Tuesday, April 07, 2020

RIP : Bill Withers has died, aged 81

Singer and musician Bill Withers has died, aged 81, in Los Angeles, California on April 2 2020.

His family shared the news, following Withers’ death on Monday 30th March, from heart complications. “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father. A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other. “As private a life as he lived close to intimate family and friends, his music forever belongs to the world. In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones.” Withers came to fame in the seventies following the release of his 1971 album Just As I Am, with the classic singles ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, Grandma’s Hands and ‘Everybody’s Talkin’. He went on to release eight subsequent LPs, before retiring from the music industry in the late eighties. Withers is survived by his wife and two children.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Hiatus Kaiyote - WOMAD 2020

Photo - McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Hiatus Kaiyote (/haɪˈeɪtəs kaɪˈjoʊti/) is a future soul quartet formed in Melbourne in 2011.  The members are Naomi "Nai Palm" Saalfield (vocals, guitar), Paul Bender (bass), Simon Mavin (keyboards) and Perrin Moss (drums, percussion). They have been nominated twice for Grammy Awards. In 2013, they were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance for their song "Nakamarra", performed with Q-Tip. The song appears on their debut album, Tawk Tomahawk. The band released their second album, Choose Your Weapon, on 1 May 2015. The review aggregator Metacritic has given the album a normalised rating of 88 out of 100, based on 6 reviews. On 9 May 2015, Choose Your Weapon debuted at number 22 on the Australian albums chart. The song "Breathing Underwater" from Choose Your Weapon was nominated for Best R&B Performance at the 58th Grammy Awards.

One of the most sampled bands in the world, artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper are finding inspiration from Hiatus Kaiyote; a beguiling outfit that stretches kaleidoscopic sounds into Grammy-nominated masterpieces. Jazz, soul, funk, fusion, hip hop and electronica are their predominant building blocks but the resultant sonic shapes blur the edges and defy the pigeonhole.

Here's a couple of photos from their WOMAD session in March this year.

Photo - McKenzie Jennings Gruar
Photo - McKenzie Jennings Gruar

Monday, March 30, 2020

Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch - WOMAD 2020 - Photos

In October last year, organizers announced the first of the big hitters coming to this year’s WOMAD Festival. Among them was harpist Catrin Finch and renowned kora player Seckou Keita, who have been nominated for a string of world music gongs over the last year, including the coveted BBC Radio2 Folk Awards, for their second album SOAR. That album also took out fRoots Magazine’s Critics Poll Album of the year 2018, Best Transglobal Album of The Year in the Transglobal World Music Awards and ‘Best Fusion’ in the Songlines Music Awards 2019. So, given all the fuss, the Tim Gruar decided to call up Sekou Keita and find out what all the hoo-haa was about and why it’s unthinkable to miss their performance at this year’s 2020 WOMAD. 

Read his interview here: https://www.ambientlightblog.com/womad-2020-interviews-catrin-finch-seckou-keita/

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Reb Fountain - WOMAD 2020 Photos

Born in southern California to her music lovin' peace-making parents, Reb Fountain had a bit of a rough ride before eventually ending up in her current life in Auckland.

Initially arriving by ship into Lyttleton harbour with only $100, Reb's family relished in get-togethers and sing-a-longs.

Following her heart on her OE to London and then back to the States, Reb studied performing arts in Seattle, Washington. As a jazz vocalist, Reb landed a place at the prestigious Dimitriou's Jazz Alley club, immersing herself in the work of the greats – Eartha Kitt, Tito Puente, Flora Purim and many others.

Reb Fountain has recently wooed audiences on an extensive nationwide winter 2008 tour with Johnny Barker aka Sleepy Kid. She had earlier teamed up with Barker at the 2008 Silver Scrolls Awards, where they honored The Top Twins Hall of Fame induction, performing Milestone to wide acclaim from industry insiders and their musical peers.

Reb Fountain - Photo by McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
A self-titled new album is heading our way; the keenly awaited follow-up to 2017’s Little Arrows and her Hopeful & Hopeless EP, which won Fountain the 2018 Recorded Music NZ Best Country Music Artist and APRA Best Country Music Song awards.

Produced by Dave Khan at Roundhead Studios, the collection promises to be a showcase for Fountain’s noir punk-folk songwriting style, and is further teased by lead single Faster.

The song has a a gorgeous video created by Lola Fountain-Best, shot on vintage Super 8 Ektachrome film to compliment the tune’s timeless feel.

Here's her new video, Sampson

Check out more from WOMAD at www.womad.co.nz

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Soaked Oats - WOMAD 2020 (Photos)

Soaked Oats are a young four-piece band hailing from Dunedin, New Zealand who have been described as “a southern stew of Kurt Vile with a good shake of Kevin Morby and Mac DeMarco”. Since forming in 2017, Soaked Oats have come to notoriety for writing songs about stoned fruit (‘Avocado Aficionado’, ‘I’m a Peach’), and have have become known for endearing live performances showcasing the bands penchant for joyous songwriting and high energy shows.

During this year's WOMAD the band charmed the audience - young and old. They even baked a pie at the OMV Taste The World tent - with a few Science Student questions thrown in for good measure.

Photo - Tim Gruar

Here's one of their popular tunes, Stoned Fruit, played at WOMAD

Check out their music at: https://soakedoats.bandcamp.com/

Keep Up with Soaked Oats https://www.facebook.com/soakedoats/

Keep Up with WOMAD - www.womad.co.nz

Friday, March 20, 2020

Shapeshifter - WOMAD 2020 (photos)

Kia Ora Groovers.  Tonight we start off a series of photos taken at WOMAD 2020 (Mar 13-15)
First up is one of the country's most iconic bands, Shapeshifter, who stepped in at the 11th hour when Ziggy Marley had to pull out.

Formed in Christchurch in 1999, Shapeshifter's brand of South Pacific jungle/drum and bass and heavy soul has become an integral part of the tapestry of our live and recorded music scene. Consistently selling gold to platinum and playing sold-out tours across the country and abroad, their influence and impact is undeniable.  Click and expand the slideshow above to view the photos.

