Thursday, March 21, 2019

WOMAD 2015 - New Plymouth - 15 -17 March 2019



Photo: Tim Gruar
Before beginning, I want to pay tribute to the 50 souls who were brutally cut down by an act of pure hatred on Friday afternoon in Christchurch.  Our hearts reach out to their friends, family, and community. 

The events unfolded at pace as we listened in complete shock, on the radio, driving to New Plymouth.  Immediately all the frustrations of traffic delays caused by summer road works dissolved away and were replaced by shock and fear.  Only an hour before, we were listening to the bright hopeful voices school students protesting and calling for awareness to climate change on the steps of Parliament.  And that should have been the salient theme of this year’s WOMAD festival.  But it never came close.

Photo: Tim Gruar
This is my 7th consecutive WOMAD, a celebrations of world music, arts, culture and above all, diversity.  This is the place where people from everywhere come together to learn and share in the best everything the world can offer.  Normally, there is a heightened buzz about the place.  People arrived and it was business as usual but there was an unspoken cloud hovering.

It started with the canvas city that amasses on the racecourse adjacent to the Bowl of Brooklands, in New Plymouth.  This year the campsite had completely sold out, with thousands of tents, camper vans and Winnebago’s also jostling for the best position.  Usually, there are loud voices, people playing cricket, drinking wine, flags flying and the aromas of exotic food wafting about.  But, understandably, the site was subdued with everyone checking phones and speaking in hushed tones.

WOMAD was meant to start with the Prime Minister opening, but events down South had overtaken this.  Then I heard from my Radio NZ colleagues that Kim Hill’s Saturday Morning live cross was cancelled.  Comedian Jeremy Elwood also told me that his live cross to The Project was also cancelled.  Other media events were rescheduled.  I mention all this because this year’s WOMAD was promising to be the largest and greatest celebration to date, with unprecedented ticket sales, despite there being no household named headliners.  Punters were investing in the reputation the experience of past events alone.

Angelique Kidjo
Photo: Tim Gruar
The security presence was amped up, too.  Police numbers were more obvious, with sidearms and there were security crews dressed ominously in military black with high vis-vests.  This felt very unnatural, given their usual invisibility. WOMAD is one of the places you can go where security is usually very low.  The biggest presence of emergency crew is St John’s Ambulance, who usually attend to grazes, heat exhaustion and the occasional hot flush.  With a predominance of families, over 65’s and teenagers, this was not the kind of place for panic or alarm: everyone felt safe – usually.

But, as the say, the show must go on.  Minister Andrew Little, standing in for the Prime Minister opened the festival and calling for a celebration of life and cultural inclusion.  Just then it didn’t feel right.  We all stood wondering what to do.  Here we were in this beautiful place about to arty hard but we were lost, hurting, shocked, confused and maybe even feeling guilty to be here. 

First up, the ‘Aphropsychadelic’ beats of South African band BCUC kicked in to gear, almost in defiance of the day’s events elsewhere.  They were determined to get the party started.  It seemed people were a little reluctant to get funky, even those dressed up for the night. 
I caught the honey sweet soul of Hokianga’s quiet sensation charming young fans on the Gables stage.  He was running through his usual set, which includes the deliciously honest song Grapefruit Skies. The posse of young ladies at the front swooned and swayed to his 5 piece band, hanging off every phrase.

Amjad Ali Khan
Photo: Tim Gruar
Friday night is always an open invitation to wear wild and crazy costumes, and a dedicated group brought out their best, with illuminated dresses and capes and wild masks.  However, the efforts were definitely down on previous years.   

Amjad Ali Khan is one of the undisputed masters of the Indian classical world.  Flanked by his sons Amaan Ali and Ayaan Ali he delivered he gave us a mesmerizing and magical performance.  His playing is a true master class of the sarod, a traditional instrument that is similar to a lute but coupled with the tambala ascends new heights.  It’s a deeply nasal sound, like chanting. I can’t put my finger on why exactly but that performance was like a trigger release for me, unleashing the flood of pain I was feeling for Christchurch at that moment and it drove me to tears.  As I looked around, I was the only one.  This was a brief moment of healing and I was grateful for it.

