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Published: April 15th 2013
WOMADELAIDE 2013...Music to save the Planet.
They call it Mad March...Mad because a year full of delights is crammed into one month...Mad because you'd be mad to miss it.
I'm talking about Adelaide of course...that peaceful state capital of South Australia...that for one month of each year becomes the cultural capital of the World...showcasing Art (Turner landscapes), Comedy (Fringe Festival), Kite Festival, French Film Festival, vroom vroom V8s, Music (Future Festival) & more Music (the Big Daddy of them all)...Womadelaide...88,000 fans strolling, swaying, rockin' & boppin'...over 4 days...in the Botanical Gardens...the best organised music festival on the Planet. But this year reminded of the wounds to humanity...music silent in the home of Desert Blues, my beloved Mali...and the massacre of children in Syria...messages in music...reminding me what music can do...reviving our souls...seeking to save the Planet.
This Womadelaide had me excited with anticipation...three bands from Mali...two of them we had danced to...Tuareg men & boys searching me out... at the Festival of the Desert at Timbuktu in 2011...Vieux Farka Toure (the son of the great Ali Farka Toure...whose house and grave we had visited in Niafunke)...and the Master of the Ngoni...the 4 stringed guitar...Bassekou Kouyate.
there was to be Mali's No. 1...born into royalty...but albino...regarded as a sign of bad luck...but rose to the very top in that heartland of African music...the exquisite Salif Keita.
These guys would have been in Mali for the Caravan of Peace for Artists in March but due to the attack on the gas plant in Algeria by Islamist terrorists and the French troops intervening in Mali...the Caravan was abandoned as too big a risk as a terrorist target.
We had been invited to join the Caravan of Peace for Artists...the one from Mauritania thru Mali to Burkina Faso...the other from Algeria thru Niger to Burkina Faso...music along the way...then a massive shindig when the two caravans crossed...a fingers up to the Islamists trying to destroy Mali's musical culture.
But they had to cancel it.
No music in Mali for the foreseeable future...musical instruments, amps, culture destroyed by the Islamists...musicians in exile.
Mali's loss...our gain...they came to Adelaide instead!
Coming from Algeria...the surreal Souad Massi...shamisen guitar players from Japan...many delights unknown to me.
Hoping to meet up with Peter Jensen who walked into our encampment in the Sahara outside Timbuktu on the morning
of Our Tuareg Wedding in 2011..."Excuse me. Are you David Hooper?"...
blow me over with a feather...
class mate from 40 years ago in Sydney...so I invited him to the wedding!
See my blog Our Tuareg Wedding...Festival Au Desert...Timbuktu, Mali
Peter lives in Adelaide...and the English couple who we partied with in Pingyao, China...Nick & Dianne.
This year should be a blast!
Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Day 1- Friday
Flight from Sydney...no Baaba Maal from Senegal for Denise to trip over & break her toe nail on this year...but there was a group of Finks Motorbike Gang at the Airport (and nervous police watching)...Denise holding me down not to zoom in for portraits...drat...would have been sensational!!!
Crowne Plaza Adelaide again...sensational burgers around the corner...we are ready.
Quite a line up when we arrived...but no bags to search...got our tickets thru the post...just walked on in...scanned...others without bags following...we're back!
But first things first...the CD shop...gotta get those rare gems before someone else. And I did. Probably the biggest sale to any patron at the Festival...but don't tell Denise...I think she knows though!!!
Just cruised to 8pm.
Then Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni
Ba...all family...4 with different toned ngonis, one on calabash, one on djembe drum, his wife on vocals...me second row...dreaming of Timbuktu...a joyful gig indeed.
Den remained in position for Cat Empire at 10pm...Paul introducing himself and chatting music...as you do.
I wandered off to get my CDs signed...delighting to see Bassekou Kouyate and say "Great to see you again...last time was in Timbuktu"...
sharing a laugh...signing 3 CDs...pausing only for a moment before signing "Segu Blue" I had bought in Mali...later I realised it was probably a bootleg copy.
Got back for Cat Empire
just as they started...so many people I could only get 10 metres behind Denise...90 mins plus on my feet...extraordinary performance...totally together discordant frenzy...simply amazing. Day 2 - Saturday
Gotta pick up the pace today...so many bands to see...had to do some office work so headed down later than I would have liked...shouldn't allow work get in the way of a good time...hhmmm.
Tastes of East Journey
from Arnhem Land...then more of Bassekou Kouyate
on a small stage while chomping on Danish hotdogs...washing it down with Coopers Pale Ale...really love the happy vibe of this band.
Early to Stage
1...met Peter & Rosie 10 metres back...Den staying with them while I to second row...waiting for Vieux Farka Toure
When you get to the front you meet die-hards...and there was Tom Jones...a smiling face...met him last year watching Tinarawen and Baaba Maal...so I joined him front row middle...ears blasted. As Tom says "You can buy the CDs, but from here you can see how effortlessly he plays"...
can't argue with that...and maybe I can get a good shot from here...and practice my camel dancing.
As Jo Trouble says "Gotta show them why you are known as the Dancing Ones"...
not sure I am doing my name justice though. Each time I shut my eyes I am back in Mali...in the sanddunes...dancing with the Tuareg.
Just cruising after that...food, drink, stalls, people, music on various stages...just cruising.
