WOMAD 2017 – Day 1: Photos & Review


13th Floor ace photographer Michael Flynn is in New Plymouth and already he’s coming up with some stunning images from Day 1 of this year’s WOMAD Festival. Additionally, Tim Gruar is on the ground and reporting back with his reviews from each night. Here is Tim’s report from Day 1 followed by Michael’s photos. 

Despite endless roadworks on the road from Wellington we made the journey in record time. The completion of the Paraparaumu to Waikanae section of the road has now completely eliminated the old ‘Kapiti Crawl’.  And that’s important because festivals like WOMAD, which is situated in New Plymouth, far off the usual beaten track of State Highway One rely on good access From the South, as it does from the North.  This year it was needed more than ever, with good weather and a sell out/capacity crowd over all three days of the festival.  This year, also it, seems like the number of tents at the adjacent racecourse campsite has also reached its maximum and is positively groaning at its canvas seems.

The show opened with a quick Powhiri and a quality line-up.  One of the headliners, aboriginal singer Archie Roach gave a wonderful, and instructional, performance.  His songs were about his own stolen generation and his attraction to the bush as his touchstone.  Even electrified and supported by a four piece band his songs were very gentle and personal.  No mean feat – to be so intimate on the largest stage, The Brooklands Stage – set into a natural volcanic amphitheatre.

Elsewhere, rapper Natali Rize kicked off her first show of the festival.  Backed by a bass played dressed in a pilot’s jumpsuit, complete with helmet her natty dried, all Jamaican crew were pretty tight.  I only caught half her show but her righteous rhythms were pretty cool.  It’s a few years since this Aussie singer has been here, previously performing with Melbourne act Blue King Brown.  Even then they ripped up the stage and tonight was no different.

Back at the media centre we had a quick chat to 9Bach, the Welsh folk/fusion outfit (see earlier post) and we later got to try their own Welsh griddle cakes and Rarebit which they made as part of their time in the Nova Energy Taste The World Kitchen.  It was a true delight to hear them all singing in 3 part harmony while they cooked.

I didn’t get a chance to see Sinkane, except for a few minutes while I was in line for a mussel fritter.  They play again and that’s the beauty of this festival.  You get two bites of the cherry, sometimes.

One act I definitely want to go back for was Malian rapper and singer Inna Modja.  Flanked by two French DJs and a Malian lute player she whipped the crowd into a storm with her mix of Afro-hip hop and conscious beats.  Her topics range from water rights to girl-power.  She even included a cover of Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance, played with a very cool Afro-funk undercurrent.

The big act for the night were here for one time only…The Specials.  They began off with the Two Tone hit from the early 1980’s Ghost Town, played with the same menace and irony as the original. The they ran through a solid set of old fav’s including A Message to You Rudy and Rat Race before finishing up with The End.  Although they didn’t really engage with the audience much, most of the predominantly older crowd were well into it.  Two Tone jiving was on the cards.

Although the majority of the crowd were at the Bowl watching The Specials, a fair number were drooling at the feet of DJ whizz Kid BAYNK.  Judging by the screaming girls in the first row behind the barriers, he’d managed to rope along his own groupies.  His set mixed up his own tunes from his time in YouTube land with a selection of tried and true club bangers to great effect.  His tunes mixed nicely with the psychedelic images (created by Tim Gruchy’s) that were crawling across the old Gables building, a small but eloquent cottage in the middle of the festival (usually just the botanic gardens).  The building made a perfect screen for the projected image, which seems to come to life, partially due to the scale and partly due to th elegant shapes and forms that were like fractals.

I caught the tail end of The Warsaw Village Band, all jammed onto the small Te Paepae stage The very adept 6 piece do mostly traditional Polish folk so well.  I will definitely be dialysis them up on my new app/. Did I mention the new App? This is my first time using it and it’s brilliant.  You can research the bands and singers, ‘book’ a time to see a particular act – it even send you an alarm, so you don’t miss it.  I’ll definitely be locking in a big pile of acts for day 2.

Tim Gruar

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Michael Flynn: