Another year, another WOMADelaide. Well, almost…
Baaba Maal on Stage 1 at the moment; I’m off to see Chapelier Fou (the Mad Hatter) on the Zoo Stage. Then Anda Union from Mongolia.
And back to whatever passes as reality tomorrow.
Hopefully … see you next year!
This Festival again reminds us of the great diversity of music that exists. This diversity is to be treasured.
Watching Le Trio Joubran’s workshop, they had us clapping in 10/8 rhythm: that’s a beat on 1, 6 and 7 of a count to 10. And then the vocals and oud came in on a familiar melody around that time signature.
Yet there’s a disturbing trend to impose a danceable 4/4 beat over that diversity. Yes, we can introduce people to cultures and styles – but only if we can dance to them with the limited rhythms that western pop and rock have accustomed us to. Unfortunately, this both reduces and robs the fantastic diversity to the lowest common denominator. That’s often referred to as the hegemony of western culture.
In thinking about this, I went back to some old texts: Fanon on Colonialism. I could start to see the parallels, as cultures are taken over and shaped to the form of the colonialist. And, as has been pointed out, this both reinforces our ignorant safety, but also has a profound effect on the colonised culture. For not only is the complex and diverse not marketable, but it is marginalised and changes within its own cultural context. It is devalued … and on the slope to vanishing. Oh, we might drop a sample into our set; we might throw in an exotic instrument for a moment, to tease and entice. As long as we can still dance to it. The insistent beat surges from the stage, from the DJ mix, from the car windows.
The diversity vanishes. Colonialism both economically and culturally appropriates, and turns brilliance to pap.
Yet, within that bleak landscape, the seeds of resistance remain. And the gleam through in many moments at WOMADelaide 2012.
The question is: do we want to hear them? Or do we want to side with the musical colonialism of the insistent and hegemonic beat?
We are saddened to hear the news here at WOMADelaide 2012 Live that Benjamin Escoriza, singer with Radio Tarifa, died a couple of days ago after a long illness. Long-time attenders at WOMADelaide will remember him here at the Festival in the early days. More information at: http://worldmusiccentral.org/2012/03/10/radio-tarifas-vocalist-benjamin-escoriza-dies/
On stage 2 at the moment is the Italian women’s choir La Voce Della Luna. Some 50-strong women from Melbourne, of Italian backgrounds – from all over Italy – singing songs of love, of protest, of migration, of the seasons. Various ages – up to 83 years young, various backgrounds and professions – united by a love of making music.
And cooking. Several of them presented in Taste the World yesterday and audience members got to sample home-style Italian cooking.
They all came across to Adelaide on the train, since to leave any at home would be to cause huge social ructions within the community. What a trip that must have been, as they sang their way across the country.
So glad they made it.
They’re led by Kavisha Mazzella (singing, talking, playing guitar and accordion), and accompanied by Phil Carroll on accordion and flute. It’s fantastic to see them here. A real community connection at WOMADelaide in 2012.
How come there’s always a group of people near me in the crowd, often right down the front, ignoring the music and talking loudly amongst themselves? No … not talking: SHOUTING! Screeching even! Why on earth are they at the gig? Sure, it’s a great time to socialise and catch up with friends, but it’s a large site. Plenty of spaces away from the music to exclaim about someone else’s daring do’s or latest conquests. Go away from the music and don’t distract my enjoyment. If you want to talk in the crowd, don’t do it near me!
Kimmo Pohjonen hails from Finland – Helsinki at the moment. The music that he brings to WOMADelaide in 2012 is from somewhere else! And in performance on a small and intimate stage, as evening fell over Botanic Park, he mesmerised and astounded the audience.
For a start, Kimmo plays accordion. Has done so since he was about 10. And his performance starts with that: tunes on the 5-row diatonic button accordion. But gradually, as his feet danced over pedals, he sampled his music, condensed and expanded it, looped it back into his vocals, slapped the accordion body, plucked the bellows … the sounds built and became a landscape.
At times, Kimmo produced huge church organ music, thunder and lightning, howls and moans – and occasional maniacal laughs – and incredible beats and surges of sound. At one stage he unbuckled the accordion and it sat beside him, playing itself, while he swayed and darted, each movement translated into its own sound. Great crescendos: power and portrayal of land. And then tractors started and stalled and started again; spinning wheels clacked; chain-saws roared – and all became part of the soundscape. Surround sound helped – for the engines were behind us, beside us, on stage … somewhere.
Evening bats flew overhead at one stage, and we weren’t sure if their calls were part of Kimmo’s music.
It was a stunning performance, almost without separate ‘pieces’. One set of sounds merged into another and we were transfixed for an hour. Finally, Kimmo finished with the most delicate sounds, bells and chimes and sweetness. And we rose and applauded.
This year’s WOMADelaide Festival is currently kicking off in the Botanic Park with a BANG. On Stage I at the moment – the Drummers of Burundi, pounding out rhythms, dashing about the stage, shouting and cheering and whipping a crowd into a dance frenzy. And we’ve only been going an hour so far.
Later this evening, I’m looking forward to seeing Staff Benda Bilili on the main stage, where a fascinating story of survival goes hand in hand with some great music from Kinshasa. Then later Kimmo Pohjonen from Finland in conversation (I’ll have my own chat with him for our broadcast tomorrow), and Tinariwen (joined by members of Lo’Jo) to finish the late night.
If you want quieter sounds, Shivkumar Sharma will be presenting an intimate, small-stage performance, and Sundog (out of Penguin Cafe) will be playing under the trees.
If you can’t get here, we’ll bring you a cross-section of sounds and chat – all the noise from the Park.