WOMAD NZ – Day 3

Here is Michael Flynn’s third and final report from WOMAD 2012. Make sure you have a look at the photo gallery at the end of the post:

They say that having a good time is exhausting. Well…I have had an truly great time this weekend at WOMAD and I’m shagged out. I’ve loved every minute of it though and for those who have never been to WOMAD don’t let my weary state put you off. Unless you’re planning on running around with a bag full of camera equipment for three days you’ll be fine, honestly. Just do what everyone else does when they are there, let your hair down, chill out and enjoy the atmosphere and the amazing wealth of musical talent. This is one of the finest festivals that you could go to and this year I think it was exceptional.

Starting off with another dose of Burundi drummers I went next to see the band that I have been keen to see all weekend, Anda Union. A ten piece band from Inner Mongolia taking their inspiration from Mongolian traditions, and combining different nomadic sounds, throat singing and traditional instruments such as the horse head fiddle. Stunning. And if you want a taste of Anda Union then you should check out their tremendous album The Wind Horse. It’s great. From one extreme to another I went right to Ash Grunwald the Australian surfer who just loves to play the blues. Or is it the other way around? Whatever…his set was full on and rocking. Blues that was hot and rocking. Joined later on in the set by the wonderful sisters Linda and Vika Bull. I felt that their contribution really placed Ash in a great place. They were storming within a very short time and the Bowl crowd was up on their feet and letting the music take them elsewhere. I spoke to Linda afterwards who told me that they were currently playing in Paul Kelly’s band and that he has a new album recorded. With any luck that might not be too far away. She was extremely up about it anyway. I’m looking forward to that one.

Meanwhile, back at WOMAD. The Bombay Royale, A really fun band from Melbourne that puts Bollywood on the dance circuit. Funky tunes combined with vintage Indian Bollywood. Kitsch but a lot of fun.

Black Seeds next and they played a storm. Possibly the best crowd of the day pulled up to see this tremendous roots band. Barnaby Weir and Daniel Weetman had the audience dancing from the first few bars. Roots, dub, afro-beat. It was easy to see why this band is one of New Zealand’s most popular bands.

WOMAD is not just a series of concerts. The Big Day Out it’s certainly not. There are cookery demonstrations given by many of the headlining artists, movies to watch, workshops, and numerous other things to occupy yourself with. Yesterday I attended an artist in conversation session between the host Nick Bollinger and Baaba Maal. Nick does a fine job in hosting these discussions. Today I took time out to listen to him talking to Lojo’s Denis Pean. Time just flew by. The conversation was captivating and I came away with an even greater respect for that remarkable Frenchman.

Baaba Maal again at the Bowl Stage and I watched another high energy show. We are very fortunate here in New Zealand. It WOMADS in other parts of the world the audience usually gets just the one performance but here in New Plymouth we nearly always get two bites of the cherry. I watched in awe at this showman and wished I could have had a third bite. He was so good tonight.  More Mahala Rai Banda before sitting to watch the Sharon Shannon Big Band. Sharon is a remarkable accordion player from Ireland who has played with many of the big names in music today… Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Willie Nelson, The Waterboys, Shane MacGowen.  Apart from the more obvious Irish Traditional music her music embraces country and cajun as well.

Almost at the end and I had an exhausting mad hour as I scurried between two shows next. I caught the first half of Minuit who were performing with a Balinese gamelan ensemble. Beats delivered from Minuit coming together with a stirring percussive performance from the gamelan group. The crowd loved it. Me too. But I had to leave if I wanted to catch some of Alabama 3 and their acoustic set. This British band (A four piece) consisting of Larry Love on vocals, Harpo Strangelove, harmonica, Rock Freebase guitar (Don’t you just love these guys’ names) and the very beautiful Aurora Dawn, vocals rocked the place with their brand of country and delta blues. These guys are hard drinking rockers with attitude. Anyone going along to see them later this week at the Powerstation will have a ball.

It was almost there. The final gig of the night. And it fittingly went to the Congolese Staff Benda Bilili. I joined the crowds who were all seemingly like myself, trying to cram in as much as they could. Artists of this calibre don’t come this way very often. They loved it and so did I.

I’ve already booked my hotel for next year. I’ll be back for sure. If you are one of those who have never been but have been thinking about it, then just do it. Trust me, this is a great weekend and undoubtedly one of the finest festivals anywhere. The people of New Plymouth are fantastic and so welcoming. The venue is perhaps the most beautiful setting for any concert anywhere. And the experiences, meeting the artists, discovering new music, trying out different foods. It’s a blast. But don’t just take my word for it, come and see for yourself. You’ll love it.

Oh…and before I fade out altogether, why not investigate some of these tremendous albums. Baaba Maal: Television. Staff Benda Belili: Tres Tres Fort. Gurumul: Gurumul and his second album Rrakala. (Both are really beautiful). And my favourite band of the festival, Lojo: Cosmophono. 

 Michael Flynn

Click here to view a gallery of Michael Flynn’s photgraphs taken on the third day of WOMAD NZ 2012: