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BWW Review: WOMADELAIDE 2017: DAY 2 at Botanic Park

Reviewed by Ray Smith, Friday 11th March 2017

The second day of the WOMADelaide Festival saw another warm but rather humid afternoon.

Down on the Novatech Stage the Welsh group 9Bach began their set at 1.00pm. An interesting mixture of instruments support front person Lisa Jen's Welsh lyric as the band boasts, keyboards, dulcimer, harmonium, harp, acoustic guitar, electric bass and a full drum kit in its armoury.

The award-winning ensemble, who are signed to Peter Gabriel's Real World label, were joined on stage by members of the Black Arm Band for a moving a capella piece and not for the first time. The band has collaborated in the past with the Black Arm Band Company and this seems to me to greatly inform their songwriting style.

Jen's lyrics, delivered in her native tongue, are about home and ancestors and the cultural history of the Welsh people in clear parallel with indigenous people of this country. The songs are delivered in an understated, shifting soundscape that is very pleasing to the ear.

The Oki Dub Ainu Band from Japan appeared on Stage 2 and, as I was hurrying from the distant Novatech Stage to catch the end of their performance, I began to feel that I was heading in the wrong direction. Surely the sound that was issuing from Stage 2 was an African Kora.

How wrong I was. The bright, plucked string I was hearing was coming from the Tonkori, a forgotten stringed instrument from Japan's indigenous Ainu music. Oki Kano, who worked for years in film New York as a special effects technician returned to Japan to produce a quite different special effect by combining ancient musical forms with dub. The repetitive phrases from the strings, the vocal chanting and the heavy insistent rhythms melded into an hypnotic cocktail.

The Zoo Stage was host to the Hanoi Masters from Vietnam.

Master Van-Anh Vo, who regularly performs with the Kronos Quartet, was joined by Masters Quoc Hung and Pham Mong Hai playing traditional instruments with great authority. They performed in a very traditional way but many of the pieces themselves were very contemporary. "War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar" needs no explanation with regard to its history or the motivation for its composition.

I confess that after many a drum beat it was very refreshing to be presented with such a pure experience of undiluted culture.

Nattali Rize, best known for her work as front person for Blue King Brown, has reinvented herself again as she leads a new reggae project. After spending time living in Jamaica she has returned with a Jamaican-international band and is about to release the debut album of her new ensemble.

A very well rehearsed and tight ensemble delivered a faultless backing to Rize's powerful and emotive vocals. Perhaps the rarified atmosphere of this "new-conscious reggae project" was the reason that the bass player seemed to be wearing a space suit.

Lamine Sonko and the African Intelligence played on Stage 3

West African Roots Music delivered in multiple languages by multiple players. The ten piece outfit really had people on their feet with pulsing African rhythms accented by talking drum and virtuosic electric guitar playing. This was not just another. "jazz/funk/soul fusion" project, these folks really deliver something special and present it as a circus of dance, song, social comment and superb playing.

The Warsaw Village Band played their final show at WOMADelaide before heading off to Port Fairy and then on to the New Zealand WOMAD. I couldn't resist seeing them again and they did not disappoint.

Angus Stone's Dope Lemon played Stage 3 which may have been a bit of a mistake.

Apart from the fact that the Stage 3 audio rig boasts only around 40 channels and Dope Lemon really require more than that, the area in front of Stage 3 was nowhere near large enough for the enormous crowd that Stone's ensemble attracted.

This extraordinarily prolific songwriter was greeted warmly by an audience already very familiar with his back catalogue. Well crafted songs, beautifully arranged and expertly delivered in a very up close and personal way that made the listener forget the thousands that were gathered around for the event.

The Waifs attracted a huge crowd of fans, which came as a surprise to absolutely nobody, as they celebrated their own 25th anniversary.

The much-loved trio of Josh Cunningham, Vikki Thorn, and Donna Simpson led the audience along a faintly nostalgic path during their extended set but interspersed the familiar songs with new material. These are old hands of the WOMADelaide Festival, and they were perfectly at ease on stage, and totally professional in their delivery and easy communication with the audience. A class act.

Phew! I think I need to sit down.

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