The Wonders of WOMADelaide Never Cease to Amaze

It was another wonderous year for WOMADelaide. Coming off the back of the record crowds from 2023 was going to be a big ask, and WOMADelaide answered it. The festival was as friendly as ever with more spaces created, including a dedicated WoMarkets alley with a fantastic array of things to buy, try and learn about with more shade (especially welcomed in the heat) to listen to the acts – perfect for the high temperatures over the weekend. And with artists from 27 countries, there was indeed, much to see!

Photo: Katanga Junior
Photo Credit: Henry Evans

Alongside the family-friendly atmosphere an abundant variety of food stalls and drinks, with sustainability front and centre of their festival. The bats too were catered for, even necessitating stages get moved to help them in the heat. However, the plethora of world class quality acts remains WOMADelaide’s draw card. This year was as strong as ever. Around the park, the entertainment provided endless possibilities with seated events, high-energy acts and interactive workshops. Then there were the roving acts which seemed to seek you out and fill any potential gaps in your schedule. The culmination was a fully packed long weekend. Here are some of the highlights from ours:

Katanga Junior entertained the crowds on the more intimate stages of Zoo and Moreton Bay. Bringing the reggae, ragga and hip-hop flavours to the Park, via Tanzania and Alice Springs, it was an emblematic WOMADelaide performance. True to his roots and bringing pure musical talent, this is one artist that I predict will return and head to bigger stages, while maintaining that close relationship with the audience. Watch this space!

DJ Koco – I really wanted to see DJ Koco, and I was not disappointed. I love a DJ that really… DJs! With the biggest bag of 45s imaginable, DJ Koco was able to keep the crowd entertained and moving until the final minutes closed out the opening night of the festival. Smiling and dancing himself, DJ Koco was like the pied piper, taking us on a musical ride!

Photo: DJ Koco
Photo Credit: Henry Evans

Lisa O’Neill and Cormac Begley were a pleasure to listen to. Working solo and together, they bring a beautiful fusion of traditional Irish music and contemporary flair. O’Neill’s haunting vocals meld seamlessly with Begley’s masterful accordion playing, creating an authentic and soul-stirring experience. Their performances honour tradition while embracing innovation, resulting in a captivating listening journey that resonates deeply with the heart and soul. A rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s Black Boys on Mopeds was glorious and deeply moving.

Hollie Cook – Seeing Hollie Cook was like being in the company of UK punk/reggae royalty. With some amazing heritage and a wealth of talent of her own, Hollie entertained and kept the crowd moving at Stage 3 and Stage 7 on some serious hot afternoons. Like many in the audience, we went between sun and shade to make the most of that sultry voice and those groovy beats.

Corinne Bailey Rae was simply a lot of fun. We were lucky enough to catch the Friday night, though she was also well suited to the Sunday afternoon. With Corinne Bailey Rae’s ethereal vocals blending elements of jazz, soul, and R&B with her along with her often introspective and heartfelt lyrics, the performance always felt personal.

Photo: Corinne Bailey Rae
Photo Credit: Henry Evans

Elephants Laugh – Muljil provided a deeply emotional and surprisingly interactive (for some) performance. Using four individual water tanks occupied alone and with a partner (or an audience member) submerged in the water, the audience was taken on a journey exploring the complexities of life, love, and human connection. This was a real highlight of the festival.

Photo: Elephants Laugh
Photo Credit: Henry Evans

Ibibio Sound Machine were all energy! Twice entertaining the audience in the Australian exclusive, we were treated to an electrifying fusion of West African highlife, disco, and funk, providing an irresistible and infectious groove. Lead singer Eno Williams’s dynamic vocals, sung in the Ibibio language, add an exotic and mesmerizing layer to the band’s vibrant sound. Even on a hot day, you could not help to move!

Ibibio Sound System
Photo Credit: Henry Evans

Rozeo – Gratte Ciel performed throughout the four days. Atop 10 metre poles and swaying in the breeze and among the treetops, accompanied by a sonic landscape that helps enable the audience to be truly lost in the beauty of the performance. I wonder how many people came back time and time again and caught something new… Magical as ever.

WOMADelaide broke records last year and more this year – not just the heat! WOMADelaide is the world’s festival, but also Adelaide’s festival and, after seeing so many smiling faces, everyone’s festival. I look forward to seeing you all again, and more next year. Time to pencil in those dates!

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 8-11 2024 at the Botanical Park, Adelaide. Plan for future years here
The venue is accessible.

Images credit: Henry Evans

Disclosure: The Plus Ones are invited guests of WOMADelaide.