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My WomAdelaide

Saturday 17th February 2001.

Artists covered; Dr Natesan Ramani (workshop and performance) , Fruit , Giles Apap and the Colours of Invention , Jimmy Little , Flook, Richard Thompson , Afro Celt Sound System .

    Dr Natesan Ramani

     Saturday features a leisurely start of breakfast at Ian's house under the very pleasant shade of his grape vine . Ominously , it is noticeably warmer by eleven AM than it has been the day before , the forecast is 34 c- which is around 90+ Fahrenheit. When we arrive (parking was a chinch and FREE) the arena is fairly empty, so once more after grabbing the obligatory beer we dash on over to stage six to catch the workshop of flautist Dr Natesan Ramani. The good Dr is a renowned exponent of Indian Carnatic music and we are keen to learn some of the ways in which the music is structured and details of how the various instruments are used. The big advantage of stage six is that the seating area in front of the stage is completely in deep shade, due to the presence of the massive Morton Bay fig trees that dominate the area near the Botanic Gardens . Vic Flierl- the proprietor of Big Star records -is already at the stage when we arrive. Vic wears a beautifully loud shirt decorated with vivid roses and can be seen in the photo of the stage right.

    The workshop is engrossing , but the participants are clearly not used to the protocols needed of explaining their art using amplified equipment . There are constant problems of them having to hold a microphone in one hand and play their instruments at the same time- its extremely difficult , if not an impossibility. This results in a classic comedy situation on-stage , with the microphone having to be shifted around , put down and picked up again - and although quite amusing -it also severely hinders the flow of the workshop. Eventually , the performers work out that they need to hold the microphone for each other , whilst the other player speaks or demonstrates their technique, but the first ten minutes or so of the workshop are a real shambles.

    Things aren't helped either by the language barriers. The Dr speaks very good English , but is very hesitant in his delivery and in choosing his words , so it is a slow process for him to explain procedures. However, all is forgiven when the musicians actually play, clearly masters of their art, the percussionists are the real hit of this workshop . E M Subrahmaniam is a wonder on the clay pot , teasing out a bewildering array of sounds that has us all open mouthed at the fact that such an ordinary looking item could produce these noises. T Bhaktavaslam is not to be outdone , showing us both instrumentally and verbally how the drum beats are structured. I've often wondered how the likes of Trilok Gurtu and John McLaughlin have developed the blindingly fast vocal duets they have used over the years and now I know their origin.. Bhaktavaslam vocalises a percussive sequence and then repeats it on his drums , this is stunning . A great workshop , despite the teething troubles encountered at the beginning of the session .


    There isn't really anyone that we are desperate to catch after this , Taikoz are pretty percussive on stage one , but it is too hot and the crowd too sparse to really entice us to hang around and see if they are going to develop a hot set or not. Ian splits to catch the Chemrani Zarb Trio on stage five and I stroll over to get some food and another beer ( a mistake I was to repeat throughout the afternoon and regret later ).

   After scoring some nice dhal from Buddhas bowl I make my way to what I think is stage five and search extensively for Ian . H e is nowhere to be found and I thoroughly overheat myself as I wander from shade patch to shade patch looking for him. The band on stage do not seem to be the right one ( it turns out they are the Habbibis , complete with Belly dancer-see left ) - and whilst they have a goodly crowd listening to them , they are mostly under the shade of the surrounding trees -which tends to break up the crowd rather a bit too much for my liking . Unable to find Ian I just decide to do a relaxed ramble , taking in the crowds, the bands and the atmosphere and snapping many of the pix you see on the site.

    There are lots of impromptu acts performing around the place. Lots of Aboriginal folks, a relatively rare sight in Adelaide. Many have probably come from up country to see the Aboriginal bands that are booked at Womad as well as coming to meet with indigenous peoples form other parts of the world. There are reports of Pato Banton being virtually mobbed by a bunch of Aboriginal female admirers and there is definitely some cool fraternising between the indigenous population and the overseas acts , with guest appearances during performances .One of my regrets is that I do not manage to get to see many of the Aboriginal acts that perform at the festival , as most were on when I am watching the big acts such as Pato or Afro Celt Sound System .


    I want to catch Fruit this time round as I have not seen them for a couple of years.- the usual story- they are an Adelaide band , so one can see them pretty regularly if one wants , in consequence one does not in reality ever see them at all . The band have changed quite a bit since I last saw them , they've mellowed a bit. I can remember them being more full on and funky, but they still have a huge talent and the ability to raise a crowd up and get them dancing and this is what they proceed to do , despite the relentless heat and the presence of a large part of the crowd huddled under the shade on stage right at some remove from the stage itself. I am out there in the heat , which is mitigated somewhat by the presence of a slight breeze that blows pretty consistently throughout and makes the proceeding just about bearable.

