10 highlights from another vibrant and diverse WOMADelaide weekend

The fast spinning wheel that has been Adelaide’s festival season is starting to slow, following the massive weekend that saw WOMADelaide collide with the Fringe and the Adelaide Festival for another year. Still, the Botanic Park remained a haven of dance, culture, art and music for thousands over the long weekend – a little home away from home, nestled in the city.

Jessy was down in the park over the whole weekend and brings us her Top 10 discoveries and highlight sets from her WOMAD adventures.

Xylouris White

Xylouris White is Greek lute “virtuoso” George Xylouris and legendary drummer Jim White, of the Dirty Three. The duo’s live sound is unique, and exhilarating. With the sun getting low, and smoke drifting out from a smoke machine behind the drums, the vibe was very rock and roll. Xylouris White’s sound has depth and momentum, that pushes beyond any musical genre, and yet it is extremely listenable.


Saturday sees the grey clouds rolling in, which will plague the festival for the remainder weekend. Hundreds of park-dwelling flying foxes swoop overhead, undeterred by the noise. Welsh band 9Bach tell us that they suspect their Welsh ancestors brought the rain down upon us.  9Bach drew the crowd in with their Welsh language folk songs. Singer Lisa Jen has an enchanting voice that encapsulated the moody weather, as she sung songs about endangered rhinos, and songs about the endangered Welsh language.

Inna Modja

Inna Modja highlight of Saturday. Situated on the tiny Moreton Bay stage, with the crowd spilled out through the trees, the Malian singer performed her unique contemporary pop with hip-hop tendencies. She sings in English, French and Bambara language interchangeably. Modja is the best sort of new political pop music, the kind that gets under your skin but also makes you want to dance.

Photo: Morgan Sette

Archie Roach

Archie Roach took to the stage on what had been a miserable Sunday for festival weather. His performance was seated performance, and there wasn’t much elbow room left, as fans relaxed on the grass. The rain started in, but this did not deter people, transfixed by his unique voice and storytelling.

Oki Dub Ainu Band

Having caught the end of their set on Stage 2 on Saturday, I made sure that I headed to the much smaller Zoo Stage to see the Oki Dub Ainu Band on Sunday afternoon. They are an impressive act, blending the traditional music of the Ainu people with Dub and Reggae beats. It was amazing watching Oki Kano rock out on the Tonkori.

Philip Glass Ensemble

An unexpected highlight of the day was the experience of the Philip Glass Ensemble performing a live score to the 1982 film Koyannisqatsi. Directed by Godfrey Reggio with cinematography by Ron Fricke, the film’s visuals juxtapose nature and technology, the moving and the still, timelapse footage and slow motion, in a way that is utterly captivating. Yet, it was the score that was the most impactful.

The music twisted and turned, with the tiniest nuances of the footage. So large was the crowd at Stage 2, to witness this piece, that there was barely any standing room. It was the perfect way to experience Koyaanisqatsi, with the live soundtrack echoing through the evening air.

Orquesta Tipica Fernandez (Monday Night)

Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fierro from Argentina, brought the genuinely unexpected element to the night. The closing act on Stage 3, before a crowd that were mostly reclining on the grass, nestled amongst the trees. They entered the stage in pitch darkness, and began to play. The music was sudden, jarring and beautiful. With four piano accordions, four violinists, and a singer who thrashed and stumbled around the stage like a women possessed, Orquesta Tipica Fernandez Fierro gave a very theatrical, almost vaudevillian performance that felt like you had stumbled through a magic door into another time and place.

Credit: Tony Lewis

The Specials

A highlight of the WOMAD for many festival goers would have to have been headliner, The Specials. The beloved 2 Tone ska band took to the stage, dressed to the nines and  with a full band, including horns and strings. They began their set with a mellow number “Ghost Town”, as they got into it. The picked up the pace with “Do Nothing”, “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”.

Singer Terry Hall is a subdued frontman, being that he is leading such a lively band. Bass guitarist and vocalist Lynval Golding makes up for it, with his inexhaustible energy, strolling smoothly across the stage. The music of The Specials encaptured the politics of a generation, in the late seventies and early eighties post-punk Britain. Their political messages mesh with the core values of the WOMAD festival. Golding took a moment to acknowledge this, tell us that what he really appreciate about this festival is that there are so many different nationalities: “Black lives matter. Together we are stronger.” he declared, with the crowd cheering in agreement and the band launching into an acoustic rendition of “Redemption Song”. The Specials had the whole crowd dancing along especially to songs such as “A Message to You Rudy”.

Lead photo by Morgan Sette.


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