Photo: McKenzie Jennings-Gruar
Here's their new video, Break Me Down

Keep up with Shapeshifter - https://www.facebook.com/shapeshifterlivenz/

Photos - www.freshthinking.net.nz

Keep up with WOMAD - www.womad.co.nz

Monday, March 16, 2020

Statement from Creative Capital Arts Trust regarding CubaDupa Cancellation

Today's announcement by the Prime Minister, requiring cancellation of upcoming major events, was a crushing blow to our plans for CubaDupa but now seems entirely necessary. Our organisation produces what might be New Zealand’s largest and most creative free outdoor festival.

Our team and creative partners were ready to fill the streets of Te Aro with 1500 artists, 447 events, and celebrate cultural identity with tens of thousands of friends and neighbors.

But in the name of public health and safety, and flattening the potential epidemic curve, going dark and keeping audiences and artists safe seems like the right policy. Italy, Korea, Spain, and the United States are making a case for early and robust mass containment policies, even when they seem drastic or belated. An important observation (Michael Leavitt, a former US Secretary of Health) is that “Anything said in advance of a pandemic seems alarmist. After a pandemic begins, anything one has said or done is inadequate.”

 CubaDupa are fully supportive of being drastic, of ensuring safer communities, of lessening the impact of contagion and illness.

There will be no 2020 festival. But we also remain committed to our mission as a leading cultural organisation, a champion of artists, and a facilitator of creative responses to the the issues of the day. Whatever comes next, a few things are certain: we intend to find new ways to support artists, to celebrate our amazing community, to be a post-pandemic festival.

Our team are currently figuring out how to postpone all the plans we’ve made for 2020, suspend what can be put on hold, and then keep on going. Then when times and community are safe, we'll present CubaDupa in all its glory.

Even in the face of terrifying uncertainties and great unknowns, the arts and creative ideas will lead us from dark to light. So while our organisation is now concerned with public safety and lessening contagion, we will never lose our focus on artists, performers, storytellers, and the magical experiences they bring to our shared humanity.

That too is entirely necessary.

Eric Vaughn Holowacz Chief Executive Creative Capital Arts Trust Toi Poneke - Wellington Arts Centre 65 Abel Smith Street, Te Aro, Wellington

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

WOMAD 2020 is all go!

WOMAD New Zealand is famous for bringing together artists from all over the globe for a vibrant showcase of the world's many forms of music, arts, and dance.

The 2020 festival is no exception and will feature close to 100 hours of music, dance and voices across eight stages. Over three days Ngāmotu's stunning Brooklands Park and the TSB Bowl of Brooklands will once again be transformed into a village of colour, energy and inclusion. WOMAD New Zealand 2020 features cutting edge performers and world-class musicians from every corner of the planet, delivering fresh new takes on traditional music.

And come March 2020, multi-award-winning, solo artists, duos, trios and 12-piece brass bands from around the globe will come together to perform at WOMAD New Zealand. Finnish Beatboxing, Maloyan Dance and Black Samba will join hands with Reggae, Rap, Folk, Funk, Jazz, Soul, Classical and Afrobeat to celebrate the world's differences.

Pioneering young artists alongside inspirational icons are set to promote acceptance, joy, love, hope and change via the universal language of mankind, music.

 WOMAD New Zealand is very proud to present, for the 16th year anniversary of the festival (in alphabetical order) Albi & The Wolves (Aotearoa/NZ), Blind Boys of Alabama (USA), Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (Wales/Senegal), Destyn Maloya (Réunion), Ezra Collective (UK), Flor de Toloache (Mexico/USA), Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia), Hot Potato Band (Australia), Ifriqiyya Electrique (Maghreb/Europe), KermesZ à l'Est (Belgium), King Ayisoba (Ghana), L.A.B. (Aotearoa/NZ), Laura Marling (UK), Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil), L Subramaniam (India), Marina Sattir & Fońes (Greece/Sudan), Minyo Crusaders (Japan), MONTELL2099 (Aotearoa/NZ), Odette (Australia), Orquesta Akokán (Cuba), Reb Fountain (Aotearoa/NZ), RURA (Scotland), Salif Keita (Mali), Shapeshifter (Aotearoa/NZ) Soaked Oats (Aotearoa/NZ), The Black Quartet (Aotearoa/NZ), Trio Da Kali (Mali), Troy Kingi (Aotearoa/NZ) Tuuletar (Finland).

 The ever-expanding World Of Words stage, now held on the sun-drenched lawn of the Kunming Garden will be hosting poets, musical legends, authors, entertainers, comedians and educators to leave you both thinking and laughing.

Being hosted on a brand new stage in the tranquil setting of the Pinetum is WOMAD New Zealand's first-ever STEAM Lab. Come and hear speakers from Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics fields talk about incredible breakthroughs and their journey of innovation. Introducing WOMAD New Zealand's inaugural Book Club.

The book chosen for the 2020 festival is We Can Make A Life by Chessie Henry.

Book Club aims to bring people together to express their perspectives and explore the themes within the book while getting insights from Chessie herself. WOMAD New Zealand remains a place to bring artists together from all over the globe to break down barriers, educate, inform and inspire. Come and lose yourself in the sights, sounds, and tastes that blend together to make up the vibrant WOMAD experience!

Blue River Baby play 'Big Lil Summer Blowout' Festival Friday 13 March at San Fran

New to Wellington 'Big Lil Summer Blowout' - is a magical underground inner city summer fest, it's all about coming together to party and stretch out the last Rays of Summer, with some of Wellington’s favourite bands, plus hot out of town talent,bringing good vibes and great music with sweet drinks deals on the night.

Featuring Matiu Te Huki Musician, Sam V with (EDY & Hiiata) , plus Wellington's Blue River Baby & King Oyster!

Homegrown 8 piece-funkmeisters, Blue River Bay, are just one of the acts on the Blowout Stage this coming weekend. The CoffeeBar Kid had a bit of a chat to Cam, from the band.

Blue River Baby ‘BRB’ are a New Zealand 8 piece funk dub psychedelic rock band flowing from the misty mountains of Wellington's hills and magical valleys, formed in 2016 their name stands to remind us of a time when our rivers once ran clean and clear.

