Womadelaide – Saturday March 6 & Sunday March 7

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Saturday March 6, 2010

Mariem Hassan is claimed to be ‘the true voice of the Western Sahara.’ Accompanied by guitarist and percussionist, she is one of the artists who bring a taste of genuine regional music undiluted by outside influences.

Before the rain once more set in mid-afternoon you could catch Calexico again on Stage 2 or Los Amigos Invisibles on Stage 3. The latter might be a long-running Venezualan group but they seem to be another of the many bands at the festival fuse disparate musical elements into what is really ‘dance music.’

Over the years it seems to have become increasingly important for bands to get the younger audience involved. Nothing wrong with that. Womadelaide is yet another festival that realises that to survive and even thrive you need to grow your audience.

At times, the acronym WOMAD – world music, arts and dance – actually made a lot of sense. But the much better African acts that we have seen over the years have provided music that is genuinely danceable without the artifice that a few of the groups here displayed.

The weekend’s longest period of rain coincided with the appearance of La Compagnie Transe Express – another group of crazy French people whose mission was to hang from a crane en masse dressed in military costume and beating drums. These guys definitely were crazy because the large crane appeared to be nothing more than a giant lightning rod. As they ascended into the sky in the rain I imagined what would have happened had lightning hit – fried to a crisp.

For his performance on the main stage to kick off the evening, Xavier Rudd was joined by South African musicians Izintba – bassist Toto Molontoa and percussionist Andile Nquebezelo. Rudd has taken giant leaps in terms of his musical maturity and that was amply displayed here.

Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is comprised mainly of the sons of Phil Cohran, Sun Ra’s lead trumpeter. Now here is a band that combine the modern elements of rap with the more traditional music of their father. One minute they are blasting away as if they are in a jazz club, the next they have the audience waving and shouting. Nice stuff.

Babylon Circus is yet another bunch of crazy French guys who appear to be wayward  gypsies on some sort of mission. Their music is claimed to be ‘French chanson, funk, afro-beat and dancehall reggae’ which is ‘spiced with a healthy dollop of European folklore, rakish humour and big-top energy to arrive at a compelling spectacle.’ That just about covers everything. On stage they are a whirlwind of energy.

Dub Colossus are a project of musician/producer Nick Page from Transglobal Underground. The group features singers Sintayehu “Mimi” Zenebe and Tsedenia Gebremarkos, Teremag Weretow on fiddle, Ethiojazz star Feleke Hailu on sax and Samuel Yerga on piano. While the ‘exploration of Azmari, traditional Ethiopian styles and 1970s grooves’ might sound esoteric, the results are anything but inaccessible. The fact that they do ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ is a clue to the breadth of their music.

The evening on the main stage concluded with Cuban Eliades Ochoa, replete with black cowboy hat, and his ensemble with their infectious Cuban sounds. While his ensemble is far less elaborate than anything he did with the Buena Vista Social Club it is nevertheless every bit as appealing.

On the way out you could stop at the Speakers Corner and hear a DJ set from Gilles Peterson. The next evening I headed that way only to discover one of the highlights of the festival.

Sunday March 7, 2010

The surprise of the day came at the very end when I discovered Dean & Britta. It was one of those magical Womadelaide moments.

We had been heading over to Speakers Corner to catch Gilles Peterson but I was attracted by the sounds from the Zoo Stage. It was transfixing. The performance was titled

’13 Most Beautiful – Songs from Andy Warhiol’s Screen Tests.’ Behind the stage the screen showed the tests – including Lou reed, Dennis Hopper and Edie Sedgwick – while the music had a definite Velvet Underground feel to it (which is what caught my attention in the first place).

It was hardly world music and, come to thin of it I am not even sure what they were doing there, but it was one of my highlights of the weekend. I rushed to the Music Merch tent to grab the DVD – just ahead of a mob that ensured it quickly sold out.

It capped off a day that started with the Skatalites on the main stage and their sinuous rhythms. I enjoyed them despite the fact that there were only two original members.

Later,  on the same stage, The Armada were intriguing. At times the band sounded like a modern version of Joy Division, which was weird.

Formed by Jeff Martin, former frontman of Canadian trio The Tea Party, the band also comprised Irish drummer Wayne Sheehy and Australian bass player Jay Cortez. Thrown into the mix were some Middle Eastern, Indian and Turkish rhythms.

The weirdest performance of the weekend had to be that of Jane Siberry at the Moreton Bay Stage early in the evening. Earlier she had performed her best known song, ‘Calling All Angels,’ with the Tuttie Ensemble on Stage 2. Bruce Elder from the Sydney Morning Herald  taunted me for missing it. She did not perform it again here.

Noted for her inventive music, Siberry seemed to be conducting a conversation with herself and it was a little difficult to follow if you had not been aware of her previous work. Somehow she managed to pull her ramblings up short of being embarrassing but often they did make it sound as if she had spent time in a New Age commune in California. Some of the audience found her musings a little harder to take and walked out.

The first part of Siberry’s show was a little like a Laurie Anderson performance and relied heavily on taped music and spoken word. The songs gradually unfolded and she played guitar  and keyboard

Eccentric seems to be a word that was coined just for Siberry. The encore comprised two songs, mainly because the tape kept playing after the first one so she continued.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the performance, simply because it was so different and so challenging.

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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