Sunday, April 15, 2007

WOMAD March 2007, Taranaki, New Zealand. Part three - Sunday.

The WOMAD crowd at the edge of the lake that surrounds the Bowl Stage. Here's my review of day one of WOMAD, and day two of WOMAD - in case you haven't read them already.

Sunday began with rain. Rainrainrain. Bugger! We sorted through our daypacks back at the house, trying to decide what to take. "Lose the sunhat. Lost the sunblock. Lose the sunnies. Lose the lovely blankie I bought at WOMAD on Friday night - it'll be too wet for blankies. Add the waterproof ski pants. Should I just put the ski pants on now over my jeans??? No - I'll be too hot. Should I maybe wear my summer pyjamas instead, with the ski pants over the top??? Naaaa..." (Glad I didn't do that!)

By the time we'd got our sh*t together, the rain had eased off a bit. Actually the rain has eased off a lot. And then the SUN CAME OUT! Jason said "oh look - the sun's come out" and I said (at the last minute just before we got in the car) "Hmmm. Maybe I will take my sunhat and sunnies after all". Which I am very glad I did - as you will see.

Considering ourselves to be WOMAD "old hands" by this stage, we immediately went off in different directions on arrival at the site. Everyone who had seen them on Saturday afternoon had told me that Celenod, from New Caledonia, were really really worth seeing, so I headed off to the Gables Stage and got myself a place to sit on the grass and wait for them to come on.

They were a bit late in starting (because of the rain yesterday the stage needed cleaning and drying, and so did all the sound gear I guess) and while we were waiting... it started to rain again. On went the raincoats, up went the umbrellas, I got out my waterproof pants and wondered whether I should put them on, but decided to sit on them and wait until the rain got really bad... and then the rain stopped and the sun came out. Off came the raincoats, down went the unbrellas, on went the sunhats and the sunnies (SO glad I took them with me!) - and on came Celenod.

They were GREAT! Such a happy group of people! Here's what it says on the WOMAD NZ website:

Traditionally, the music of the Kanak people of New Caledonia is based on the rhythms of their dance.

For the past 20 years, the modern form of this music has been known as kaneka - a mix of dance percussion (bamboo, leaves and wood percussion), acoustic guitar arpeggios, polyphonic vocals inherited from religious choirs and recent instruments such as drums, bass and keyboards.

...Celenod is a six piece band comprising two singers who play acoustic guitars, one lead acoustic guitar, a percussionist and a rhythm section (drums and bass). The sole electric instrument - the bass - is quite discreet and retains the acoustic mood of the music.

Like Hun Huur Tu yesterday, I found many of their melodies and rhythms very familiar, in a never-heard-it-before-but-I-know-it kind of way - and their music was so happy and infectious that I (like many other people in the audience) just had to get up and dance. It was just lovely, dancing in the sunshine, everyone doing all the hand movements that went with their songs, feeling really quite joyful.

One of the songs they did was about making the rain go away, which we all helped with, brushing it away with our hands against the sky. It worked, too! Not another drop of rain fell for the whole of the rest of the festival! Maybe they should give the Gyuto Monks a few pointers (I kid, I kid!).

Here they are with a song about a bird, which they did (again) for their encore:

After Celenod I decided to go meet up with Zef, Sarah, Toki and the kids at the Pagoda stage, and we sat around in the sunshine for a while, just enjoying being there. I was feeling very mellow about who I wanted to see, and I didn't have anywhere in particular I wanted to run off to, so I was happy just to hang out and soak in the atmosphere.

Kid's parade. At 5.00pm all the kids who'd been hanging out in the Kid's Zone all weekend, making stuff, got together to do a massive parade right through the Bowl Stage area. I happened to be right next to it as Sarah, Eesha, Esther, Toki and Zef came parading by, with the kids proudly brandishing the beautifully colourful flowers they'd made, so I joined in and paraded around with them. Total fun! It was such a lovely atmosphere - everyone in the crowd was madly applauding the kids as they marched past, we were accompanied by the Samba band Batacuda from Welli (I love those guys!) so we were all dancing along with the rhythms, all of us with great big smiles on our faces. Lovely!