You’ll love the bands high energy, powerhouse grooves and slow burners with lead singer Ivy Padilla’s killer vocals. BRB bring with them horns from Southside of Bombay, a bold rhythm section and tasty yet deadly musicians who play with many of Wellingtons favourite bands.

Destined for the big festival stages of NZ and beyond the majority of BRB are former or current students of Whitereia, NZSM and Massey music schools. 2019 was a standout year for BRB who played to 20,000 on NYE, then released a self-titled Debut album which hit #1 on the NZ Indie (IMNZ) Top 20 Album Chart and #8 on the Official NZ Music Album chart, gaining three weeks in both charts and received a bunch of radio play around NZ. BRB’s single Walk of Shame’ Hit #20 on the UK iTunes Blues Chart, and at home their singles ‘Blue River Baby’ reached #1 & ‘Blackyard Town’ hit #7 on the NZ iTunes charts.

Big lil' Summer Blow Out Festival at SAN FRAN - 171 Cuba Street - Friday 13th March $10 Students / Unwaged $15 Early bird $20 On the door Hot Summer drinks specials on the night

For all the bands, tickets and prices go to : https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2020/big-lil-summer-blowout-2020/wellington

Monday, March 09, 2020

Laurie Anderson – Here Comes The Ocean Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, Friday, March 6 2020 - Part of the NZFestival

Laurie Anderson - Taken in Odlins Plaza (7 March)
Photo: Tim Gruar
In an interview the following day, guest curator and performer Laurie Anderson reflected on her lace in the Festival.  "We are not here to do shows - to present - we are here to collaborate, to be part of the festival"

I suppose this was the premise behind her 'show ‘on Friday night - a symphony (of sorts) featuring ocean-inspired songs by Lou Reed (her late husband), and a variety of poems, observations and spoken word pieces of her own, supported by improvisations from her and the touring band.

This is a really good example of a Festival event, where the audience are part of the 'experiment,.  At one pint we were invited to howl along with the dogs and sing, clap and engage. 

It all started with Reed's former guitar tech Stewart Hurwood doing his 'drone' thing with Lou's guitars arranged around a circle of amps like some kind of druid's seance.  Over that Horomona Horo and another uncredited Kaumatua welcomed us all from the balcony calling across the din.

Horonoa came in to sit and play a variety of Taonga pūoro, which all fitted perfectly in with the other music, giving everything a 'Pacific' flavour - as it should, being the largest ocean ! A double bassist, Greg Cohen, cellist Rubin Kodheli and violinist/guitarist Eyvind Kang provided much of the beautiful orchestral washes and supported Anderson's own trademark electric violin.  Multi-instrumentalist and percussionist Shahzad Ismaily provided beats and plenty of colour and variety on songs, when needed.

We had a few locals, too including Megan Collins and Budi Putra from Gamelan Wellington, and some 'special guests' - a children's orchestra of 6 -9 year olds who came out to play the 2nd Violin Part from Debussy's La Mer, conducted by Kodheli.  Anderson argues that it's the songs and smaller bit within the big pieces that are the special moments. The youngest was only 6 but was dressed in an amazing red dress that sparkled so brightly!
Could you say Anderson was steering her ship through this crazy voyage?  Perhaps.  It all seems very off the cuff, and she seemed to just randomly press buttons on her keyboard to conjure up vocals from Reed, a bit of James Brown (Get On The Good Foot) and a dark and alien version of her own voice – via some snazzy filters and software,  Woman-machine-morphed together. 

I recognised a few bits and pieces in her soup mix, like Lou's Reed’s Cremation (Ashes To Ashes) from '92's Magic and Loss and Here Comes The Ocean (1972) plus one or two few chamber music pieces.  It all melded into the drone sounds, images of dogs and space, random lyrics from Joni Mitchell (River) and more Lou - Dirty Blvd in particular.

While it was great to hear Anderson's delightful, measured vocal delivery (nothing seems to phase her) the work Horo put in also made the show even more special.  I don't think you can really critique a performance like this, except to ask: "Was I bored?  Was I confused?  Was I entertained?  Was I challenged?"

I was definitely entertained when Anderson demonstrated her Tai Chi moves.  I was definitely challenged when she dwelled on those deep remembrances of loss - a point she makes a lot.  You do not need to experience sadness to understand it. 

So, how can you sum up a show like tonight’s?  I wouldn’t.  Just let it happen.  Being there is what counts.  Art can be just of itself, you don't always need to over analyse it.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

THIS JUST IN! Shapeshifter are coming to WOMAD 2020

Shapeshifter are the latest artists to be added to WOMAD's stellar 2020 line up.  Repalcing Ziggy Marley, who had to pull out for family reasons, the Christchurch D'n'B hroes will light up the Bowl stage and bring some much needed groove to the festival's first night.

Shapeshifter are no strangers to performing at packed-out festivals including WOMAD UK. They create a stadium-sized sound which adds layers of heavy soul, drum & bass, jazz, funk, rock and electronica to solid bass culture foundations, capable of morphing from rolling drum & bass to pummeling guitar-driven jams to horizon-shifting electronic soundscapes.

The five-strong lineup are thrilled to be bringing their very own genre-defying amalgamation to WOMAD New Zealand for the first time next week for a breathtaking show like no other. On stage at 10.15pm Friday on the Bowl Stage. WOMAD NZ Director, Emere Wano says “After the news of Ziggy’s withdrawal we were thrilled when Shapeshifter, without hesitation confirmed to play on Friday night. The group and their management worked quickly with us to get things sorted so that we could make an announcement today!  It’s the first time that they have played at WOMAD New Zealand which makes it even more special for all of us.”

 “It has been far too long since we have played down in Taranaki and so we are utterly stoked to be headlining the Friday night at WOMAD! Got some brand new flavours alongside some classic old treats to play, can't wait!" - Shapeshifter.

