Sunday, March 06, 2005

They Did Stop the Rain

WOMAD is an extraordinary event. It is not just a weekend of music from around the planet, but a place and time of an underlying sentiment of peace and goodwill between all cultures. Palestinians and Israelis on stage playing music together. Vusi Mahlasela thanking Australians for their support of black Africa during the apartheid years. Africans and Australian Aborigines sharing the same stage for the sunset all stars jam Sunday night. (The ney - “the spirit of the Middle East’ joined with the digeridoo “the spirit of Australia” – to open this remarkable mélange of ‘sounds of the planet’.)

As I drove there on Friday I felt an intense feeling of anticipation, and I remembered why. To commemorate the 10th Womadelaide a few years ago Rip it Up editor, Robert Dunstan once wrote something like, “as I stood among the Moreton Bay fig trees with the sun going down listening to Nusrat Ali Fateh Khan I found myself thinking ‘I have never been happier’”. I have felt that more than once at WOMAD. And it is taken me into the depths of sadness at times too. Gazing upon a tall African man dressed in a full length blue robe playing the haunting melodies of the ancient Kora simply stirs the soul. And it can take you up or down. Yesterday I found myself crying tears of existence. Not because I was particularly happy or sad. I was just moved by it all. By the beauty. By the mistakes we’ve all made. By the fact that we’re all still here and enjoying our music together. When Richie Havens took the stage everyone there who could remember went back to Woodstock and their youth. To times so long ago when life was so exhilarating. And it still is. Many have gone and many remain. It's a very emotional experience to see people from all over the planet celebrating what we have in common, rather than focus on our differences.

The Music

There were great moments, with maybe the workshop with Michael McGoldrick from Capercaillie the hightlight. Yes, there were tears. And I realized at heart I’m a Celt. I sat looking up at the Australian trees, and it was as if a collective Celtic soul from far across the sea whence this wonderful music came was asking me ‘how did I get here’? It felt like a yearning to go home to the land of my ancestors. Vusi Mahlasela and Naziha Azzouz with the Adel Salameh Trio were the best voices of the weekend, and as I’m always a sucker for reggae, I loved Alpha Blondie and the Solar System. The only music that always makes me move. For local talent the Irish Phillipino Aboriginal family band, the Pigrams, was a lovely surprise. (Full program.)

If a WOMAD concert ever comes to your neighbourhood, go. Enjoy the sounds of the planet, and listen to the murmurs of your soul.

1 comment:

Bee said...

Must have been a very inspiring and soul lifting experience.