Photography by Tony Lewis
Jane Cornwell ventures out to Adelaide’s annual WOMAD festival
The lounge at the Adelaide Hilton, the wee hours of the morning, a long weekend in March. Kora maestro Toumani Diabaté is sitting on a couch, jamming with the laúd player Barbarito Torres from Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, as Cuban diva Omara Portuondo improvises sweet, heartfelt lyrics. Crowded around watching are members of Youssou N’Dour’s longtime band Super Etoile de Dakar and Australia artists including roots reggae producer Jake ‘Mista’ Savona and young Iranian singer Tara Tiba, whose traditional tunes and jazz with a Persian twist mesmerised audiences at Botanic Park earlier.
Such a coming together could only be related to WOMADelaide, the antipodean arm of the WOMAD Festival – where the sun shone, the good vibes pulsed and highlights, as always, were plenty. Touareg guitarist Bombino set a rocking, robe-flapping pace on Friday evening, handing a metaphorical baton to the Romanian brass behemoth Fanfare Ciocarlia, who delivered tunes from their current tenth album Devil’s Tale as if straight from Hades itself. Saturday stand-outs included effervescent bossa-muffin singer Flavia Coelho, the sublime piano compositions of Abdullah Ibrahim – which floated into the blue like memories – and Congolese groovesters Jupiter and Okwess International, whose energetic set packed a punch. A late-night slot by Typhoon, a quartet helmed by former Violent Femme Brian Ritchie, deftly matched shakuhachi flute and piano with pipa and erhu.
Sunday saw the desert reggae of Alice Springs’s Tjintu Desert Band blowing on hot winds, Bolivia’s Luzmila Carpio singing the songs of the Andes and Youssou N’Dour joined by Neneh Cherry – performing at WOMADelaide with Rocketnumbernine – for a take on their 1994 smash hit ‘7 Seconds’. The likes of The Gloaming, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Sinead O’Connor impressed on Monday. Arguably the best festival in Australia, WOMADelaide did it again.