Wonderful Womad Weekend

WOW! What a weekend. 30 hours of music and more. With highlights each day that left us buzzing. Lots of good moments and it just kept getting better. These are my memories, and Wyn will follow with hers later.The weather was a bit marginal when the festival started on Friday evening at 6pm. We took our umbrella but didn’t need it. And over the weekend, the weather just got better and better.

The festival opened on the TSB Bowl Stage – which is a natural amphitheatre with a sound shell separated from the audience by part of the duck pond – on Sunday I saw one of the playing band members feeding the ducks 🙂 The first act was the Seckou Keita Quartet. He plays the kora – a 21-string West African harp. The range of sound is extraordinary. This was a great start to the weekend, and fittingly an African one – there were some great African musicians over the three days.

Later in the night came Rokia Traore, another African musician. The write-up in the programme didn’t prepare us for what followed. It made no mention of the musicians accompanying her. We were blown away by her, and her band. The programme suggested “an intriguing, sophisticated and intimate performance”.  What we got was a full-on rocking performance, from her and her band. There was an act to follow, but we chose to end the night with her performance. It’s like wanting to savour a particular taste from a meal – to make it last. At the conclusion of the weekend, for me she was the stand-out.

Saturday dawned fine and sunny. Mt Taranaki was clear – a good start to the day. And at mid-day Andrew White was a good restart to the festival. It is a hard job being first up in the middle of the day on a big stage with a huge amphitheatre. He is a NZ/Canadian acoustic guitar virtuoso with a good voice and a connection with his audience. He was joined for a while by Brendan Power – a UK based kiwi harmonica player, and the two were amazing together. Brendan Power is  well regarded around the world – recording backing artists like Sting. Interestingly, hearing Andrew White towards the end of festival reminded me of Sting’s voice.

Fat Freddys Drop brought the crowds in for the evening – and it’s easy to see why – they are a great NZ act. And they were followed on another stage by Seun Kuti and Egypt 80. There were 16 members of the Egypt 80 orchestra, and awesome lighting. Seun Kuti has a political slant to his songs. He made a delightful reflection on the current international economic crisis, and the amounts being spent on trying to stop people becoming poor.  He observed that most people in the world are already poor – it was a kind of “welcome to the real world” comment.  They were a wonderful climax to a day of wonderful music.

Sunday dawned fine as well – a good day to conclude the festival. we walked down to the supermarket for a few supplies, and were back ready at mid-day for the first performances. A NZ woman Mihirangi was first-up, an amazing musician using loops of sounds she creates herself. Then it was off to another stage to pay homage to Shona Laing. We slowed down a bit through the afternoon, and took time to enjoy the other parts of the festival. See the Tibetan monk’s mandala was fascinating. The highlight of the afternoon was hearing the Aboriginal singer Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. His voice has been described as that of an angel, and that’s a fair description. His songs were transporting, and moving. Later in the evening, the All Star Gala saw a lot of the artists drawn together by Justin Adams, one of the festival musicians. The final multi-national number was simply inspired and inspiring – a special moment. The festival was closed by a 6 French harmony singing/percussion, foot stomping handclapping group, concluding a fabulous festival. We were exhausted and content – we’d been able to sample most parts of the festival, and it had met and exceeded all our high expectations.

We had to be out of the racecourse campsite by 10am on Monday. We decided we needed time to rest up after the weekend, and time to enjoy New Plymouth a bit more. And the weather looked good for a few days. So we booked into the same site on the camp ground we’d been in before the festival. We made a beeline for there, and did our dumping stuff, and settled in to relax.

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