WOMAD New Zealand is very proud to present, for the 16th year anniversary of the festival (in alphabetical order): 
Albi & The Wolves (Aotearoa/NZ), Blind Boys of Alabama (USA), Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita (Wales/Senegal), Destyn Maloya (Réunion), Ezra Collective (UK), Flor de Toloache (Mexico/USA), Hiatus Kaiyote (Australia), Hot Potato Band (Australia), Ifriqiyya Electrique (Maghreb/Europe), KermesZ à l'Est (Belgium), King Ayisoba (Ghana), L.A.B. (Aotearoa/NZ), Laura Marling (UK), Liniker e os Caramelows (Brazil), L Subramaniam (India), Marina Sattir & Fońes (Greece/Sudan), Minyo Crusaders (Japan), MONTELL2099 (Aotearoa/NZ), Odette (Australia), Orquesta Akokán (Cuba), Reb Fountain (Aotearoa/NZ), RURA (Scotland), Salif Keita (Mali), Shapeshifter (Aotearoa/NZ), Soaked Oats (Aotearoa/NZ), The Black Quartet (Aotearoa/NZ), Trio Da Kali (Mali), Troy Kingi (Aotearoa/NZ) Tuuletar (Finland).

 The ever-expanding World Of Words stage, now held on the sun-drenched lawn of the Kunming Garden will be hosting poets, musical legends, authors, entertainers, comedians and educators to leave you both thinking and laughing. 

The new schedule is available now: https://www.womad.co.nz/schedules/

Friday, March 06, 2020

REVIEW: Mám - Teac Damsa and Stargaze (Ch. Michael Keegan-Dolan) - TSBArena 7 March 2020NZFestival of the Arts

Photo: maturetimes.co.uk
The first time choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan was in Aotearoa was in 2008, when he produced Giselle at the Capital's Shed 6.  He returned in 2014 for Rian and then Swan Lake/Loch naEala in 2018.  All have been Festival shows or associated with them.

When the new Festival of the Arts directors Marnie Karmelita and Meg Williams invited him to return to Wellington with a new show, he jumped at the chance. Part of the gig was a six week residency, where he also met local dancer Amit Noy, who we interviewed last year.   

Keegan-Dolan spent just under two years choreographing Mám.  He worked with Irish dance company Teac Damsa, in a Kerry Gaeltacht - a community hall, near the mountain of Cnoc Bhréanainn.  That mountain was the inspiration for the opening - 'Mám 1: Mountain pass'. 

“This venue was a crucible for a musical and choreographic exploration of the spiritual and cultural powers that are emerging once again” - Michael Keegan-Dolan

For the Wellington performance, the TSB Arena is clad all in black.  The whole show will only feature monocrome.  Everyone is in black and white.  The stage is an empty black plaform, with one or two tables that are used in various ways - as an alter, a plaform, a dining table and a bed. 

The audience sit on block of raked seating, in a formal rectangular shape, similar to a religious meeting.  The show opens with contemporary concertina player Cormac Begley sitting mid-stage in a sinister Ram's Head mask.  A wavering curl of sweet smoke rises from the head into sky.  A young girl (Ellie Poirier-Dolan)in white communion dress lies on a small table in a sacrificial pose.  As the show starts the massive 8 metre curtain the spans the back tilts on its rails rails and slides off, like a giant milk jug pouring its contents on to the floor, to reveal an austere line-up of adults in black formal wear and sinister black paper-bag balaclavas. They look like hooded executioners from the Jim Crow-era Southern States. 

Then Cormac Begley strikes up his concertina playing a mournful drone that morphs into a scampering rhythm. There is a musical spell that runs right through this wonderful piece. At first it seemed like this was a figment of the girl's imagination - a dream made manifest.  Then it becomes clearer that the congregation are here to celebrate her.

Keegan-Dolan's choreography mixes ancient and contemporary and pairs it with Begley’s inventive reinterpretations of what appear to be traditional Irish songs.  The first piece becomes a light airy thing of foot tapping and shoulder-shrugging, perhaps these are wedding guests, or attendees at a pub for wake.  We can't tell. The organic choreography grows like weeds out of this community of eclectic performers.  This includes BBC Young Dancer winner Connor Scott who mangles his deliciously loose and sensuousness with sharp-angled precise gestures.  Then there's James O’Hara's elastic delivery, as if there's not a single straight bone in his body.  Amit Noy, recently graduated from Te Whaea National Dance and Drama holds his own, blending in and taking on a huge variety of supporting roles.   They move like the music is enclosed in their cranium, other times like an invisible string is erratically pulling them across the stage like a drunken cat with a ball of wool.

In the early parts the dancers feet follow the old expected steps, hands clap and bodies reel.  But hands and gestures also flow into new playful shapes that reminded me of Madonna-era 'Vogueing'.  Later Ellie does her own short routine including a kid's version of popular dance moves.  Here and there are ritualised baroque, Scottish and Irish folk and pagan dance influences.  The modern twists and contortions work best in the collective ensembles. 

There is one section (Mám 2: Yoke. Faoi mhám an pheaca, under the yoke of sin. and 2. Lit: Obligation, duty, function) a man moves between fellow dancers feigning death and falling hard into their arms over-dramtically.  Sometimes he falls so severely you'd think he'd hurt himself.  Then one by one the whole cast appear to try it, too.

There's a short scene of a drunk sill in a haze shuffling to the airs of an old ditty, as dancer James Southward skilfully moves around the stage with that a gentle yet menacing unpredictability. Towards the end of this, Ellie drags a chair to the front of the stage, sits and appears to be watching a screen. Southward sidles up with his own chair.  He's wearing a tweed jacket and tie. He acts familiar, like a parent. A drunken scoundrel, reminiscent of the men in Angela's Ashes.  You don't know if violence or tenderness will ensue.

He hands the child a packet of sweets.  They sit in silence watching the imaginary screen.  Then a women appears with her chair and confectionery and starts to eat.  The trio share treats like a it's a family outing.  One by one extras arrive and also share candy.  They even offer some to the front row.  They all sit in a line like they are at the movies.  Then a man an woman at opposite ends stand and proceed to climb over the patrons laps, one by one until they meet in the middle, where they embrace and crash into the back row laughing.  This was just one beautiful and clever scene out of many little highlights that lifted the show and gave it a bright twist, just when the scenarios were becoming darker.  It's also a recurring theme of nostalgia, a thread that is sewn all through this work.

