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   This was a nice surprise, an extra festival , not such a big wait between drinks . In those days two years between Womad's seemed a LONG time. It was also a good lineup, Oreyema and Shooglenifty, and the other bands looked pretty good too. Great stuff.... except.....

  Well it wasn't held at the Botanic Park, the venue which I had grown to love and cherish for its ambience almost as much as the musical content of the festival itself. Mclaren Vale was one hell of a lot nearer to where I lived, hell, it was almost LOCAL, but I would rather have trekked down into town to visit the usual site , as without the Morton Bay figs, it wasn't quite the same ....

   Whatever, it was a Womad, so I was going , I even took my daughter down for a few hours as she was under 15 , so could come in for free. We parked pretty close and walked the half mile or so down to the gates , not exactly a huge pilgrimage. Inside was ... ok. The edge of the Oval itself had a few shops, nowhere near as good as the global village , but ok.

   The rim of the oval is surrounded by gums , its quite pretty, but its the rim, its not near the stages at all, in fact you couldn't see the stage from the trees, so the arena didn't have any cover , if one wanted to watch the bands, one had to stand in the open with no hope of shade. More like the usual festival setting ... The Botanic Park had it over the Oval in spades.

   First thing we came across was bloody Alexander Downer ! The rev head member for Mayo and the foreign minister in the Howard Government. Since McLaren Vale is in his constituency I expect he felt he had to attend, except he was surrounded by all these alternative types with dreads and beards ! Not a V8 in sight !

   Now I like Alexander Downer about as much as a like a bad case of hives, so it gave me great pleasure to see that he looked uncomfortable in his surroundings, in fact he looked as happy as a man who has just had surgery for a particularly swollen and deep seated set of haemorrhoids, so this gave me a real boost !

   I wasn't all that knocked out by the early acts, pleasant is more or less what I expected and got. It wasn't until David Bridie and cellist Helen Mountfort ( of Not Drowning Waving fame) curiously named band -" My Friend the Chocolate Cake"came on that the music became truly interesting to my ears . The strings that accompanied the band made a change from the more folky sounds of the Barkers and Tiddas. I did not like the klezmer sounds of the Yuri Yunakov Ensemble, although I did enjoy Pa Joh Jobarteh.

   The real meat and potatoes stuff started around twilight , when Yulduz Usmanova hit the stage, pint sized she may be , but this lady filled the stage with her energy and enthusiasm and she received a rapturous response from the crowd, who were up and dancing almost straight away and by the end of her set, were all rabid fans . Curious she has never been booked for the bigger festival as she would have been guaranteed success.

Yuri- no cigar


Yulduz- bring her back !

   Geoffrey Oreyema graced the stage and gave us a great set of songs too .To begin with the music was slightly more traditional, lacking the electric guitar that accompanied Geoffrey on his 93 visit .However,as he had a full band this time round, he soon launched into the sort of music that had the crowds flocking to his shows in 1993 and 1995.It was clear from the audiences response that many had come specifically to see this act . His voice, pure and clear, is very moving and his musical settings are varied and showcase his voacls perfectly. Impressive stuff. Songs like Hard Labour , The River and Lapwony all went down well. He announced that he would be back, but this has not happened , which is a shame . Although he has performed at three Womads, a gap of a decade is long enough ....


Then came Shooglenifty and they came ,saw and conquered . We danced, we danced frenetically and as one entity .The band had us wrapped round their collective finger, we were one with them and they were just perfect, indeed I Think this one might be the best Shoogles gig I have seen .Angus started with ' its a wee bit colder than it was so were going to warm you up and get you dancing , remember the more you move the warmer it gets " . They began with the catchy '"Salvation " which did indeed get us up and dancing and the pace didn't stop until the third number - the mellifluous "August" .

Pa Joh- pretty impressive

The energy level was high throughout the set, broken only by a time where Angus had to tune up his new fiddle, which was being a bit hard on the new strings. The band wanted to play for longer, but were told to finish off after just an hour onstage, they finished in style, with a lengthy Whisky Kiss but, ( and it has to be said , in true Womad tradition ) despite the crowd calling for more, we were denied an encore.

   By this time it was very bloody cool indeed and the wait for the next act- the Sabri Brothers, was far too long for comfort. Not having a second stage really slowed things down when a full size band had to bump off and another bump onstage. After about 45 minutes I was frozen and when finally the Sabri's came onstage, I had almost had it. After a half hour I gave up and headed off home . The Qawwali sounds of the Sabri's were good, but I had heard Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and they had nowhere near the energy that he possessed or what was needed to keep me there listening . Pity, but I had to go, I'd had a lousy headache most of the day, which I danced off for a while but the cold had brought it back.


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