Another aspect of Womadelaide that makes it special is Speakers Corner
...artists from all corners of the Globe interviewed before an audience...Artists in Conversation. Vieux Farka Toure
talked of the troubles in Mali...his perspective that the Islamic insurgents were not Malian but internationals from Algeria, Pakistan, Libya & Mauritania.
There had been civil war when the Tuaregs took
the North in mid 2012...but that all changed in September 2012 when Al Qaeda moved into Timbuktu and gave the Tuaregs until 3pm to get out.
So the Tuaregs got on their camels and rode off into the desert...and the insurgents started destroying the ancient manuscripts and tombs...Islam destroying Islam...Madness with a capital "M".
He talked of the destruction of musical instruments by the Islamic insurgents...how the whole country was now silent...even Bamako.
Had a chat to him afterwards. Told him I had met his mother...been to his father's home (also his home) in Niafunke...wanted to know if the insurgents when occupying Niafunke had destroyed his father's pictures, instruments and effects.
He said the insurgents for some reason preserved his father's memory...no damage to his house or contents...even though they destroyed the musical instruments of others.
They did however steal his brothers 4WD...but when they found out whose it was...they returned it intact!!!
Time for Paul Urbana Jones
at 10pm...small stage...solo guitar...compared to Richie Havens...biggest hair...English/Nigerian...finished with a Muddy Waters version...incredible...if I can find it I'll put on World Music Forum...hot as. Day 3 - Sunday...massive day this one
Kicking off with more Vieux Farka Toure
at 2pm...38 deg C...hot as...dancing hotter still...am I getting my rhythm back? Psarantonis
from Greece...the master of the Cretan lyra...an ancient violin...he in his 70s...his son on oud and another on percussion...mesmerising. Soweto Gospel Choir
...uplifting vocals...colourful costumes...music of generosity, enthusiasm and dance.
Moreton Bay stage for the next one...shade of massive fig trees...something special...Shunsuku Kimura & Etsuro Ono
...two masters of the shamisen...the Japanese 3 stringed guitar...stirring rhythms...blues from the East.
Gotta rush for the next one...front middle...chatting to a guy who was at the Festival of the Desert in 2009...and another in 2008...me in 2011...talk about die-hards...waiting for Salif Keita
...Den, Peter & Rosie 10 metres back...me asking a couple of short ladies to get in front of me...no polnt being up front and not seeing.
Makes me quite emotional thinking of this gig.
Salif Keita & his band were sensational...definitely my number 1 for the whole of Womadelaide 2013
...rhythms out of this world...driving...pumping...his single female dancer/vocalist unbelievably good...his rhythm section impossible to compare.
Gotta say...I got my rhythm back...did I ever...karoomba...hottest band on the planet.
Then Jimmy Cliff
...the reggae legend...consummate performer...knows how to connect with a crowd...well known tracks...pleasurable rhythms...delightful vibe.
Even got the audience to
sing along with my Theme track for the festival..."Save our Planet Earth"...anti-corruption and pollution...talk about appropriate! "There is too much pollution Too much corruption Too much destruction Too much mis-information Save our planet Earth..."
Sorry to say it...but Salif Keita was several notches up...made Jimmy Cliff's rhythms seem gentle in comparison...on their own...both sensational. Day 4 - Monday
Had received a blog from a mate in Mali...that now that the French had driven the Islamist insurgents out of Timbuktu...the black Malian soldiers were seeking retribution for previous humiliation by the Tuaregs and taking men into the desert who were then killed and buried in shallow graves...notwithstanding these men had opposed the Islamist insurgents.
Men we knew from Timbuktu now in refugee camps in Burkina Faso or elsewhere.
So with a heavy heart I sought solace in some music...and discovered more music to save the Planet. ******* Adnaan Baraky
...from Syria...soloist on oud.
He played for the victims of the Syrian Revolution...for Dignity, Peace, Freedom from an Oppressive regime, for his Beloved homeland, for 100,000s killed in Syria in the last two years.
His song "Doves
of Peace"...for the children killed.
His lament that the World is Watching...but doing Nothing.
Another special gig...Souad Massi
from Algeria...her CD "Raoui" a favourite.
Wow...not the sweet ballads I expected but a set of hot Nth African Rock...sensational band. Lead guitarist from France, bass from Cameroon, percussion from Israel, drums from Algeria...and the happiest, biggest smile at Womadelade...brilliant voice...Souad Massi...a definite highlight. Seth Lakeman
with his brother, a guy on double bass & a drummer...sensational energy accoustics and fiddles from Devon & English counties...taking folk music to the next level. Sing Sing
...contempory Oceanic dance, songs & rhythms...dynamic & compelling.
Then as dusk settles...some culture...Jordi Savall
...the master of the Celtic Viol from Spain...playing compositions from the 17th century on 17th century instruments...virtuoso in action.
Joining Jordi are Andrew Lawrence-King
on Irish harp and psalterium and Frank Macguire
on Irish bodhran or deaf drum.
The compositions played with seriousness plus...yet introduced with Andrew's rich melifluous English accent & humour.
Talk about obscure. One piece by a guy who preferred to go fishing than play music..."Peter's Peevy Boat".
The audience sits spellbound as night sets in...under the massive fig trees...demanding encores like in an Opera House...kinda surreal.
close the Festival for 2013...Goran Bregovic & his Weddings & Funerals Orchestra
...Balkan gypsy rhythms delivered by a male choir, electric guitars and brass.
Where could you experience such variety...such exquisite class?
Nowhere...but at Womadelaide.
Gotta luv it.
See you next year.
Relax & Enjoy,