Nadia Reid
Photo: Tim Gruar
Folkie Nadia Reid took to the Todd Energy Stage, one of the larger ones, with a full band.  She stuck mainly to her greatest hits Songs like Richard and Call The Days were more uplifting and soulful with that greater accompaniment, less morbid than the originals.   
Sona Jobarteh played a collection of songs on the kora – a 21 stringed harp, similar to a lute, but made from a gourd.  It’s traditionally only played by men in ‘Griot’ families, West Africa.  She was taught by her brother and, we learned, was the the first female from a Griot family to play it professionally.  Her voice was soft as silk and quiet beautiful.  A calm moment, and entrancing, too. 

Back after 6 years, London’s high energy duo, The Correspondents put on the most cathartic show of the night.  Mixing Brazilian, Old Time Swing and Jazz with British Hip Hop rhythms, DJ/Producer Chucks threw down a bed of massive mashup of genre bending tunes over which singer Mr Bruce delivered his quirky vocals.  Now bald headed Mr Bruce was still as tall and lanky as he was during his last visit.  He was dressed is a special skinny black track suit with accentuated his crazy, explosive and manic dancing cartwheels, spun and catapulted around the Todd Energy stage like it was he personal gymnasium.  He appeared to me as young Peter Garrett, especially the energy.  That famous bunny had nothing on him.  They whipped through a number of newer songs, including their new e.p. Who Knew?, all on DJ steroids and completed on a tune that they’d played at their last visit – What Happened To Soho?  That one got the biggest cheer.

The Correspondents
Photo: Tim Grar
The other act I caught was Finn Andrews.  Still sporting his trademark wide brimmed hat he was accompanied by a 4 piece band and backing singers.  He spent most of the set seated at a baby grand, performing a selection from his new album, One Piece At A Time, which dropped today.  Still employing elements of  dark Cave-esque ballad his tunes seemed eerie and poignant.  A song about the birds in Hyde park waking his to great annoyance seemed an appropriate moment of relief in his mainly lush but somber repertoire.  Love, What Can I do?, the new single was definitely a highlight.   That didn’t stop his charm coming through, as he weaved a quiet magic on his crowd, many who were older and probably never known his time with the Veils.     

Day two at Womad began, appropriately with karakia on the TSB Bowl Stage remember “our fallen brothers and sisters in Christchurch, our wider whanau around Aotearoa who are hurting and to guide and protect our WOMAD family and artists.”

Safety was definitely amped up again, in response further, with more police and security teams.  This definitely seemed like a very surreal moment but necessary.  You may ask why the event was even continuing, and the organizers, including TAFT CEO Suzanne Porter did front up to explain that.  They said in a press conference that all Muslim performers had been consulted, along with a host of other artists, to check if the Festival should continue.  Flanked by UK CEO Chris Smith and Emere Wana (WOMAD’s creative director)  they explained that WOMAD a celebration of life and diversity.  You cancel in the face of acts of hatred was to let that win.  As Andrew Little had said, the day before: Let us celebrate what WOMAD stands for, for diversity, for tolerance and for love" 

Ria Hall
Photo: Tim Gruar
And so thousands today came together to do just that.    

It was fitting that Ria Hall and the Nudge were first up.  Hall brought her recent album and show The Rules of Engagement, which documents early land wars conflict in The Bay Of Plenty. Sung in Te Reo, it was the perfect response to the actions of Friday.  The message ‘Kia Kaha’ was undeniable.

Age Pryor lead his Congress of Animals through a rather chaotic workshop dedicated to song writing.  The sung a few tracks from their recent album, dissecting as they went, to demonstrate how their own collaboration processes worked.  They later led the crowd in a full show on a bigger stage, which was ‘very satisfying,” according to my campsite neighbors.  

The Black Seeds / Photo : Tim Gruar
Local Heroes The Black Seeds returned to the Bowl Stage to perform a solid set from their back catalog, with Turn It Around being the standout track – not just because it’s a message of hope but a damn fine tune, too.  The bowl was at capacity and everyone was keen to dance away in the late afternoon sun.

On the Todd Energy Stage Sharon Shannon whipped up another huge audience with mainly mainstream Celtic tinged music.  Most were covers, and a happy set for those in the over 65 ‘Lounge’ (viewing platforms).  Shannon plays accordion sitting down, so most of the audience cajoling duties fell to the other members of her 5 piece band. Songs blended into each other and inspired plenty of dancing.  The final jig was a cover of Music For A Found Harmonium, made famous by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and very familiar to the predominantly older revelers.  

