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10-12th March 2006 .Botanic Park.
A subjective review.
Once again a HOT weekend, both weather wise and also could be a term to describe 95% of the Friday night acts. For me , Friday was the best and most consistent session, apart from Miriam Makeba who opened the festival on stage one. This was her lest ever tour as she was retiring from the road after half a century or so . Well I wasn't too impressed .Yes I know she is a legend on her own lunchtime, but really, she wasted far too much time talking and much of her repertoire was rather schmaltzy for my taste. Expectations were high and so were many in the crowd, which was a real mixture . The whole gamut of Womadelaide attendees were to be seen, dreadlocked feral's, middle aged wine set professionals in smart straw hats and right next to me a couple of massively disabled folks in wheelchairs. The mood was good , as people were expecting a great deal from this set.
The diva started off on a high, but soon swan dived into mediocrity, I know I was in the minority in not liking her, but sometimes I think people let the legend get in the way of the reality and the reality for me at least was that Miriam was a bit too old – 74- to really cut it . There was a bit of hostility between those who wanted to sit and those who wanted to stand and dance, as I was right by the front stack it wasn’t a problem for me as I wasn't obstructing anyone's view , I danced for about five minutes and then….. it wasn't really dance music any more , so after about 20 minutes (of which it seemed a good half was spent listening to the legend talking , not singing ) , I moved to stage two to catch Sharon Shannon and friends , who were delightful and who more than made up for Miriam's shortcomings .
We had quite a wait before she came onstage but it was worth it , as the Irish lass and her button accordion turned our heads, especially may companion's .He once again spent the weekend getting discs signed and traveling to all her performances. Sharon had assembled an amazing band with fiddler Dezi Donnelly, ace guitarist Jim Murray and flautist Michael McGoldrick (seen before at Womadelaide as part of Capercaillie in 2005) who was just amazing on the self penned number " Trip to Herves" .It was amazing the difference between Makeba and the Irish traditional music, where Makeba waffled on and one the Irish just got on with the job, announced a new number and went for it with all guns blazing . Sharon’s warm personality really came across even on the relatively large stage two and since we were right down the front we were within range to get a huge dose of her radiance and the virtuoso techniques of the other band members .
the time Sharon finished her set it was getting dark and time to rush back
over to stage one where Paul Kelly and the Stormwater boys were to enthrall
us with wonderful bluegrass renditions of some of Paul's best songs. Looking
dapper in white shirt and black suit, maestro Kelly hit the spot right from
the first note. The material ranged from the haunting" If I Could Only
Start Today Again " where Kelly regrets some unexplained, but seemingly
devastating act he ( or the protagonist ) has committed , to the moving "Making
Gravy " .
. This was set that kept a big cheesy grin on my own and many other faces in the audience and when during "Careful What You Pray For " he changed the lyric to "be careful who you VOTE for ", there were many nods and cheers of agreement as we contemplated the mess that our leaders had gotten us into globally . Not too many Howard or Bush devotees in this audience. Overall this set was a delight and the mix of guitar, dobro, banjo , violin and double bass was just what the doctor ordered. Crisp, clean and chock full of wisdom.
It was a night where the Australian artists proved a match for the overseas acts. Over on stage three John Camilleri and Nicky Bomba wooed us all up with a feisty act of reggae –funk that had the audience up and dancing. The bass was fat and the band were hot, and the intimacy of stage three allowed one to get in close and to sample the band’s wares at the distance of a few metres. Many others had gone to watch La Bottine Souriante, who are a high powered act in their own right, which meant that stage three wasn't’t too crowded and there was plenty of room for dancing. Joe , in addition to delivering some great vocals, pulled out his pink sax and blew up a storm and Mr Bomba was his usual cheerful self - laying down potent chuggin reggae guitar work in fat layers around Joe and the rest of the band.
No peace for the wicked on Friday night , almost every act was a treat, and towards the end of the set I pried myself away from the intrepid Maltese falcons onstage to catch a decent position for Johnny Kalsi’s band – The Dhol Foundation. In case any of you are wondering what a Dhol is – it’s a double ended drum that makes the most frigging huge sound and in the foundation, there are no less than five of the beasts. The Dhol’s set is one relentless percussive barrage from start to finish, punctuated with celtic pipes,violin various electronica and frenetic rhythm guitar and massive bass. Johnny Kalsi and Dips on Dhol and Dharam Singh on Dholak just smashed it up something awesome and had the crowd going crazy throughout. Some nice theatre as well, with the drummers freezing on occasions, drum duels and duets galore and lots of choreographed dancing . The sound of the five dhols through a large PA is something to be experienced, this was a very powerful and visually exciting band, very similar in sound to the Afro Celts, but much heavier !
After all that craziness we needed to chill out and the two Indian masters, Amjad Ali Khan, who played a 60 minutes set and who was then followed by the esteemed Dr L Subramaniam , did the trick nicely. Two hours watching the stars above unfold as the seemingly timeless improvised music of these virtuosos swam past our minds . It was well past one when they finally put away their instruments to rapturous applause from the thousand or so souls who had stayed to the end. A wonderful end to a pretty amazing evening of peerless music.
Proved to be less of a high, although it had many good points. The trouble is , as far as this report goes, I sent most of the day watching the second sets from artists I had seen on Friday night . Sharon Shannon , Bomba and Camilleri and the two Indian players. Worryingly, as its only a few years go, I can’t remember what I did at the end of the night. I wanted to see Talvin Singh, but only saw him in the All Star Jam , I have no recollection of anything much after 9:00 pm, yet I must have watched something as I never leave early !
Also unfortunately some of the acts I wanted to see who I hadn't caught on Friday coincided with must sees like Subramaniam. As a result I missed La Bottine Souriante . I wasn't interested in Kanda Bongo Man ,who I feel is one of the least interesting African artists I've seen. I did enjoy Wicked Aura Batacuda, a great drumming act who were full of energy and enthusiasm . The Saltwater band were extremely competent, although a bit lacking in stage presence. The heat tended to dampen down any dancing on my part as well, it was still damned hot in front of the main stages , so a good part of the day was spent around the village and the shady areas and taking in the stalls and food.
There was a lack of a really GREAT African act. In previous years, there has always been at least one, but this year the acts seemed second rate, ok to watch for a while but not riveting enough to want to dance wildly or ask back for an encore.
As on Saturday Eitesu Hayashi opened the proceedings and his drumming was good, but too predictable for me to watch a second time round. However, Evelyn Glennie on the secluded and relatively shady stage three was a revelation. Totally brilliant , best percussion set I have ever seen. Cannot believe she is hearing impaired, but its true , she apparently picks up the vibrations from her instruments . Amazing dynamics and total control of her kit, it seemed like she played almost every percussion instument on earth in her 45 minute set. I just wish I had seen her set on Saturday as well......
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