(Reviewed by John Glennie)
Hate to admit this, but after all these years 2019 was my first ever WOMAD! And happy to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the music, the atmosphere and the vibes! So much to see and the hardest decisions was working out what to see next.
There were so many great performances that I cannot give justice to them all. I am going to pick out a few of my highlights. A standout for me, and her first visit to Australia, was Sona Jobarteh from the small African nation of Gambia. She is the first female to master the Kora, a 21-stringed African harp but is a multi-instrumentalist. She played traditional Gambian music and had the audience help her with many choruses. I hope she returns for more WOMADs!
A close second for me was the 3-piece Amsterdam-based band My Baby. They played sensational, energetic pop/rock/funk/etc and had the crowds dancing and jumping around incessantly. Brilliant stuff!
A relaxing almost haunting style of music which incorporated sounds of endangered species and soulful vocals from Australian duo Dangerous Song, who teamed up with Bukhu for a totally unique experience. Bukhu plays a 3-stringed Mongolian guitar-equivalent and is an expert in Mongolian throat-singing (which I first saw/heard in the movie Mongol about Genghis Khan).
The Silk Route Ensemble has members from all over the world on their first Australian tour. This fine group of musicians captivated the audience with hainting vocals, accompanied by an array of instruments: strings, percussion, bagpipes and more! They effortlessly took the audience with them on a beautiful world tour.
The Sharon Shannon band from Ireland were another stand-out. Great Irish music, much of the early tracks reminiscent of Riverdance. Highlight was when “special guest” Susan O’Neill – wow!! Started playing trumpet in one of Sharon’s songs then she played guitar and sang – what a voice! Her rendition of Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart was mind-blowing (look for the clip of this on YouTube).
Brazil’s Dona Onete recorded her first album in 2014 at the tender age of 73. She was helped onto the stage then sat in a chair for the performance – and what a performance! Awesome band with excellent Latin American music. Dona’s vocals are second to none and, though she couldn’t speak any English, everyone eagerly applauded her Portuguese conversations with the crowd.
Monday finished up with a couple of brilliant one-only performances from The Bamboos (Australian) with a great 1960’s funk style, then grand finale from The Original Gypsies. The latter sees the original members of French group The Gypsy Kings reuniting to wow the audience with their rumba and flamenco rhythms with their band which included 8 guitarists!
A great way to finish up my first – but definitely not my last – WOMAD. My apologies to those other wonderful musicians that I haven’t mentioned!