I really enjoyed the workshop taken by members of Maalem Hamid El Kashri.  This group, from Morocco, features the playing of a guembri, which is a three stringed bass lute.  Amplified, it sounds very much like a deep throated bo- diddley.  Through a translator we learned that many of the original slave and blues songs came from Morocco, where the East and West of Africa collide with the Arab world.  In the hands of Hamid El Kasri this simple instrument can be transformed into a very complex session of melodies and counter harmonies as it’s picked, strummed and ‘bashed’. They also explained that despite our preconceptions, women in their society are the inspiration to much of their music, even as their paying ‘patrons’.  And then their were their highly elaborate traditional costumes, decorated with shells, elaborate hats and smocks.  Add to that the clacking accompaniment of large tin maracas and they were an amazing sight to behold.

Las Cafeteras
Photo: Tim Gruar
One of the most uplifting experiences of the day came from Las Cafeteras, a USA based Mexican band who mixed up a sizzling fusion of Afro-Latino, Hip Hop, Folk and First nation rhythms.  On the banks of the Bowl, the kids usually slide down the sides and hang from the trees but these tunes were so infectious they’d stopped their playing and were joining their parents to party away.  Their re-claimed version of La Bamba had everyone on their feet towards the end of the hour.

I was expecting great things from La Dame Blanche from Cuba.  Her father is Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos, the trombonist from recent tourists Buena Vista Social Club.  Her repertoire, sung in French was mainly a hip hop and Cumbian blend. Backed by digital tracks, a drummer and bass guitarist, she was solid but not overly inspiring.  To the uninitiated, no doubt this was great stuff.  Sadly, I’ve heard it all before and was not so inspired. 

I didn’t have great expectations for Welsh Folk outfit Jamie Smith’s Mabon, who seemed on the surface, at least, to be another knock off variation of Mumford and Sons.  So, I was pleasantly surprised by their crack and energy as they whipped through a number of joyful Celtic and Welsh pub tunes.  Again, using an accordion, guitars and drums the five piece didn’t offer anything particularly new but they did inject a much needed element of fun into the day.

My Baby
Photo: Tim Gruar
New firm favourites were Dutch/Kiwi trio My Baby who brought an eclectic and sexy mix of blues, swamp rock and funk.  It had everybody up and dancing with car free abandon.  Playing on the Bowl stage, they used the leftover crowd from the Black Seeds’ earlier gig to ramp it up a few notches and put on a full blown rock show.  Joost van Dijck was stunning on drums, and his sister Cato and Daniel 'Dafreez' Johnston put in blistering guitar efforts, creating a wall of cyclic rhythms that was like a tidal wave of pure joy.  .I’ve seen them play several times in the past and always found them brilliant but not quite at their potential.  

I think tonight’s electrifying performance of psychedelic freakery finally delivered that for me.
West African diva Angelique Kidjo closed the night with a full on party set based around a mix or her older songs and her recent reinterpretation of the Talking Head’s classic album Remain In Light.  She reminded everyone that you need to celebrate every moment, it’s no good when you are six feet under.  Normally words like this are two a penny at a festival like this but today, they really meant something.  Flamboyantly moving about the stage, she took control of the party bringing out a drummer at the end for a dance off’ with the back stage crew and friends who were also dragged up on stage.

Sunday was an opportunity catch up on any gigs missed over the previous two days.  And to add a couple of new ones.  For me it was also a chance to relax a little bit and soak up the atmosphere.  Since Friday the mood had changed from hurts and disillusion to hope and love.  Everyone was careful and kind.  Even the weather was on our side, with brilliant sunshine all day. I chose to check out the writers at the Kuning stage doing various readings and talking about their books.  One was veteran music journalist Nick Bollinger, who read from his book about his days in Rick Bryant’s band Rough Justice, recalling hilarious tales of touring dodgy pubs on $5 and two slices of bread.  He also dropped hints of a new project exploring New Zealand’s counter culture in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Fran Kora
Photo: Tim Gruar
I also had a chance to see Kora, who were playing just one show.  They pulled out all stops and delivered a huge set from their first two albums.  On My Mind and Organics were two of the tracks I saw before moving to check out the other stages.  Always crowd pleasers, It’s been 10 years since they were on the Bowl stage but everyone remembered them with affection, boogieing hard and singing along in appreciation.

Michelle A’Court’s late night comedy routine was also a wonderful relief, as she delivered jokes about women, the #MeToo Movement and drinking too much wine.  It all went down rather well with this crowd.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been to this Festival many times but this has been the hardest one to cover.  I have mixed emotions, as do many here.  And I won’t apologies for that.  WOMAD will be criticized for continuing on.  But what was the alternative? Let hate win?

