Arts Projects Australia. Botanic Park. Fri Mar 10 – Mon Mar 13
For WOMADelaide day three, the weather decided to put on a show of its own, but even cloudy skies and rain couldn’t put a damper on the musical goodness on offer!
My day begins with a bit of East African music from Ethiopian-origin Melbourne band Nhatty Man & Gara, which set a precedent for my day swinging between African and American music.
A light spattering of rain has given way to a bit of sunshine, and the brightness complemented the music beautifully! Nhatty Man put his band together in Melbourne, after being a successful muso in his native Ethiopia, and together with his crew, who themselves are a multicultural bunch, produces a sound that is immediately and distinctly Ethiopian; but is also so much more.
I’m a big fan of the jazzy, bluesy Ethiopian style of music made famous by the Ethiopiques series, and there was plenty of that in Nhatty Man’s set to enjoy. The dark, rolling grooves are a perfect backdrop to the sultry weather, and I find myself being carried away by the entrancing tunes. Add to that elements of reggae, dub, and more western styled jazz, and you’ve got yourselves an act to behold.
Nhatty Man gets the crowd well-activated, teaching us a few Ethiopian style dance moves, and generating some good enthusiasm. I do get the impression he isn’t feeling the vibe from the full crowd, as it seems like hard work to keep everyone together. Maybe the weather is wreaking its own havoc on the crowd’s enthusiasm, but thankfully in my part of the audience, way down at the front, the energy is electric!
From Africa to America, I journey back to New Orleans for more Hot 8 Brass Band goodness. In general, I don’t review stuff I’ve already seen at the same festival, but for the Hot 8, I’ll make an exception! They are the main draw-card for me at WOMADelaide this year, so I only think it’s fair I air their excellence once again! This set is just as hot as their Friday night viewing, but unfortunately, the weather isn’t so good this time around. The rain starts up, and is unrelenting, getting heavier as the gig wears on.
With a sea of plastic ponchos and umbrellas swelling around me (who brings a brolly to a festival anyway!?), I decide to spare my clothes from wetness and my eyes from being poked by umbrella skeletons, and make for the nearest tree. Using God’s umbrella, I still have a great view and still get the same kicks out of the show (yes, I was the only dude dancing under the tree to stage left, but what the heck!).
The band plays on, and the plastic-coated crowd continue to lap it up. The sizeable group sharing my natural cover are also digging the vibe, and the energy is obviously enough to push those clouds away, because after a few minutes, the rain stops and I am back dancing down the front!
The band’s set is fairly similar to Friday’s, playing covers of Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Waiting In Vain, and Sexual Healing again, along with their original tunes. Sadly, my favourite tune from the band’s last album Tombstone, a rollicking Milwaukee Fat, was absent, but there is plenty still to enjoy! These guys really are sensational!
At the end, it turns out that due to a time-slip in the schedule, they have a few minutes extra, so come back with an encore covering The Specials’ Ghost Town, which is a pretty damn cool way to end their WOMADelaide contribution in 2017!
Staying within America, but heading way down south, it was onto Chile next for the charismatic Ana Tijoux. She’s made her name as a hip hop songstress, with a social-political message, but accompanied by horns, guitars and drums, there is a lot more to this than straight-up top-40-esque hip hop.
The live band gives an air of rootsiness to the music, and Ana swings between elements of dancehall, reggae, Latin jazz, and funk, bringing so much more to the sound. I can feel my feet getting tired, but Ana’s music is infectious enough to keep the vibe happening despite any dance-fatigue! The music is rich and the lyrics powerful (I figure understanding the more speaky vocal style of hip hop would be easier, but the rapid fire delivery still makes it tricky… puedo a ver necesito mucho mas practica con mi español!).
While I only understand about 60%, it is still great fun. In fact, with Ana being dark and pint sized, she reminds me of my wife, who shares those characteristics, making it odd to see her speaking better Spanish than me! Despite her small physical size, Ana Tijoux is a musical giant. Her sound, and powerful vocals, ring loud and clear for all to not only hear, but also to feel. It is a very cool set!
It’s back to Africa again, and I get to practice my Spanish some more, thanks to Spanish-speaking West Saharan songstress Aziza Brahim. Located south of Morocco, Western Sahara is a conflicted nation, but there is no sense of conflict within the band, which contains members from Western Sahara, Senegal and Spain, mixing a bunch of styles together beautifully and reflecting the complex landscape of Aziza’s homeland.
The music has a dark undercurrent, obviously resonating with the nation’s struggles, and no doubt Aziza’s own, but also has a feeling of hope for the future, and Aziza does a great job conveying that message of a brighter future, dedicating tunes to the struggles and to refugees. She not only rings out in beautiful vocal tone, but also plays a hand drum and, joined by a drum kit and an African drum set (consisting of a couple of kplango drums, a djembe, and even a talking drum!) makes a very percussive sound throughout. Spanish classical guitar adds a unique softer element to the music, and the whole thing is very impressive. The music is a blend of traditional and western styles, underpinned by the desert blues of that region of Africa, we grooved along with a backdrop of afternoon fading to evening (and about a million bats inhabiting the Speakers Corner area!).
From Africa, it is back to America again to round out the day with a bit of Brazilian bossa nova. Bebel Gilberto is a giant of bossa nova, and has a pedigree to match. The daughter of bossa nova legend Joaõ Gilberto, Bebel has gone on to win Grammy awards and people’s hearts with her gentle touch on the Brazilian style. She’s a master of the craft; the jazzy tones float across the crowd perfectly accompanied by Bebel’s angelic voice.
I’ve been listening to Bebel for many years now, first coming across her and getting into bossa nova while I was still at uni, and it became my winter’s morning accompaniment to studying all those years ago. It is great to experience it in the flesh, and after a busy WOMADelaide with plenty of dancing, a nice way to relax into the evening. The show is seated, which is unusual for a stage one act, but fitting for this style of music. The only issue being because of all the rain, the ground isn’t very conducive or inviting for sitting, especially for me with no plastic to sit on! I decide to keep my pants dry and I watch from the back, letting the music carry me away… the perfect way to end the day!
When: 10 to 13 Mar
Where: Botanic Park