Etran FinatawaAfter the parade I decided I'd go check out Etran Finatawa again (not having given them my full attention yesterday), so I headed off to the Brooklands stage. Like Celenod, they were just awesome. The same happy, joyful atmosphere, the same everyone-up-and-dancing thing going on, the same I-know-this-music feeling. Wish I'd taken anoher video of them, but sadly I didn't. You'll just have to make do with a picture instead - "borrowed" from the WOMAD NZ 2007 gallery. Thanks, guys!

There's more...

After Etran Finatawa I decided to head on down to the Bowl Stage to catch the All Star Gala, with Bill Cobham as musical director. Here's a 180 degree view of the crowd watching the show - you can hear my old friends Wai singing in the background. Hi, Mina and Maaka!

One of the nicest things about WOMAD (in addition to everything else!!) is how safe you feel leaving your gear somewhere. I bumped into Sarah, Eesha and Esther on the way to the Bowl Stage, and Sarah had the pushchair with her. The Bowl Stage sits at the bottom of a pretty steep slope which provides the amphitheatre-like setting, and it's not particularly pushchair-friendly. No worries! We just parked it at the top of the slope on the path, grabbed what stuff we wanted, leaving the rest in the pushchair - and headed off down the slope, safe in the knowledge that the chair and all it contained would be right where we left it when we came back.

Here's a sweet little video of the bubble man playing Pied Piper with all the kids during the All Star Gala. I have no clue who's singing during this bit - anyone recognise it?

Eventually the music just got so compelling, and the crowd dancing behind the mixing desk so energetic, that I just had to go down and join in. I left my stuff with Sarah and the kids, and leaped into the fray. God it was fun. Mad dancing in the sunshine, surrounded by this crazy mixture of people - from squealing teenagers jumping around pretending they were doing the haka (and paying more attention to each other and their cellphones than to the music) to old ex-dance party dudes like me, who were all getting on down like nobody's business, sharing the same secret smiles with strangers that we've always shared on the dancefloor. Bloody brilliant.

Zef really wanted to go see Guo Yue (he'd been doing family stuff all day and hadn't had a chance to see anyone he really wanted to see), so they txtd me (reluctantly) away from the dancing zone and we headed off to the Gables Stage. No sooner had I sat down than I got another txt from Lou and Jason, wanting to meet up so I could give them the car keys back. I'd borrowed them earlier so I could pick up the kitē I bought yesterday, and take it back to the car for safe-keeping. We'd been trying to meet up again all day, but we'd kept on being in different places and wanting to stay there for the duration of whoever it was we were watching.

By the time I met up with them and handed over the keys it was a bit late to make my way back to Guo Yue, so we went for food instead, before heading over to the Bowl Stage for Mariza. We'd loved her so much on Friday night, we just had to see her again, and she didn't disappoint. Golly! That woman has an INCREDIBLE voice! We were sitting quite close to the front, but it still wasn't close enough. Next time maybe we'll attempt to get right to the water's edge...

Here she is during the encore, giving her own rendition, fado-style, of the classic song Summertime:

And so to our final show of WOMAD - Mr Scruff. Those of you who've been paying attention (and I know you have!) will remember that my Mr Scruff experience of the previous night was sadly cut short by the fact that it was very late and Lou and Jason were very tired, and we all just needed to go home.

So we promised ourselves that we'd go and see the first half of Mr Scruff's set on the Gables Stage before catching the Mahotella Queens and then the Closing Ceremony on the main stage. It didn't quite work out as we planned, though...

Dancing to Mr Scruff. ...because Mr Scruff was so bloody BRILLIANT that we just couldn't leave halfway through - we had to stay until the very very end...

Blues, jazz, funk, and 60's R ‘n’ B, disco, boogie, house, reggae, ska and rock-steady, dancehall, electronica, hip hop, African, Latin, and drum & bass - he played it all and we danced like maniacs. Off came the raincoat with warm inner jacket. Off came the new blankie I'd bought that evening after feeling a bit nippy during Mariza. Off came the ever-present cardi (I love me cardies!). Off came the warm woolly hat. In Jason's case, off came the shirt to reveal the sleeveless vest and bare arms beneath. Oh yeah! We were on FIRE!