Music stimulates and feeds all that is human, so for me it was important to be here.  It was cathartic.  I don’t think I am alone in that.  There is still great love here, as I’ve witnessed in the campsite, on the streets and among audiences cheering and dancing, supporting the artists and celebrating their art and music.  But we were living in a WOMAD bubble that will inevitably burst at the end of Sunday night when we return to our homes, whanau and loved ones. 

Photo: Tim Gruar
I am thankful for this time, and also for the organizers and the security and police who kept us safe and reassured us.  And I am thankful for the artists, who gave us messages of sympathy and hope and caring and lifted our spirits in these dark days. 

Perhaps the decision to celebrate in the face of tragedy seemed heartless and irresponsible.  Then how would we react?  As was reminded time and again by many of the wonderful visitors from all cultures that I met over the weekend, we can never let the hatred of a few destroy us.  This does not define us - as Kiwis, as Tangata Whenua, as Citizens of the World.  

This is not and will NEVER be who were are!    
  
If you want to help the victims’ families consider : https://givealittle.co.nz/landingpages/support-for-christchurch/index.html





This review originally featured at: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/womad-new-plymouth-nz-2019/

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Pussy Riot (San Fran, 12 March) Wgtn Fringe Festival

The Coffee Bar Kid checks out Russian counter culture legends Pussy Riot and how art will always triumph over the great machine of conformity, regardless of the adversity.


Monday, March 11, 2019

The new WOMAD Australasian Compilation is out now!



Set among the trees, lake and view of the mighty Mount Taranaki in stunning 55-acre Brooklands Park and TSB Bowl of Brooklands, WOMAD New Zealand 2019 will see the festival celebrate its 15th anniversary in New Plymouth, 15-17 March 2019.

The internationally established three-day world music, arts and dance festival WOMAD is all about artist discovery and once again, the 2019 festival features an array of artists from all corners of the globe.

The latest compilation of artists performing at the internationally renowned WOMAD Festival is available now via Inertia / Border Music. Giving you a chance to get to know your WOMAD artists BEFORE the festival next week!

Featured on the 2019 Australia and New Zealand 2019 compilation is:
1. Angelique Kidjo – Once In A Lifetime
2. Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe & Daniel Ho – Qai Qai
3. Sharon Shannon – Rusheen Bay
4. Sona Jobarteh – Fatafina
5. Jamie Smith’s Mabon – The Space Between
6. Las Cafeteras – Tiempos De Amor
7. Shantel – Bucovina (Haaksman & Haaksman Soca Bogle Mix)
8. Dona Onete – Tipiti
9. La Dame Blanche – Mentira (feat. Mantiega (Batuk))
10. Baloji – L’hiverindien
11. My Baby – Electrified
12. Maarja Nuut & Rum - Haned Kadunud
13. BCUC - Nobody Knows 

The 13 artists represented on the compilation are just a mere snippet of the forty act strong WOMAD 2019 line up! Artists from countries as varied as Benin, Belgium, Ireland, Wales, Mexico and Greece are invited to Aotearoa to share their cultures, identities and heritage. They'll be sure to tell ancient, joyous and powerful tales via a mixture of traditional and modern performances. From upbeat Afropsychedelic party vibes to quiet moments of reflection and meditation, WOMAD 2019 will feature cellos, bagpipes and voices. WOMAD is a dizzying cocktail of exhilarating experiences for all. With over 40 local and international artists, WOMAD New Zealand is excited to deliver this discoverable and eclectic line up.

 clock to WOMAD.com



Thursday, March 07, 2019

Herbie Hancock plays the Jazz Festival 5-9 June Artists Announced (more to come)


We are thrilled to share with you the first release acts for 2019 Wellington Jazz Festival – starting with undisputed legend of jazz, Herbie Hancock, who will open the Festival at the Michael Fowler Centre on Wednesday 5 June.

The full programme will be announced on Monday 15 April. 




Tickets for everything go on sale to the general public at 10am on Wednesday 13 March, so secure your seats early and we will see you at the Michael Fowler Centre in March for some serious play.

The first release of this year’s programme also features the explosive funk ensemble Ghost-Note, ground breaking trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and the exquisite vocalist Alicia Olatuja.

A new commission from composers Lex French and Jasmine Lovell-Smith performed by Canadian/NZ collaborators CODE Quartet, along with perennial favourite the Rodger Fox Big Band spearhead the distinct sounds of New Zealand jazz.