    Crop haired and tattooed Lead vocalist Mel Watson blows some nice trumpet and sings with feeling , whilst drummer Yanya Boston and bassist Catherine Gates hold it all together with a vibrant rhythm groove. The smooth , gutsy vocal blend of Mel Watson, ,Susie Keynes and Sam Loh is Fruit's major strength - and their on-stage energy gets the crowd participating nicely in a few singalongs. Fruit always go down well at WomAdelaide and their short set is received with rapturous applause by the assembled hordes, many of whom are established fans. .

    A middle aged lady in a bright yellow dress and matching g-string does some cartwheels down near the front of stage- bearing her knickers to all and sundry -causing the response of "those are the brightest yellow panties I've ever seen on anyone" -from Susie Keynes , the lead guitarist .

   Giles Apap

    I finally catch up with Ian at the end of the Fruit set -it appears I turned up at the wrong stage and he has very sensibly lurked under the trees instead of baking under the sun .Unfortunately in order to see Fruit , we miss the Benning Brothers and since neither of us is particularly smitten by the output of Chava Albertstein on stage one ,( I've never really warmed to Israeli music- with the exception of Yair Dalal from Womadelaide 99) - - another wandering session takes place -more photographs --yet another visit to the beer tent and then back to take in Giles Apap and the Colours of Invention at stage three.

    This is a more relaxed Apap, casually dressed in collarless shirt and sporting shades , who meanders through a variety of music , both traditional and classical , in a number of different settings. Using a second violinist, an accordion player called Mimi as well as the double bass player who accompanied him on Friday during his stint with the ASO. It is an interesting set , but nothing really sets the world on fire and I think I would have preferred to attend Pato Bantons reggae workshop which I pass in order to catch the Apap set.

    After this things go seriously off the rails for me , as I suffer from a bad case of dehydration due to too much booze , so I am pretty much out to lunch for about two hours , as a consequence missing Bob Brozman's workshop . We find a couple of seats near B sharp records and I am propped up here until I recover, whilst Ian goes off in search of interesting music. He still manages to miss Brozman and I am reluctantly forced to sit and listen to the middle of road sounds of Jimmy Little on stage two. Very ordinary I'm sorry to say, he really is not in the same class as the rest of the acts . He also falls over a monitor apparently , but recovers quickly.

    During this low point I am fortunate to be surrounded by some of the performance acts that roam around the festival as I am incapable of actually walking around to search them out . A number of stilt artists are dressed up as giant insects , red back spiders, mantis's , beetles,.etc . I am lucky enough to witness a particularly amusing interlude between a little boy of about four years old and a giant beetle . The beetle has retreated behind a two metre shrub whilst the boy is watching it and it proceeds to peer tentatively through the foliage , playing peek a boo with the little lad , who initially stands transfixed , goggling at this weird thing as though he cannot believe what he is seeing . Then after deciding that it probably is not a hallucination , he places his feet firmly apart and commences to point fixedly at the insect whilst with the other hand he gestures silently to his friends to come and see the apparition .


Right :The Beetle and admirers .

     The interaction between the children and the performance artists is really touching . The performers are to admired for actually haveing the courage and fortitude to actually perform at all , as the costumes must be stifling -especially the more constricting ones such as the beetle and red back. Unfortunately I do not get any good pix of these folks . Later on I am keeping my film for the acts and due to lack of opportunity I miss taking shots of the estimable bubble men who intimidate the spectators for most of the weekend. These guys wear large rubber inflatable bubbles , fore and back , on their bums as well as on their heads and their speciality is to do forward rolls and pratfalls, from which they are insulated from damage by their rubber buffers. Their characters are quite belligerent , they elbow their way around , pulling a wide variety of malevolent facial expressions that are a total hoot . They size up a punter and push into them, do a bit of benign humiliating interaction and then move off to confront another hapless attendee. Definitely a hit with everyone , they are viewed with amusement wherever they go.


Left :A ballman in full regalia

    Eventually I recover enough to visit the toilet , drink what seems like several gallons of water and drag my fetid carcass in the direction of Stage two in order to establish a beachhead by which I can feast my eyes on the main event for me at Womad 2001 -Richard Thompson. A complete review can be read here, so I will confine my comments to the fact that he is bloody brilliant and that you should expose yourself to his music or risk the possibility that your musical experiences will remain forever blighted. He is fantastic, even if he won't come out and sign his CD's ( although this may be due to the fact that at Womad he is suffering from a mild dose of flu )

    After this we have to visit B Sharp records to enable Ian to bankrupt himself by buying Richard Thompson CD's , so by the time we mosey over to watch The John Butler Trio play the area around them is packed solid and we cannot find anywhere near the front where the sound is respectable. . They are good , but nothing earth shattering and as we do not like watching them perform from behind the stage and neither of us really liked Sierra Maestra last time round - they are thoroughly professional, but I find their groove a bit repetitive- we take a leisurely stroll back over to our old haunt - stage three, to catch Flook, the Irish band we wanted to see on Friday night .