It was The Gathering all over again - dancing madly in a field, grinning exultantly at total strangers, all inhibitions gone (actually I think they went long ago!), whooping and hollering and having a fab old time. There was a guy near us who was in a wheelchair, and he was having such a great time too. It was lovely. Lou and Jason did some pretty excellent tango-ish dancing to some of the Latin stuff, and I - well I just danced around by myself, just like I always used to. Brilliant!

At one point Mr Scruff played the TV ONE theme, which was very funny - I don't know if he realised it was the TV ONE theme, but it went down pretty well with this Kiwi crowd. And as an encore he played Bob Marley, which was the perfect end to a perfect day. He told us it had taken him 33 hours to fly from the UK to NZ, and that WOMAD Taranaki was the most beautiful WOMAD venue he'd ever played in - and that he'd come back in a heartbeat if he was invited again. Awwwww!

Here he is. Yes I know you can't actually see anything much in this clip - sadly my camera couldn't handle this level of darkness, especially when I'd focused on the stage lights to begin with, but hey - listen to the grooves instead, OK?

After it was all over we whizzed down to the Bowl Stage for the Closing Ceremony - and missed it by a whisker. Ah well. Never mind.

Lou, Jason and I loved WOMAD Taranaki so much, that we've already booked our accommodation for next year. If you want to go, you should probably do the same. Now. Places fill up VERY quickly for WOMAD weekend, and now that it's becoming less and less of a secret, and more of a must-see event, accommodation's going to be even harder to find.

Things we decided you might want to take to WOMAD
  • A warm and waterproof jacket.

  • Something to sit on. If you're an old bugger, you might want to take a folding chair, but please don't bring one with legs on! It means the rest of us behind you can't see! There are some really good low camping chairs out there, with the seat only a few inches above the ground, which is all you need, really. Or you could get a foldout chair with no legs at all, and a back which is held up by straps attached to either side of the base. Perfect! And if you can't be bothered carrying a chair around, get a squashy waterproof cushion like we did - they're perfect! A warm and dry backside is a beautiful thing...

  • Maybe waterproof pants, but honestly, when you're walking around and dancing so much, I think they're too hot really. Best stick to the waterproof jacket and accept that, if it rains, your legs will get a bit wet, and then they'll dry out again because of all the walking and dancing you'll be doing.

  • A warm woolly hat for when night falls and it gets cold (or when it rains!)

  • A camera and lots of memory sticks/film. You'll need it!

  • A water bottle - they have water taps all over the site so you can easily fill up again. It's thirsty work, all that walking around and dancing about!

  • A blankie. It's nice to have something to snuggle up in when you're sitting down watching a band at night.

  • Some cash. Some of the market stalls take EFTPOS, some don't. Ditto the market food stalls. There is an EFTPOS point on-site I think, but we didn't find/need it. Better to stick a little cash in your pocket so you won't get caught short.

  • Layers of clothes so you can take things off as you get hot and put them back on as you cool down. Kiwis know this. We're always having to layer up and then layer down again.

  • A sunhat. You know how vicious the Kiwi sun is, even in March!

  • Sunblock. Ditto.

  • Sunnies. You'll regret it if you don't bring them! 12 hours is a long time to be outdoors each day without 'em!

  • Make sure your first layer of clothing is a cool T-shirt or shirt. Even if it's not warm and sunny first thing in the morning, you know it'll probably get that way at some point during the day, and you'll want to strip down to something cool if it does get hot.

  • If you're with a bunch of people, a picnic blankie (or two) is a really nice way to gather everyone together. One with a waterproof backing is perfect, especially if it comes in its own little bag so you can fold it up and put it away when you're not using it.

  • If you are REALLY organised, you could get hold of a tarp, poles, string and pegs and set up your own little rainproof domain in the Bowl Stage area, and leave it there all weekend - you can see them in some of today's videos.

  • Please don't bring an umbrella. I know you want to keep dry, and I guess they are a pretty good way of doing that, but they block the vision of everyone sitting behind you, and that ain't nice!

  • A bloody great waterproof daypack to put it all in. Or a pushchair, with or without kids ;)

See you at WOMAD 2008!

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