Adelaide Festival Review: WOMADelaide

Another year has passed and with it another WOMADelaide. The March long weekend is one of our favourite times of year thanks to this blockbuster of a festival, with this year’s line up boasting the likes of Baker Boy, Dan Sultan, Kamasi Washington, Remi x Sampa, Tao Dance Theatre, The Avalanches, and The Manganiyar Seduction. What a year! Along with some beautiful shots from the weekend, in no particular order we have compiled some of our highlights.

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Foundation Stage. Photography: Rachel Wong

Nai Palm
With stunning lead vocals and lead guitar funky groove, Nai Palm got everyone on their feet dancing, a strong and deep and raspy aesthetic to her voice.

Arboria
That never-ending queue! Recognisable from its previous incarnation at the 2010 Adelaide Fringe, but with an increased level of detail amongst the seams. The fluorescent chambers now have filigreed domes – the contrast in material produces intense highlights you’d swear were artificially lit, had you not just seen and stepped into what resembles a cross between a jumping castle and a cathedral.

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Baker Boy. Photography: Rachel Wong

Baker Boy
The most energising performance of the weekend! His enthusiasm and dancing is infectious, helped by the hype man who got the crowd going rapping in his native tongue. We have ever heard anything like it; he inspires the audience to embrace their own culture, without being ashamed.

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TAO Dance Theatre. Photography: Rachel Wong

TAO Dance Theatre
Their hypnotic and graceful dance movements meant that you could see the discipline in every synchronised movement. Together, the troupe created a visual spectacle that explored the capability of the human body, from the visually stunning form to the minimalist aesthetic in their costumes, their black painted faces, and the chanting and gong.

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Crowd. Photography: Rachel Wong

Tank and the Bangas
Their lead singer, Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball, was impressive and she switched effortlessly between a high-pitched squeaky voice and into  a deep and soulful voice, somehow simultaneously singing, telling a story and doing poetry. What a stunner of a show.

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Sampa and Remi. Photography: Rachel Wong

Remi x Sampa
Taking turns going back to back, as well as helping each other out with backing vocals, this duo are certainly the future of the Australian hip hop scene. Supported by a tight band and some talented back up singers, these guys kept us dancing.

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A vocalist for Kamasi Washington. Photography: Rachel Wong

Kamasi Washington
Opening with a jazzy cacophony energised the crowd for a packed Sunday night session. One of a handful of Kendrick Lamar collaborators on the lineup, Washington’s ensemble played an extremely diverse set, which ranged from extended jazz sessions to a few select songs written and performed by members of the ensemble, veering on the funky side, and then a bit kraut-rocky. Rickey Washington even made a surprise appearance playing alto sax.

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Planet Talks. Photography: Rachel Wong
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San Lazaro. Photography: Rachel Wong

San Lazaro
A funky group that you’d never guess came from Fitzroy in Melbourne’s inner North, San Lazaro combined musical genres in a way like no other. We felt the funk.

Jojo Abot
Jojo Abot should be a global phenomenon. Her blend of electronic and house music with jazz, reggae, and tribal music was captivating. Her music is vibrant, Afrobeat punk electronica, eminently danceable and sensual. Performing at the Novatech stage, the bats in the trees above her were awoken, adding to the ethereal, slightly creepy, magical feel of the show.

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Crowd. Photography: Rachel Wong

Cie Bivouac
This lured the audience into the performance from afar, with an angelic and operatic voice singing sustained notes, paired alongside a cellist and dancing and acrobatics, it felt as if we had gone into a fantastical ‘world’.

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Thundercat. Photography: Rachel Wong

Thundercat
Having worked with Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu, Kamasi Washington (also a Womad 2018 performer), and Childish Gambino, Thundercat is an established musical presence on the world stage. There were people lining up for his performance well over an hour beforehand. His skill was astonishing, crafting the most complex sounds from his bass with ease. The jazz influence on his performing style was clear, as he seemed to improv back and forth with his drummer and keyboardist. The Afrofuturist sound that has shaped so many lauded albums over the last few years was on display, and was well worth the wait.

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Gratte Ciel. Photography: Rachel Wong

Gratte Ciel
The most Instagrammed act of Womad 2018, Gratte Ciel’s ‘Place des Anges’ really was as good as the hype said. Having heard rumours of tonnes of feathers (literal tonnes), and high-wire acts, Gratte Ciel was magical, ethereal, and ultimately, fun. Standing beneath angels flying overhead, in a rain of feathers was the perfect way to end WOMADelaide 2018.

The Manganiyar Seduction
These men hail from a musical caste in India: they’ve been musicians all their lives. Playing to a full seated audience, the staging showed flair and an awareness of the audience, through a brilliant simple grid of boxes that contained each player, which lit up according to who was playing at each point. This also allowed you to better read what was going on from a distance, while building to an inevitable crescendo when the whole stage lit up, Moulin Rouge style. Arguably the under-hyped highlight of the whole festival!

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Crowd. Photography: Rachel Wong

Special mention to the food and environmentally focused events, both of which have become staples of WOMADelaide. Also the general inclusion of less root-sy genres, which interestingly increases the range of geographies represented and the accessibility of the lineup, although it is at the expense of more esoteric acts. We will see you next year, at WOMAD 2019!

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