One of Keegan-Dolan’s strengths is his penchant for cherry-picking specifics from Ireland’s collective memory, selecting the familiar pieces of poignant iconography and giving it new resonance.  Take, for example, his interpretation of Swan Lake - which he made into Loch na hEala by incorporating references of recent agonising revelations of child abuse by the Catholic Church, and reinterpreting Tchaikovsky’s ballet so that it ended with a focus on the tragedy of the prince suicide, instead of, traditionally, the princess.

Repeating the peeling away of Sabine Dargent’s stark, otherworldly set, a second curtain spills off it's railing to reveal stargaze, the orchestral collective of seven players and their instruments.  They are as much part of the show as the dancers and will interact in many places. 

This transition between traditional and modern sounds works superbly, seemlessly.  Like two sides in some crazy battle, competing and then coming together as oil and water.  Gorgeous, soaring washes that sweep over Begley’s nervous, edgy reels and jigs.

Driven by the contemporary pop scene they've previously worked with Terry Riley, Lisa Hannigan and Deerhoof.  Which explains their unsettling disharmonies that sway between jazz, techno, traditional Irish and some kind of modern Kurt Weill styled Cabaret. Dancers twirl with distress at length, hold each other close and flash with violence and frustration. Like dervishes they spin with chairs outstretched like Icarus' wings.  There are many long moments where there is no clear reason why.  No context or rational.  But then given there is not perfect narrative for this show, why should there be?  

Most choreographers would focus on using movement to make a coherent point, from start to finish. But in Mám Keegan-Dolan prefers to recombine familiar images in brief solos and duets that barely get time to evolve before they’re swamped by group movement. The arcs of those dancers aren’t as important as the audience's registering of old references, putting them on our own past romances and heartbreaks. That can be deeply affecting, drawing on a nation’s social history, but it doesn’t necessarily make a dance complete.

The incoherence is conspicuous when you consider the dance's source. Keegan-Dolan’s choreography lives in Ireland’s subconscious, at the foot of a Kerry mountain. Its nostalgia is sweeping, but it can also be slippery, and not always attached to telling a good story.

Once again the curtains pour off their rails, to reveal five huge fans, the centre one as big as an aeroplane's turbine.  As the music swells for the finale, the fans spark up and create a massive wind, engulfing all the figures on stage.  Ellie stands on a table with her back to the tempest, like Sarah standing on the edge of her pier in The French Lieutenant's Woman.  Precisely why it's necessary to blow away the music, smoke and dance that has consumed the last 90 minutes is unclear.  But it's very dramatic. 

Mám could be interpreted as a gathering that's unravelling late into the night.  It could be a pagan ritualised sacrifice, a coven of modern day witches or townsfolk congregating around a fire.  Through out Ellie's little girl character remains impassive, as an observer, seldom interacting.  Her specific role is really unknown.  Perhaps she is a necessary element to allow us to be the observers.  Perhaps this is, as I originally considered, all part of her strange dream. 

Whatever the case, Mám is a show of engrossing dancing.  The music is just fantastic music.  There is subtlety and nostalgia. There is contemporary and modern.  Talking to audience members afterwards, many said they had seen very little ballet or modern dance, yet they loved the theatre and the drama - and those little moments - there were many.  Best of all, they loved the humanity. For many this was one of the only shows they'd seen.  Tickets weren't cheap.  They definitely considered it money well spent.  Educational, entertaining, provocative, and outstandingly creative. said one person.  I absolutely agree.

Review by the CoffeeBar Kid

Thursday, March 05, 2020

THIS JUST IN: Ziggy Marley and Kim So Ra pull out of WOMAD 2020

Ziggy Marley

WOMAD NZ has today announced that, unfortunately, Ziggy Marley will no longer be performing at the festival Friday 13 March, TSB Bowl Of Brooklands, Brooklands Park New Plymouth.

The statement received from Ziggy Marley is as follows:

“I would like to apologise to all the music fans in New Zealand and Australia. Unfortunately, I won’t be making it down there for the music festival, the WOMAD music festival next weekend. I had some unforeseen family responsibilities that came up and I have to take care of it. I always love coming. I was really looking forward to this trip and we haven’t been there in a while so it was really sad that we’re not making it but alas, next year at the WOMAD festivals we will be there and so we will see you then. My apologies to everyone – WOMAD crew, music fans, music lovers, everyone. My apologies, but we’ll see you next year.” 

WOMAD NZ Director, Emere Wano, said there will be many upset, including herself that Ziggy Marley would no longer be coming to the festival.

“We are of course disappointed that Ziggy will no longer be joining us at WOMAD NZ 2020, but we understand and respect his decision that whānau come first in this situation. We are working quickly to secure a new artist to fill Ziggy’s Friday night timeslot, and we will announce the new artist in the coming days.” 

The festival still features more than 40 other incredible performances over 3 days, including award-winning Australian based singer Odette who we are excited to announce has joined our WOMAD NZ line up after embarking on numerous shows from as far afield as Dublin, London, Zurich and Paris.

British born, Odette has made her mark on the international music scene, the release of her highly acclaimed debut To A Stranger sparked a legion of growing fans and admirers resulting in the record amassing nearly 30 million streams, two consecutive Triple J Hottest 100 entries and two nominations in at the 2018 ARIAs including 'Breakthrough Artist.'

Deeply personal and captivating in presence, Odette is one not to miss and will be playing Saturday at 6.15pm and Sunday 2 pm on the Gables Stage.

Kim So Ra

In response to the New Zealand Government's travel restrictions, which have been put in place to manage the COVID-19, WOMAD NZ regrets that Kim So Ra (South Korea) is no longer be able to travel to New Zealand for WOMAD 2020.

“While this means changes to our schedule, we are very much looking forward to welcoming people to the 16th WOMAD here in Taranaki” - Emere Wano. 

WOMAD NZ 2020 will be held from 13-15 March in TSB Bowl Of Brooklands and Brooklands Park, New Plymouth, Taranaki.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Kate Tempest (part of the New Zealand Festival) – Michael Fowler Centre – Monday 24 February 2020

Photo: Matt Grace / NZ Festival of The Arts

She’s back.  The last time East Londoner Kate Esther Calvert, aka Kate Tempest, was here in Wellington it was 2016, and she played to a small but perfectly appreciative group at the now dear departed Bodega bar.  Despite album accolades and a Ted Hughes poetry award (for ‘Brand New Ancients’) she was still pretty well unknown back then.  But reports at the time hint at her awesome potential.  Now she’s stronger, more intense, and more awesome!  Maybe she’s not quite a household name. Yet. After tonight people will be talking.