HERBIE HANCOCK

I like to discover new rules so I can break them.
That’s where innovation comes from, that’s what keeps me playing.

Herbie Hancock Winner of 14 Grammy Awards during his illustrious career, Herbie Hancock has had an unparalleled influence on acoustic and electronic jazz and R&B for more than five decades.

In 2019, the 79-year-old maestro remains at the forefront of world culture, technology, business and music.

AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE QUARTET

 The most distinctive, elusive and ultimately satisfying trumpeter of his generation.

The New York Times Motivated by the spiritual and practical value of art, Ambrose Akinmusire aspires to create richly textured emotional landscapes that tell stories of the community, record the time and change the standard. Ambrose's acclaimed quartet will deliver a powerful performance of genre-defying music that sits within the centre and at the periphery of jazz, while intersecting the circles of hip-hop and classical music. Thursday 6 June 8pm 

GHOST-NOTE

 A sprawling kaleidoscope of sound, passion, funk, and might. Okayplayer Friday night is all about the Funk with explosive ensemble Ghost-Notepromising seductive danceable grooves and a contagious feel-good energy.

Headed by Snarky Puppy’s multi-Grammy Award-winning percussion duo of Robert ‘Sput’ Searight and Nate Werth joined by a stelllar line up of next level musicians, this is one energy-charged evening not to be missed.
Friday 7 June 8pm

ALICIA OLATUJA
 A singer with a strong and luscious tone and an amiably regal presence on stage.

The New York Times Alicia Olatuja has been astounding audiences with her exquisite vocals, artistic versatility and captivating demeanor.

Her critically-acclaimed album Intuition: Songs from the Minds of Women, celebrates the achievements of esteemed female composers including Brenda Russell, Sade, Tracy Chapman, Kate Bush, Angela Bofill, Joni Mitchell and Linda Creed.
Saturday 8 June 8pm

JOURNEYS IN SOUND: NEW MUSIC FROM AOTEAROA AND THE WORLD
A powerhouse collective of Canada’s leading jazz composers and improvisers,

CODE Quartet features original compositions that draw from each member’s unique background, along with the premiere of new compositions commissioned by the Festival.
Saturday 8 June 3pm 

SIMON O'NEILL AND THE RODGER FOX BIG BAND The Rodger Fox Big Band continues to defy musical boundaries in a stunning collaboration with international opera star and New Zealand native Simon O’Neill. Spend Sunday afternoon in the company of giants.
Sunday 9 June 3pm

 Wellington Jazz Festival



Monday, March 04, 2019

MC Tali will be at WOMAD 2019



New Zealand's most famous drum and bass export MC Tali has become a prolific artist in the international electronic scene. Originally from a dairy farm in Taranaki, this multi award-winning MC is a fiercely talented freestyler and a soulful singer who has worked her magic with some of the biggest names in the drum and bass scene.

Tali often works with Liquid Lowdown founder and DJ and radio host - Chiccoreli. Originally hailing from London, since arriving in New Zealand more than six years ago, Chiccoreli has played at several festivals around the country including Rhythm and Vines, Rhythm And Alps, Wanderlust, Northern Bass and Splore.

Sat, 10.30 pm, Gables Stage
Sun, 3.00 pm, OMV Taste the World

 https://www.womad.co.nz/artists/mctali/

LAS CAFETERAS will be at WOAMD 2019



Las Cafeteras fuse Afro-Mexican, hip-hop, folk and First Nations rhythms into songs of activism and celebration. Generating a genre-bending sound and electric live performance with four versatile vocalists, their lyrically rich storytelling shares the hidden stories of migrant life in Los Angeles.

Sat, 2.00 pm, TSB Bowl Stage
Sun, 1.00 pm, Todd Energy Brooklands Stage
Sun, 7.45 pm, OMV Taste the World

 https://www.womad.co.nz/artists/las-cafeteras/

Angélique Kidjo will be at WOMAD



In 1980 Talking Heads’ Remain in Light album, heavily influenced by the music of West Africa, caught the attention of a young Angelique Kidjo in Paris. Hearing it again years later sparked the idea of a full circle deconstruction that seemed only natural. Using Afrobeat horns and percussion, and infusing the lyrics with new meaning, Grammy Award-winning Angelique brings her stunning twist on a classic album to WOMAD in March.

Fri, 9.30 pm, OMV Taste the World
Sat, 10.30 pm, TSB Bowl Stage