WOMAD: A big song and dance

By Liz Light

Liz Light gets a world of music at WOMAD.

The World of Music, Art and Dance, is held every year in March at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. Photo / 	Peter de Graaf
The World of Music, Art and Dance, is held every year in March at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The sky was infinitely blue, there was no breeze and Mt Taranaki, conical, clear and seeming almost close enough to touch, was perched above beautiful Pukekura Park.

It was Sunday, the final day of last year's three-day WOMAD festival and Taranaki pulled out a great day; so perfectly, sun-beatingly hot that many of the 12,000 festival attendees were caught short without sun hats.

The stall selling woven flax hats sold out the day before and the felter had a run on tall, pointed felt pixie hats that people usually wear only during Robin Hood or Lord of the Ring moments. Some folk artfully arranged sarongs into turbans and others naughtily raided fern fronds from the luscious gardens and twisted them into arrangements resembling hats.

Late March is the glorious golden end of summer, and we rocked to the Top Twins and Hamilton County Blue Grass Band as they oscillated between country and vintage rock and belted-out Hello Baby and Don't You Know Yakamo.

For those over hoedown foot-stamping there was, on another stage, an Australian professor of music playing perfect guitar and singing the blues. And for those hankering for something exquisitely different, on a smaller, more intimate stage, a Cambodian artist made soft, sad music: lullabies and songs of love and loss.

WOMAD, World Of Music, Art and Dance, is held every year in March at Pukekura Park in central New Plymouth.

On Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, the park fills with thousands of people for a late summer indulgence in world music, food and dance.

There are six stages around the park so there are three performances to choose from at any time, leaving three stages setting up for the next act. At the end of one show, the crowd ambles away to another venue where artists are ready to roll and rock.

This is, literally, world music and 2012 promises 40 acts that wil include Anda Union, a 10-piece band specialising in traditional Mongolian music; Chapelier Fou, a French mad-hatter conjuring luscious electronic landscapes; Diego Guerrero, who combines the passion of flamenco with Cuban rhythm; Dobet Gnahore, Ivory Coast, who sings African soul, and Groundation from Jamaica offering true-roots reggae.

The New Zealand contingent includes The Black Seeds, the 10-piece big band Batucada Sound Machine and the Te Matarae i Orehu kapa-haka group. There is much more and, believe me, three days is not too much.

World music is accompanied by world food. You won't find chips, burgers, hotdogs and other tedious Kiwi takeaways here. The three food areas all have numerous stalls. Choices include Indian snacks, Tibetan nomos, Hungarian bread, Cuban hot-to-trot, yummy wood-fired pizza, Malaysian laksa and curries, Hari Krishna cooked-with-love and vegetarian versions of all sorts of things. There is only good coffee, fine wine and boutique beer.

And people. Of the thousands who attend, there are sophisticated musos, old hippies, young trendies and lots of families. WOMAD prides itself on being a family-friendly music festival and the girls that I attended WOMAD with last year, aged 7 and 9, were delighted to spend time at Kidzone.

Yes, face painting is inevitable and the girls simply had to have a beaded, bright, cotton extension woven into their hair. They also did funky semi-educational things such as making musical instruments out of junk, making costumes and flags for the Sunday parade, and learning to dragon dance.

The event has superb logistics with bands moving on and off stage like clockwork, no cringe-making technical problems and everything running to schedule. Over three days of music gluttony, one can enjoy everything on offer.

The grand wind-up, on Sunday night under a full moon, is a massive rock-a-thon when as many musicians as can fit onto the biggest stage, go for it. The thousands watching go wild; dancing, clapping and stomping like there is no tomorrow.

* WOMAD is on this year from March 16-18 at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. For more info click here.

- Herald on Sunday

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