The first thing you notice, when she walks out on the MFC stage, is that she’s not the shy, demure young woman from her publicity photos.  Dressed from head to black in combat gear, short cropped hair (as opposed to the girlish red locks) she’s street tough and ready for the battle.

Yet her initial candour is demure, calm and humbling.  She immediately thanks everyone for every journey made to see this gig and then she dedicates the night to Boxer Tyson Fury, who won the World Heavyweight Championship last night. A ‘prem’ baby, she tells us, Tyson was named by his father, and born into boxing – a fighter from the start. His career spiralled from success to success.  Then he fell from grace, turned to drugs, alcohol and depression took control.  He went down a rabbit hole so deep he thought he’d never come back.  But last night he did. This was her inspiration.  She’d been in that place , too.  Tempest told us this, to prepare us for the journey ahead, as she readied us for the ride through her own depression, dating insecurity, BREXIT, hate speech, xenophobia, and living a modern life, flanked by consumerism, narcissism, fake truths and new age spiritualism.  She’ll cover a lot of ground.
Tempest has been doing this a long time, starting out at open mic gigs at the tender age of 16.  Since then she’s released four albums, five poetry collections and a novel.  She has a cult-like following, yet doesn’t attract the usual book-worm crowds.  Perhaps because her mix of rave-techno, poetry, spoken work and common-day lyrics resonate so clearly with such a wide audience.  Checking around tonight’s room, this was mostly a young ‘Glastonbury’ group, peppered with a few out of place Boomers.  Perhaps they stumbled in on a whim and a reason to use up the final ticket in their 10-trip concession.  What they made of the show was anyone’s guess.   
Her delivery is a “barrage of profundity” over dazzling techno-rhythms, styled with exact, expressive phrasing that rolls of the tongue like a Shakesperean soliloquy filtered through the banter of a cockney barfly.  Elegant and straight-up. Occasionally, You think of Mike Skinner, from The Streets but mostly its all her own work.  There is no real comparison.
Once the intro speech is over, she launches in, with not stopping for breaks or chatter with the punters.  Her mission controls are set for the heart of the sun. 
Tempest was supported tonight by an un-named female musician/DJ who lurks behind keyboards and controllers brewing up a serious and intoxicating potion of hard and soft tech-beats to accompany Tempest’s delivery.  Framed by a red moon, on a stage that endlessly leaches London style dock-fog, she kicks off with the catastrophic paranoia of ‘Europe Is Lost’, ‘We Die’ and ‘Ketamine for Breakfast’ – all from 2016’s stunning apocalyptic electric song cycle album ‘Let The Eat Chaos’.  The concept of the album follows seven individuals who all live on the same street who have never met each other before. But then at 4:18 in the morning, a huge storm causes everyone to leave their homes and meet for the very first time.  A constant theme in her work becomes apparent – loneliness, self-awareness, depression – ailments of modern living.  When you contemplate this in relation to her story about Tyson Fury and her own confession that she, herself was dealing with depression.  So these poems/songs felt even more personal.
There are moments where you feel genuinely sad, happy or helpless for these characters.  That’s all on her.  The performance gets across.  Her lines are ear worms, and mottos, cleverly twisted around these infectious beats.

Her set contained other earlier works, too, including ‘Marshall Law’ (from the 2014 Mercury Prize nominated album ‘Everybody Down’), ‘Grubby’ and was interwoven with another intense delivery, this time the apocalyptic ‘Tunnel Vision’ – about humanity’s intended destruction of the planet through consumerism and greed: “Will not stop until we’ve beaten down/The planet into pellets”.

This is Tempest in full flight.  The huge red disk on the stage behind her is coloured like a dying sun.  Many times the stage will bleed into blood red and trans morph to seedy blues and back again.   The audience members who have crept to the front to dance to the techno beats are stunned like deer in headlights, mesmerized by her lyrical weaving.  Her work, in part, is a call to action, a response to “the angry tension of being alive” in our precarious world (as The Guardian quoted). You can’t escape that feeling. 

But throughout the show there are many shades of dark and light.  The second half is entirely focused on her latest album, the Rick Rubin produced ‘The Book Of Traps And Lessons’ (which came out last August), starting with the very personal ‘Thirsty’, about meeting and falling for a woman, despite not looking.  She gives us quick and slow stanzas, some sung, some rapped, some spoken.   It’s a common story, told as if it only happened yesterday.  Tempest tells us how she met her, almost accusingly, but also tenderly: 

So, I was sat there at the bar with my forehead on my wrist/ Thinking I had given all I had in me to give/ When I saw her/ Cross the floor like a firework exploding in slow motion/ She touched me on the shoulder/And I started to live “ 

Save that one, kids, and use it for your wedding speech. 

Her new album shows a calmer voice, with more deliberate empathy.  She’s still raging, and sometimes at herself, but she has a quiver in her vocals to let you know that this time the current injustices of the world are too hard to beat, we just seem to find ourselves always beaten up.  The best we can do is stand up and brush our selves off, try again. 

Accompanied by swirling circus music, the title track ‘I Trap You’ raises a few smiles.  Tempest revels in the delivery of this one as she twists the concept of ‘Love’ into a model of entrapment.  She’s very still, so that each syllable can be savored.  Unlike the earlier work, which has a hip-hop flavour, this one is presented with the irreverence of a Pam Ayres poem.  It’s a cheeky move.  The audience join in, with her closing stanza, recognizing the desperation of a relationship augmented by mobile technology: 

I think I am whole now/ I think I am more whole/ But I still check my phone 17 times a minute/ To see if you called and I missed it/ Trap/ Love is a self-made thing/Love is a self-made trap”

Tempest takes us through the album, with all its changes in tempo, moods and topics.  She covers love, mental health and returns again to consumerism and the evil manipulations of our politicians and business chiefs. 

