Monday, March 9, 2009

Womad Frivolities



So I got back to Adelaide a few days ago. And I can say this much - all I feel is rage. Why is everyone dressed the same? Why is the Exeter still shit? Why is the typical Adelaide socialite a frosty, stick-up-arse snob? That said, I would also like to declare a ban on Raybans. A Rayban ban. Yep, I'm a hypocrite, but a hilarious one at that.

Thank god for the Garden, at least I have cross-dressers and cabaret to restore my sanity. I'm like a baby to a lactating teat. Ah, Fringe.. my saviour.

So I went to Womad on Saturday. Amongst the scantily clad transgenders and comedians roaming Rundle Street, what would Adelaide’s annual “Mad March” be without a three-day bender of global music to top it off? Well, that’s what WOMADelaide is for. That and for providing the opportunity to get stoned with crusty old punters. Of course.

The weather was overcast on this particular Saturday afternoon in March, a pleasant change from the stifling temperatures that Adelaide has beared with in previous years. Kicking off at 1pm at The Speakers Corner, I treated myself to the first helping of world music with East Timorese folk artist and activist Ego Lemos. Bringing a breezy concoction of steely guitar chords teamed with bongos, he sang in native Timorese tongue of global issues like water deprivation and poverty. His simple grassroots blues under the shade of the pine trees was an innocuous starter to the festival, and left me feeling a tingle of my inner hippy emerging. The shoes were still on at this point, but this would soon change.

Across the bridge, my ears perk up the sound of something maniacal. At Stage 2, shredding their fingers away to confetti, were the Eastern European gypsies Paprika Balkanicus. Playing traditional Balkans folk music with a contemporary drum machine beat, it was something else to watch them play their violins at a lightning speed tempo doubled by impossibly fast finger-work. Throwing in a few jokes about needing our credit card details, they were a hilarious bunch to watch. This was doubled by the fact that those dancing were finding it very difficult to keep up with the ever-changing rhythms of the music, and were kind of shuffling around awkwardly not knowing what the fuck to do. Except for this one guy. This guy who my friend points out was wearing EXACTLY THE SAME THING last year. I will upload a photo of this dude to assist in conjuring the image. Think of Billy Elliot on cocaine.. but shirtless and 40+ and clearly refusing to accept their age. It's amazing that these people actually think they have talent. Lol.

Hit 2pm. The dark clouds had moved away, the sun was out, and the fisherman pants were flowing through the gates thick and fast. A few people had managed to jump the fence during the afternoon, but security was tighter than usual and several had been chased. That’s not to say that those we saw successfully breaking an entering weren’t greeted with rapturous applause, or the odd "FUCK YEAH!" It was about this time that I decided the shoes were to come off – and stay off. Ah, the old feeling of Botanic Park’s soil sticking to my feet. And ciggarette butts.

Mmmm. At the Zoo stage we now had Seckou Keita SKG from Senegal – “The Jimi Hendrix of the Kora”. And they weren’t joking with that moniker either. The group’s leading attraction was a 12 stringed West African harp, an instrument that looked a bit like a two-handed banjo. This was the piece responsible for all the leading melodies of the music, fronted by none other than the Koran Hendrix himself, Seckou Keita. Amidst their earthy, off-beat African tunes, he quickly showed us why he holds the impressive title. Thumb plucking insanely fast, erratic melodies on his harp without breaking a sweat, his speed and precision on the West African harp was nothing short of awe-inspiring. This melodious harp in conjuction with the piercing vibratos of their vocalist made for music that sent shudders down my spine, and perked the ears of all passer-byers. I am feeling like a cider at this point.. yep, definately time to buy a cider.


Across the park, Marseille group Lo Cor de la Plana were carving up a hefty crowd. To look at, they were a simple outfit; six male vocalists on stools with tambourines. That is, until they begin to play, and then they were something else. They would start off with the deepest voice, and then one by one build onto it with separate vocal parts and specially timed foot-stomps and hand-claps. The end result would be a spectacular series of beats and noises, entirely created by the instruments of voice, feet and hands. The crowd were absolutely itching for them towards the end of it, as the build-ups to a beat that they could move to were torturous. The Frenchmen really took a’Capella to a whole new level. I looked at my watch. Oh, look what the time is! Cider o'clock!

