Last weekend, WOMADelaide celebrated its 30th anniversary back in its home of Botanic Park. Apart from the double vaccination requirement to enter, it felt like a return to the days before the pandemic with large crowds on their feet singing and dancing (WOMAD being the first event at which dancing has been allowed since it was banned in South Australia) along to the performances.
We were only able to attend for two of the four days: the Sunday afternoon/evening and Monday afternoon so the performances we’re reviewing are from those days. Read on for our WOMADelaide 2022 review.
The first performance we attended on Sunday was Ausecuma Beats- an Australian based 9-piece band from Senegal, Cuba, Mali, Guinea, Gambia & Australia. The name Ausecuma is a combination of the names of the countries and regions from which the band members come: Australia, the Senegambia region, Cuba, and Mali.
The all-male band members were dressed in their matching “Musso” black t-shirts with a picture of people with instruments against a yellow oval. One of the drummers wore a red and black headdress with beige feathers standing high.
The MC for the shady more relaxed stage 7 informed the audience that they would be up on their feet dancing as she introduced the next act. It may have taken a few songs but they certainly delivered. Their sound was provided by electric guitar and a West African rhythm section of doun doun, djembe, balafon and congas alongside sax, guitar, bass and drums. What started with an audience on their feet slowly swaying from side to side led to an audience bopping up and down, and enthusiastic dancing by mid-way through the performance. It became impossible to resist the beat of the drum and to move.
Farhan Shah & Sufi Oz
Next up was the only show at WOMADelaide for Farhan Shah & Sufi Oz. Farhan Shah is an Adelaide-based composer and Qawwali singer who brings together the Sufi traditional music of Pakistan and the contemporary music scene of Karachi. He has been dubbed the ‘Pakistani Pavarotti’ for his phenomenal voice, and attending Sunday’s performance it was easy to see why. His voice soaring and reaching up to the flying foxes in the trees above. His sound at times almost meditation chanting like, encouraging planar travel.
Farhan Shah performed at WOMADeaide 2022 with his talented band Sufi Oz whose members have Syrian, French, Japanese, Irish and Fijian heritage and who share an affinity for Sufi music. Their look was quite different to the relaxed t-shirts and jeans of Ausecuma Beats with a mixture of collared shirts and shawl/scarves wrapped around several of the band members. Farhan Shah himself wore a blue jacket, traditional shawl and a black taqiyah.
Over at the zoo stage, Yé-Yé 2.0 had a completely different feel to the other acts we’d seen that day. For the uninitiated, France’s Yé-Yé movement of the 1960s set liberté, fraternité, égalité to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. The So Frenchy So Chic festival had organised a number of Australian women artists to put their own 60s cool spin on the Yé-Yé sound for an EP called Yé-Yé 2.0. Among the artists who recorded songs for the EP were Ali Barter and Nadéah (Nouvelle Vague), who performed at WOMADelaide 2022. This was the South Australian premiere of their concert – it having debuted at So Frenchy So Chic in Melbourne last month.
Songs the audience may have recognised include a French language version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walking” (“Ces bottes sont faits pour marcher”).
Ali Barter wore black stockings with black short shorts and a black top. Nadéah in nude fishnets, and a green and pink tartan dress paired with white sneakers. It was a touching moment when Nadéah climbed off the stage and into the audience and seated herself cross legged alongside a small child while she sang. Each Ali Barter and Nadéah took turns playing the guitar as they sang.
Monday in Adelaide saw temperatures climbing to 35 degrees and crowds less enthusiastic to be on the dancefloor in front of the stage but instead preferring to listen under the shade of the many trees in Botanic Park. Dozens of people braved the sun and stood in front of stage 2 for Grace Barbé’s performance which felt like we’d stepped out of Botanic Park, Adelaide and taken a holiday to a tropical island.
That tropical island may well have been the Seychelles, from which Grace Barbé originates (although she is now based in Perth). The Seychelles’ colourful history of slavery, pirates, coups d’état and coconuts have produced a unique Kreol culture (Kreol being the French-based creole language). Grace Barbé fuses the tropical rhythms and dances of the slaves with psychedelic rock, Afrobeat, reggae and pop.
Grace floated on stage wearing a long flowing dress and rocking her bright yellow guitar – which paired perfectly with the yellow sunflowers wrapped around her mic stand. Her island sound included catchy guitar riffs and soaring vocals with catchy tunes we are still finding ourselves humming three days later! Welele! is quite an earworm! Applause after each song was thanked with “merci beaucoup”. We always like to hear the performers tell us a little about the songs, and it was great to hear Grace doing just that. She explained that Fanm was about women in Kreol’s patriarchal society, and another song had a message: look but don’t touch – directed to the men who drink too much and get handsy with women who walk by.
Our WOMADelaide 2022 review in summary
Of the few acts we managed to see this WOMADelaide, all were enjoyable and all extremely different to each other – one of the magnificent things about WOMADelaide is the diversity in genres and cultures. We congratulate WOMADelaide on its 30th anniversary and look forward to many decades more.
WOMADelaide will return in 2023 on the long weekend from Friday 10th March to Monday 13th March. Put it in your calendars now – no matter who will be playing, whether you’ve heard of them or not, WOMAD is always a wonderful cultural experience.
Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of WOMADelaide 2022
For other events with French and francophone links happening in Australia and online, check out our what’s on in March article
If you enjoyed this WOMADelaide 2022 review, make sure you sign up below to receive notifications of articles as they are published.