Downstairs the merch stand has T-shirts that state 

“Our Leaders Aren’t Even Pretending Not To Be Demons”, a line from ‘Three sided Coin’.  

How right she was.  I felt she really knew that the anniversary of the Christchurch shootings is coming up.  This is a poem about the origins of BREXIT but it also felt so close to home when she warned us “When people are lost they need people to join/ But beware of the Three Sided Coin/ And when people are hurt they need people to blame/But beware of the fear you can't name.” A clear reference to extremist groups, hate speech and casual racism.      

Her DJ builds an unbearable tension through ‘Lessons’ and ‘Holy Elixir’ climbing to a glass breaking crescendo of repeating techno chaos before dropping away to the beautiful and calm piano chords that underlie the very optimistic closer, ‘People’s Faces’, about how Tempest finds peace and hope among the people in her streets and stations, despite the barrage of hate she must endure online and in every form of media.

I will admit, I went into tonight’s show completely unprepared and was blown away. Now I want to read more and list to more of Tempest’s work.  She has a clear, open vision and a voice that’s accessible and true.  It’s a voice from the street, not the ivory towers and made even more palatable with tasty beats and a conscious hip-hop swagger.  She makes no bones about flying her rainbow colours, normalising her sexual preferences and relationships. 

“Is Kate Tempest a rapper, a poet, a spoken word artist or a lit fuse? Whatever she is, she’s undeniably intent on delivering urgent messages that cut through apathy like a honed knife.”  So went the teaser lines to tonight’s show.  Did we get a definitive answer.  Well, no.  And yes.  She’s all of the above. 

Her poetry, and music, fits neatly into the crisp soundbites fodder that social media demands, yet convention audiences are also at home with her messages. The show finishes with a standing ovation.  Tempest is forced to come back out – not for an encore but to thank the crowd, blushing, and overwhelmed.  She deserves the praise.  Here’s looking forward to her next project. 

Set List

Europe is Lost
We Die
Marshall Law
(First half)
Ketamine For Breakfast
(Preceded by the first half of Tunnel Vision)
The Beigeness
Tunnel Vision

(Second half)
The Book of Traps and Lessons
Keep Moving Don't Move
Brown Eyed Man
Three Sided Coin
I Trap You
All Humans Too Late
Hold Your Own
Holy Elixir
People's Faces

Monday, February 24, 2020

REVIEW:Jerusalem - Lemi Ponifasio/Mau (Wellington Opera House 22/23 February 2020) Commissioned by The NZ Festival Of The Arts

Creator Lemi Ponifasio told an afternoon crowd prior to the closing performance of his latest masterwork, Jerusalem, that he was "motivated by (looking) for a new way of feeling or knowing about things." He was also quick to note that the idea of a performance ina theatre was a 'European concept'.

Playing to a crowd, who payed and sat politely, was a "colonising" act, he argued. In other cultures, performance was not seperated or an act for the elite and discerning.  It was part of the fabric and make up of ritual, culture, society.

But now 'art', 'music', dance are a boxed off concepts.  Why, he asked, do we have to put things in a colonial frame to get noticed or respected?

He also challenged his audience. Much of what you will see, he thought, would only be available if you spent time in porirua, and not in the city.   "Why is it that the stories you will be watching (tonight) are about the people who can not, or will not come to a theatre like this (the Opera House) because of culture, education or money."

He asked "How do you find a way of involving people in a way that was really involving - not just paying lip service?" For him, the concept of Jerusalem is a complex utopia, where peple are not settled - but instead constantly busy, in conflict, moving, ideas are changing, fluid.

He challenged the ideas of 'democracy'.  Was democracy really in action when two parties stubbornly remain on either side of the fence, unable to meet in the middle or see the other side of the story - as in curent American elections. "Jerusalem emerges," Ponifasio writes in the show's introduction notes, "from a perplexing and tumultuous global context scarred by pervasive violence, systemic displacement, hate-crimes and the spectre of clashing assemblages of power, religion and ideology."

The Palestinian (arabic) name for Jerusalem is Al-Quds. It means ‘the Holiness’, the ‘Holy One'. It is a place where ideas, people and cultures clash. Like people. It is one of the most contested places in human history – "perpetually held hostage in the shadow of competing divine archetypes, which police and divide life on earth."

The performance opens with an entirely bare stage, dark at first, opening out to a room filled with dark blue light and dry ice.  The operal house stage looks almost daunting.  It's vast.  You immediately feel like you are looking at a wasteland in large landscape.  The bones are revealed, radiators at the back, bricks, girders, all become part of the industrial landscape.  Or perhaps an ancient wall.

A dawn haze, perhaps. There is nothing on stage except for a simple thin boxlike gazebo, a frame of thin poles that make up artifical walls to a house, prison of even a Marae.  Behind is the expose back wall of the opera house - 3 stories high, symbolising the 'Wailing Wall', or something else, perhaps. When Jerusalem begins there are layers of chanting - these are the residents in a quarantined city, shouting into the night, “Wuhan jiayou!” – “Wuhan stay strong”.  They call out to each other from the windows of their locked rooms in their "barricaded highrises". They shout cries of self-encouragement and form "a latent counterpoint to the fragments of traditional muqam folk music of the Uighurs".

The Ulghus, I learn are a Muslim ethnic minority from the Xinjiang province, many of whom have also been ‘quarantined’ for 're-education', a 'cure' for what China sees as 'the mental ilness of islam.'

This is disturbing on many levels. No more so than when you contrast is with the pakeha policies adoped up until the mid-20th Century to rid the country of Te Reo and Maori culture altogether. I found it profoundly moving that over 90% of the performance was actually in Te Reo, spoken, sun, chanted with execeptional skill and pride. The mother tongue of Aotearoa, once forbidden by the colonisers is the voice of Jerusalem.

It's ironic even more so when you think of the lyrics of William Blake's most famous and very English poem - and hymn:

And did those feet in ancient time, 
Walk upon Englands mountains green: 
And was the holy Lamb of God, On Englands pleasant pastures seen! 
And did the Countenance Divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? 
And was Jerusalem builded here, Among these dark Satanic Mills?

