WOMADelaide opened its arms and gates to capacity this year, welcoming record crowds to The World’s Festival. There was a plethora of familiar festival favourites from the food stalls and flags to the friendly stalls and the festival goers themselves. Alongside the familiarity were fresh new places to eat, and drink and, most importantly, new acts to see.
Photo Credit: Anna Bauze
The wide range of artists is WOMADelaide’s strong card, and this year was no different. My litmus test for any festival is that everyone has their own fun and finds their own hidden gems. As a festival, WOMADelaide proved that many times over. Here are some of the standouts we found throughout the festival, leaving some lasting memories.
On Stage 3, Balaklava Blues provided a hard-hitting show. Using a multi-media backdrop alongside traditional folk tunes interwoven with techno and dub-step, the audience was taken on a wild audio-visual ride with hard-hitting themes from the front lines of the long war in Ukraine, as their guide. We were lucky enough to see them at Taste the World, hearing how they met (during the 2014 Revolution of Dignity) and their dedication to telling the stories of Ukraine.
Photo Credit: Zahra Saleki
Mdou Moctar provided us with some driving psychedelic rock guitar and Saharan sounds. This was compulsive listening with the sounds drawing the audience into trance-like captivation. It was a shame not to be listening in the desert, but the beautiful Botanic Gardens was a good substitute! Justin Adams and Mauro Durante had taken the crowd on a journey through blues and reels into mesmerising soundscapes with a variety of instruments. At times hypnotic, at other times pulsating – but always enthralling.
Over at the Frome Pavillion, Sister Nancy meets Legal Shot proved herself as a reggae classic. To a packed crowd, dancing with the dancehall Queen, it could easily have been a scene from Jamacia in the early 1980s. There was so much (well-deserved) love for Sister Nancy.
Twice, Cimafunk wowed the crowds with their high energy. The audience, dancing throughout the set, threw shapes they, I am sure, had never thrown before! We were lucky enough to see the band members in the crowd afterwards, where they posed for many a selfie! They were as generous as they had been energetic.
Image Credit: Henry Evans
Another act with a different form of enthralling was Meute. Combining marching band and techno, these guys were fantastic fun. Their Big Band presence got the crowd stomping from stages and as a roving act. It was, perfectly, inescapable!
Even more energy was exuding from Sampa the Great. An amazing performer and storyteller, Sampa spoke of her Zambian-born, Botswanan-raised, and Australian-based life and its influence on her music. This was WOMAD immortalised!
Sampa the Great
Photo Credit: Henry Evans
Meanwhile, Fantastic Negrito has a story to tell. A life lived and you can sense it in every word he sings and move he makes. This was an inspiring gritty, bluesy, heart-on-your-sleeve (y), driven performance that took our breath away. Amazing!
It was a privilege to witness the powerful performance and important message that Small Island Big Song brought to the amphitheatre-like stage at WOMADelaide. As a long-standing piece of work, videos brought together and documented a multitude of musicians from ‘seafaring’ islands across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. With live performances, this was truly emotional to witness.
Photo Credit: Henry Evans
Gratte Ciel was our finale, though they amazed crowds every night, turning heads upwards to their high-lining acrobatic displays before showering us with feathers. This was a real showstopper, fascinating adults, and children alike and the perfect end to our festival. Magical.
WOMADelaide broke records this year and, in doing so, has set itself a new benchmark. Roll on 2024 to see you all again! The dates are in my diary. Are they in yours?
Duncan was the most illegible bachelor in town, but times have changed, although he is still a purveyor of Melbourne’s (and Adelaide’s) surprising, quirky, and cultural events.
WOMADelaide ran from March 10-13 2023 at the Botanical Park, Adelaide.
The venue is accessible.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of WOMADelaide.
Images credit: Anna Bauze, Henry Evans and Zahra Saleki.