The March sun was at a painful angle around the time that USA’s Kaki King hit Stage 3, yet our WOMAD hand booklets came handy to block out the glare. Regardless of whether you could see her or not, you could hear her. Oh, how you could hear her. Described as “the best guitarist under 5”1”, within the first thirty seconds of her set it wasn’t hard to see why. Bringing forth a mix of flamenco and rootsy acoustic guitar, her string slapping, harmonics, fingerpicking skill and insatiable speed was mesmerizing – and hard to believe that it came from such a small woman. By far one of the most impressive acts of the day. And so CUTE! I look down and notice my cup is empty. And wonder why it is empty. A hasty trip to the bar is made.

Next was The Audreys. I hestiate to write much more on this lot. When it comes to WOMAD, I can’t help but feel a little aloof towards local acts. No, it's not even that... it's more like I find lying on the carpet staring at the ceiling more entertaining than watching the Audreys. Needless to say, I watched an entire half of a song before taking my filthy, dirt-ridden feet elsewhere. Is it no surprise that I beelined to the bar to fetch more cider? No, no it is not.

For something a little askew, at 9pm was The Australian Dance Theatre Company, specializing in a contemporary dance act. The air had cooled right down by now, but that didn’t stop the dancers donning an outfit that can be best described as a hankerchief. There was a real reason as to why we were here, and it wasn't to critique the dancing. I'll be blunt: Evon and I were here to watch incredibly ripped mean leap and frolick on stage. There, I said it. Forty minutes later, we were feeling slightly more moist and aesthetically satisfied. Time for MORE CIDER.

Next up: Sa Ding Ding. This artist had received a lot of hype, and potentially was going to blow off our socks (not like we were wearing them anymore at this point anyway, ha!). Put it this way – I overheard a punter describing her as being “like an oriental Deep Forest fronted by a drag queen.” I couldn’t help but laugh, as it was partially true. After a series of highly impressive jewelled headpieces, the big finale ended in the front mistress herself crumbling to the floor to violently head-bang for five minutes. Mongolian metal, perhaps?

Soon afterwards, the crowds garnered to the first stage to check out Seun Keuti “You gave me your mud and I made gold from it” and Egypt 80. As the son of the famous Nigerian bandleader, the late Fela Keuti, his show was highly anticipated. And he delivered, taking to the mic with a saxophone, sharing lewd jokes about women and flashing his pearly-whites. Never before have I seen backup dancers that could ass-shake for 26 whole minutes. I mean, fuck. My hips don't even boast a diameter that is wider than my head. And here these chicks are shaking their meat like it's as second nature as breathing. An impressive feat on all the bands behalf.

The crowd was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to move to the more low-key Zoo stage to check out the Jamaican reggae beats of King Tide. The front-men were a little old and crusty in their Hawaaian shirts, sure. And they probably shouldn’t have tried to climb that stage support frame. But hey, gotta give it to them for rocking out their darndest. Their beachy tunes were the perfect way to wind down a day of frivolity – or the perfect way to make the most of that Ecstasy tablet you just dropped, like the guy who was dancing in front of us for the majority of the show. Only in WOM… I mean, hang on, did this guy mix up his dates of FutureMusic or what?

Of course, any WOMAD wouldn’t be complete with the annual Speaker’s Corner techno session raging long into the night. This year’s offering was UK’s Russ Jones and the Hackney Globe Trotter, spinning out a mix of latin, afro-beat and house music. Unfortunately I have sobered up too much at this point, and am in a bit of a pickle. By 1am, the buzz at Botanic Park had well and truly ended. The crowds had meandered northwards to the Fringe garden, the poi’s had been put away and all of our feet were now suitably caked with grime. We go to the garden for 10 whole minutes, decide we are too tired and catch a cab home. Le end.


PS: UniSA, BITE ME YOU ASSHOLES.

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