    Flook prove to be thoroughly enjoyable. They have a fantastic bodrhan player in John Joe Kelly , the twin whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen manage to provide a sufficient variety of sounds to satisfy this punter for the hour that they are on-stage and they are propelled along nicely by Guitarist Ed Boyd. They might not be quite so pleasing if they are playing a two hour set, but on this hearing , I have to rate the band very highly indeed. Unfortunately, there are a few occasions where the whistles are just too loud in the mix , a hint of distortion creeps in to the otherwise immaculate sound from where I am sitting ( about six to eight rows back from the front ).

    Afro Celt Sound System

     As Flook end their set we move swiftly across to stage two to catch the Afro Celts. I hadn't truy gotten off on this band in 1997, preferring Shooglenifty and hardly having a chance to hear the Celts as they only played the once . This time round I get the music in a big way , although the mix is not the best of the weekend.

   Down front, certain players instruments are formidably loud, It depends where one actually is , but at times topend notes from the pipes and vocals- are just too loud, leading to some overload of the stacks . This is VERY unusual for Womadelaide, usually the sound quality is impeccable, even when seriously cranking !

   Part of the rock band syndrome I suppose. It has to be loud and sometimes faults will only be audible at certain places in the crowd and are not noticeable from the sound desk. We'll give the mixer the benefit of the doubt....

   Anyway, the Celts are a formidable outfit live. They have created a mix that fuses techno, Celtic and African music into a perfect recipe for the new millennium. Its not to the taste of everyone - Ian positively loathes the Sunday set, although he didn't mind this show - but it certainly appeals to drum and bass heads as well as most of the Celtic crowd- at least the younger mob who are used to continuous beats and a frantic pace.

   This show features the full line-up of Celts, James MacNally, despite his middle ear problems -is up and pacing about the stage like a caged panther during his pipe solos. Bearded Alexi Sayle look alike Johnny Kalsi is a crowd fave, his appearance being greeted with a huge cheer and he gets many more as he struts about cheerfully assaulting his innocent Dhol Drum . He must be incredibly hot in his heavy fustian tunic , but he never misses a beat. The percussive groove is the key ingredient throughout this set and Johhny is aided by pipecleaner thin Moussa Sissokho , who is a standout on talking drum and Djembe . The third element of this mix is man mountain N'Faly Kouyate, who takes to centre stage on occasions with the staple of African Music - the Kora and proceeds to construct a delightful solo that is at odds with the frenetic pace of most of the rest of the proceedings. There are also a few episodes of the delightful mugging up that so often accompanies African musicians , when N'Faly and Moussa indulge in some classic one-up-manship-ism during their collective call and response drum duets.
    Emer Maycock cuts through everything when she is given her head to let fly with the Uillean pipes, which just has to be the most evocative instrument in Celtic music, it never fails to move me , whether to bring tears to my eyes during a plaintive lament or to bring a grin to the face during a mad jig or reel . Iarla O'Leonaird has a nice voice but seems a bit superfluous at times as he doesn't get much of a chance to do anything . Most of this is all held together by Simon Emmerson , who lurks up the back and blows our collective mind with his blend of guitars , sequencers and keyboards. During the latter part of the set things get quite heated, with Emmerson leaping off the rear dias and mashing it up with Johhny and master McNally down front of stage . A fascinating band, they leave to a massive round of applause and succeed in really rocking the house right out into the stratosphere- with some serious dancing going on during the closing stages of the set. Its the only time we see James McNally on-stage as he is invalided off with ear problems ( a burst ear drum ? _ is apparently advised not to play on Saturday by his physician - the Afro Celt WomAdelaide jinx strikes again !( their instruments went astray in 1997 and they had to reschedule appearances AND they were troubled with sound problems during one of their sets.) .

    The whole place is packed to the gills as we leave stage one , but the crowd rapidly thins as we approach stage two to catch Dr Natesan Ramani and his ensemble . Their performance is exquisite, but we are seriously tired after the excesses of the afternoon and dancing to the Afro Celts , and after an hour lying back and travelling to the ends of the Universe with the good Dr and his talented friends we have to leave. By that time there are only a few thousand people left at the most. So that's it for Saturday, the evening cools sufficiently for it to be pleasant enough to dance it up. But as we leave a very hot wind gets up and its with some trepidation that we hit the hay at Ian's- as we know that Sunday is only going to get a lot warmer !

Follow our progress over the ENTIRE BLAZINGLY HOT weekend by visiting these links.


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The festival grounds ,crowds, personal Womad stories.

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Womadelaide 92.*
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