Monday, March 25, 2019

WOMADelaide 2019 ~ Day 1 Musings

Botanic Park/Tainmuntilla, Fri 8 Mar.

  #23. But who’s counting?! A gentle breeze blew across the park under an overcast sky as the first act on the Foundation Stage got underway. In a WOMAD first they actually started early (WOMADelaide has been incredibly punctual over the years and shows have typically begun smack on the hour.)
Amjad Ali Khan was back at WOMADelaide after a 13-year break. This time he was with his two sons and together they sat front of stage and played sarod. With the better known sitar, the sarod is a central instrument in Indian Classical music. Also joining them on stage was a stripped back version of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to present Khan’s Samaagam – a piece that purports to demonstrate the bond between eastern and western classical music traditions. Devoid of any wind or brass sections it is strings that assumed the major role in the orchestral parts. As the sarod is a largely plucked instrument it was curious to hear the difference between the plucking and bowing techniques of the different strings. There were times when a violinist or three played together with Khan and sons but in truth much of the piece was more about turn taking rather than playing together. A beautiful piece of music nevertheless and it was an ideal way to kick off a world music festival.
As I walked towards Stage 2, rainbow coloured people began to appear in the crowd – courtesy of the Colour Of Time, another of India’s cultural gifts to world music festivals. On Stage 2 several women from central Australia had gathered to appear as the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir. Singing songs in Western Arrarnta and Pitjanjatjara languages, and dressed in indigenous themed fabrics they looked fantastic in the fading dusk light. Though some of these songs are original pieces written by our desert peoples it is hard not to hear the Christian influence and much of their repertoire is basically hymns from the Christian tradition.
First up on the Zoo Stage for the weekend was Timberwolf. I don’t know how a local Australian artist comes to be called Timberwolf, or how the program notes could describe his music as folk. He does have a rich soulful voice but unfortunately the vocals were too loud and quite distorted. No one else seemed to care but once again the sound quality at a WOMADelaide performance was inferior to years gone by.
But things were about to get magical back on Stage 2. Yo, Carmen is a reimagining of the operatic tale of Carmen, and was a stunning spectacle in every respect. Wonderful songs from live musicians at the back of the stage provided the musical palette for a group of female flamenco dancers to strut and twirl about the stage in scenes from the opera. What a fabulously sexy phenomenon is flamenco! The dancers from Maria Pages Compania from Spain were so elegant, so dramatic, so bewitching.

(This review also published on The Clothesline.)

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