WOMADelaide is an awesome Adelaide arts event that all of you lovely international people reading this blog may or may not have heard of.
It is a celebration of world music, arts, and dance, and acts from all across the globe converge on Adelaide for three and a half days of unleashing your inner hippie.
I have been keeping a hippie hairdo/hair count. Currently there have been 20 dreadlocked folks (18 men, 2 women), five women with armpits hairier than the men around them, seven mohawks (jealous Puck?) and two people with cornrows.
I’ve also been taking random happy snaps and blogging about WOMAD with my pals Ryneisha Bollard and Julia Phipps. I wish you could all be here, but if you can’t, here is what we wrote about the general WOMAD experience, plus loads of pictures mixed in for good measure 😉
WOMADelaide: Otherwordly or all-worldly?
It’s like wandering into different world, one made up of many worlds, and into a time where hippie values of free love, peace and community reign supreme. WOMAD hits you like a kaleidoscopic brick of music, arts and dance, and leaves its mark on you like the henna tattoos we’ve seen being sported around by various bodily appendages.
WOMAD is all about the atmosphere. Its personality is as strong as the Epsom Salts you can get from its Healing Village. This is the first time that all three of us bloggers have been to WOMAD. One thing we’ve heard from lots of people who’ve attended for years is that each WOMAD is distinctive for that year; each WOMAD has a unique character, and its own individual collection of memories and vignettes, its own quirks and idiosyncrasies.
So how to describe this year’s WOMAD?
Well, there were no opening night fireworks, like you sometimes see at other major festival or events, but you don’t need these to spark the WOMAD crowd; the explosion of artistic talent on stage, and sometimes off stage, is enough.
It’s the kind of festival where acts like Angus and Julia Stone, who recently won the Triple J Hottest 100 top spot, play alongside more obscure, but equally talented, acts. And Mr and Miss Stone felt comfortable enough with the crowd to giggle in between songs when they played on opening night.
You can wander in under the main WOMAD entrance banner, this year composed of a crazy collection of feathers, bicycle parts, straw and other things we couldn’t even identify, and not know what you want to do, and then hear something like a group of people chanting “Rango, Rango, Rango” over and over that will draw you in. We heard some people singing this out on opening night, and thought maybe it was just a cheer in another language. Then we realised it was the name of an act on stage, were kitted out in full African regalia, with the lead singer wearing a large feather headdress and grass skirt.
The lights of the WOMAD stages are so low compared to the ultra bright lights of a lot of music festivals. It suits the ambience. The dome on the main stage changes colours like you are viewing the big screen through the filters of different coloured pieces of cellophane.
Even the spotlights aren’t all flashy. WOMAD is cruisey and something you “feel” as much as you see.
In fact, all of your senses – and nerve endings – kick into overdrive at WOMAD. Aside from all the music and dance you are seeing and hearing, the hippie atmosphere and touch of the soft grass underneath your feet makes you just want to kick off your shoes and wriggle your toes through it.
The scent of incense tickles your nose so much you want to make a B*witched nose twitch. Though this delicious smell competes with those wafting from the Taste of the World stands, where local and guest chefs from exotic locales whip up a variety of organic dishes from all over the globe. If you want to be really ambitious, you could really try to Taste the World, but so far we’ve tasted India, Italy and Turkey. We especially liked the naan bread we drenched in balsamic vinegar.
Someone from Ethiopia told us that Ethiopians eat food completely sans cutlery, and that special breads are used as handy edible plates. No more dishes! One of the best things about WOMAD is that you can strike up a conversation with anyone of any culture and be greeted with a cheerful and friendly response. Half the fun of this festival is meeting everyday, ordinary people who can help you understand more about the cultures behind the different types of music on show.
But, not to worry if you and another person don’t speak the same language and can’t talk! The music and dance of WOMAD crosses language boundaries, and operate on a whole series of different levels.
Even if you can’t understand what a person is saying, you can understand the wonder they feel when a musicians nails a particularly hard riff, or share in their simple joy of feeling comfortable enough to dance with no inhibitions in this setting, whether as part of a crowd or in your own private little disco.
Parts of WOMAD feel as comfortable as your own living room. If your living room had umbrellas that look like coconut trees and white carpets underneath them like miniature beach strips. Or massive fig trees that blanket the ground with their shadowy canopy. With lazy eyes, lots of people stretch out or sit away from the main stage and just take in the music; still part of the action but not quite at the epicentre. With the sun is burning bright and hot like it has been this year, during the day people are shrinking away into these shady cocoons, sometimes emerging when their favourite acts start pumping out tracks.
Or finding clever ways to beat the heat.
Whether you hear the music close and loud or softened from a distance, together the three WOMAD stages flood the grounds with beautiful notes and voices; for just a little while you feel like these grounds are the universe.
Time runs a little differently in WOMAD. Sure, people keep an eye on the time, but they don’t seem to be frenetically checking and re-checking the way they would during their ordinary busy lives. You can even get watches from the WOMAD markets that have a frame around the face made out of coconut!
There are also so many little stories we could share about the unique ways we’ve seen people enjoying themselves. One man took his high-spiritedness to the next level by drinking spirits out of a vase. A kid watching Angus and Julia Stone stood out from the crowd by covering every limb with multiple glow sticks until he looked like he was covered in rainbows. One kid took the Drumming Monkeys performance in the KidZone literally, and like a little monkey himself clambered up into an over-handing tree to get a bird’s eye view of what was going on. Us bloggers have kept up a “dreadlock count”; currently at 20 people (18 men, 2 women) with dreads and counting. We’ll give you our full tally when WOMAD is over!
WOMAD definitely gets the thumbs up, that’s for sure 😉
And there are plenty of WOMAD pied pipers out there who will get you hooked on their songs!
Update: More WOMAD photos