Celebrating twenty years of music, arts and dance, WOMADelaide kicks off on March 9 at Adelaide's Botanic Park. The four-day festival is sure to hit the spot with its diverse range of musics, arts and delicacies. It was hard, but we’ve managed to select ten highlights we suggest are not to be missed. From Nordic fiddling to chilled New Zealand soul, the range of acts on show this year is phenomenal.
If our choices don't tickle your fancy (although we expect they will), you can check out all the other artist profiles on the WOMADelaide website.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, this band has become renowned among the world music scene. Despite being handicapped by polio and living rough on the streets of Kinshasa, Staff Benda Bilili’s singers, guitarists and percussionists have become a global sensation. The pulse of their Congolese rumba echoes the sounds of Havana, Kingston and Harlem, and their energetic live performances are nothing short of joyous and inspirational.
Having just won the award for the Best World Music Album Grammy, Tinariwen are flying high. From out of the Western Sahara, Tinariwen strike up a stunning and rebellious new strain of ‘desert blues’. Ripe with electric guitars and rhythms inspired by the loping gait of the camel, Tinariwen’s songs echo with nostalgia for their ancient Touareg nomadic lifestyle and rage against the indifference to their plight.
As standard-bearers of the new folk idiom, young Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg strike clean harmonies atop simple guitar, autoharp and keyboards. Their debut album, The Big Black & The Blue, released when Klara was aged 17 and Johanna 19, earned inclusion on several influential ‘best of 2010’ lists. More recently, The Lion's Roar(2012) has also received high critical acclaim.
Since the eighties, Baaba Maal has been an icon of African music. His distinctive voice, exhilarating live shows and willingness to experiment with different sounds, while always retaining the beauty of the Senegalese traditions he grew up with, have seen him headline events from the BBC Proms to Damon Albarn’s Africa Express.
Louis Warynski is the 21st century one man band. The 26-year-old violin virtuoso, in the guise of Chapelier Fou (The Mad Hatter), embraces samplers and digital delay loops to create intricately-layered sound textures. It’s a rare balance between formal classical structure and sweet, quirky electronica, with an air of romantic grandeur.
Conjuring psychedelic Khmer-rock from the jungles of Cambodia, The Cambodian Space Project is built around the unique voice of Srey Chanthy. Encouraged by expat Australian music producer Julien Poulson, she fronts a cross-cultural Phnom Penh band faithful to the spirit of 1960s and 1970s Cambodian pop music that fuses traditional Khmer songs with rock’n’roll.
This is ‘future-soul’ at its finest, with big looping grooves and slow-creeping sweet synth lines echoing hip-hop and psychedelica. The New Zealand (Wellington) trio conjures a deep sound, thick with drums and layered with Fender Rhodes, nylon-stringed guitars and the uber-cool, evocative vocals of Mara TK, son of legendary rock-bluesman Billy TK.
Dobet Gnahoré, hailing from the Ivory Coast, stands at the frontline of West African music as a complete artist – singer, dancer, percussionist and songwriter. She merges African roots with the European influence of her French guitarist, partner and co-writer Colin Laroche de Féline, capturing a rare power in the delivery and purpose of her songs.
Melbourne Ska Orchestra: on 10 and 11 March The golden period of ska music is revived by the 26-piece Melbourne Ska Orchestra, embracing 1963 Skatalites and Wailers hits through to British Two-Tone. Nicky Bomba, livewire drummer with John Butler Trio, brings together Australia’s best ska and reggae musicians in a big band experience that celebrates this uplifting music in high style.
Fearless fiddlers drive this exciting new strain of acoustic ‘Nordic powerfolk’! Emerging in 2002 with a debut album that set the folk world on its ear, Frigg has redefined Nordic string bands. Its distinctive ‘Nordgrass’ playfully melds Nordic traditions with Americana, a grassroots attitude and enormous energy and humour.