for a minute or so, it wasn't to last however, as the whole thing came to an abrupt halt when messr's Duff and Lee took to the stage , their chorus of " clap your hands we're all gonna die " just did not suit the mood. Laughter ensued as the jam petered out when the goons dropped in their chorus, but the master came to the rescue as Richie launched into a rousing version of " freedom " . I guess the mixer dropped out the mics to Duff and Lee as they could not be heard for the rest of the jam.
As the compere said, "every year its so different " and that's what keeps me coming back, there have been one or two that have really taken off , as in 2007 and again in 2004, this was one of the in between ones, but it certainly had its magic moments......
The only act I can remember much of in the evening was Ozimatli who once again did their best and collectively dove into the crowd to do a wander . After that i t was time to go as it had been a long and tiring weekend, full of fun and great moments. Those bands I liked were generally superb and the theatre and surroundings were highly agreeable. My friends had also enjoyed themselves , so overall it had been a more than enjoyable weekend. Once again Womadelaide had come up trumps !
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