 "Visions of Jerusalem appear again and again across times and places, throughout history, from enslaved Africans in the Americas, to British nationalists and Sufragettes; from the Whanganui river community with James K Baxter, to Ngāi Tūhoe Maungapōhatu with Rua Kēnana. Jerusalem is a site composed of contradictory fragments that form shape-shifting patterns entangling the real and the imagined – a space of despair and promise"

Using Te Reo is an immediate shout in the face of white supremicists. One of which dared to challenge the evil acts of last March - and those that cowardly followed. 

Ponifasio has added an iteresting twist - with a warrior challenge, performed on an invisible meeting ground by Opera singer Kawiti Waetford, but instead of a taiha, an armalite semi-automatic is brandished.  It's a dark reminder of what has recently been, and a tribute of the aroha the country chose to show to their muslim community, in an act of solidarity.  Waetford's voice is strong, almost mesmerising.  He chants under his breath at ties, like a spell of unresolved dissonance.

Ponifasio sets out to transform traditional lament and prayer into ceremonial rites that (he says) "open a space to question the order of things, and move together towards reparation, death and regeneration."

He's done this, skillfully, braiding together Syrian poet Adonis' (Ali Ahmad Sa’id Esber) epic poem, Concerto al-Quds, with strands of Maori and Chinese Muslim language and culture.

Adonis is one of this (and last) century's most influential poets. He's as widely read as T.S.Eliot in the English speaking world. He is a perenial contender for the Nobel Prize in literature. Now in his 90's, he still speaks with a loud. resonant voice, having recently supported and challenged aspect of the uprising of the Arab Spring and other events in the region.

In 1956 he was forced to leave Syria after being involved with the Syrian Nationalist Party. He relocated to Paris after many years of unsettled living. He was named a Commander of France's Order of Arts and Letters in 1997. In 2011 he was awared the Goethe prize in Germany.

He drew controversy around Jerusalem itself when he had controversial meetings with Israelis. He was well-known for his secular stance, and use a ‘pagan’ name (i.e. Adonis) led to the expulsion from the Arabic Writers Union, various Salafi death threat Fatwas, and calls for his books to be burned.

The show is littered with imagery and metaphor. Performers move very slowly, with deliberate tiny steps and careful gestures, to emphasise every action, every detail. Women, dressed in back, resemble the wahine of an iwi, tasked with preparing a body for a tangi. One Chinese woman appears in black clothing reminescent of the Mao days.

A Kamatua (played by a very animated Tame Iti) appears several times to chant and challenge. Ironically, he is dressed in the clothes of a rich investment banker, instead of the usual treasured 70's polyester suit, favoured by our seniors.  Another nod to colonial oppression, perhaps.  Or a reclaiming?

Scenes interweave. The soundtrack is a perpetual hum, perforated by sirens, shouting, the sounds of crowd hysteria, gunfire. Stanza's from Adonis' poem crawl acrross the back wall, appearing line by line in four columns. There is one especially challenging scene towards the end of the show when a Chinese man (Ery Aryani) , perhaps one of the aforementioned Ulghus, is presented with a washbowl of a black liquid.   Is it tar?  For shame.  Is it blood? Mud?  Death?

Ery Aryani (Photo - NZ Festival of the Arts) 
He must bath in this. He smears it alover himself. A tourist with a selfie stick arives to vide him through the bars of his cage. The ugly, distorted images appear on the back wall. As the piece progresses, the filmed subject transforms into a monkey - he is the cliche' - a monkey man. Is he fullfilling the stereotype of the onlooker - that all Chinese (and Black people for that matter) are really just monkeys who should be kept in a cage for us to taunt and prod?

His death, cordoned off by yellow tape, yet another Colonial approach (treated with suspiciaon, not repect).  It ends with the lowering of a huge white sheet, which the cast spread out accross the stage - as a road to heaven, or river. It's not clear.

Perhaps this is how we get to Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is a complex performance. It's profound. it certainly lived up to Ponifasio's promise: This performance won't entertain but it will challenge you, make you think, drive you to uncomfortable places, abandon you, leave you spinning around, searching deperating for a signal. It certainly did that.

Review by CoffeeBar Kid

Lemi Ponifasio is one of three curators at this year's Festival of the Arts.  He is also founder of MAU, which began in 1995 working with diverse cultures and communities around the world. His collaborators are performing in factories, remote villages, opera houses, schools,marae, castles, galleries and stadiums.

 Mau is the Samoan word meaning the declaration of the truth. Lemi Ponifasio is acclaimed internationally for his radical work as a choreographer, stage director and designer, and for his collaborations with many communities.

 The projects have included fully staged operas, theatre, dance, exhibitions, community forums and festivals in more than 30 countries. He has presented his creations with MAU in many places including Festival d’Avignon, Lincoln Center New York, BAM New York, Ruhrtriennale, LIFT Festival London, Edinburgh International Festival, Theater der Welt, Festival de Marseille, Theatre de la Ville Paris, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, Holland Festival, Luminato Festival Toronto, Vienna Festival, Santiago a Mil Chile, the Venice Biennale and in the Pacific region.

 His recent works include Love To Death (2020) with MAU Mapuche, Santiago Chile; KANAKA (2019) with Theatre Du Kanaky, New Caledonia; Mausina with MAU Wahine for 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand (2018) and Standing In Time (2017) with MAU Wahine; Die Gabe Der Kinder (2017) with children and community of Hamburg; Ceremony of Memories (2016 and 2017) with MAU Mapuche of Chile; Recompose (2016) with MAU Wahine and Syrian women for Festival Herrenhausen, Hanover; Lagimoana Installation (2015) for the Venice Biennale 56th Visual Arts Exhibition; Apocalypsis, Toronto (2015); I AM: Mapuche, Chile (2015) and I AM for the 100th Anniversary of WW1 (2014), which premiered at Festival d’Avignon.
Other major international performance tours by Lemi Ponifasio and MAU include The Crimson House (2014), Stones In Her Mouth (2013), the opera Prometheus by Carl Orff (2012), Le Savali: Berlin (2011), Birds With Skymirrors (2010), Tempest: Without A Body (2008), Requiem (2006) and Paradise (2005).
- Bio supplied by NZFestival of the Arts