Day One | WOMADelaideLeft – The Cat Empire. Cover – Ayarkhaan.

This year’s WOMADelaide festival kicked off in style with a strong first day. Approximately 400 artists have been engaged to perform during the four days of the festival. On show are some of the best musicians on the world music scene.

The Adelaide Botanic Gardens have been transformed into a fun-arts-food-craft-healing hub – the backdrop of a world stage event that has been live for 33 years. Adelaide fans and visitors have been into it for the last 21 years and one really feels a true WOMADelaide culture and community in the way the event has been organised, in the way crowds flock in with their chairs and hats, and in the way they speak affectionately about it.

The Kaurna welcome to country honoured this beautiful location, the sacred land and its traditional owners, setting a tone of deep reverence for traditional culture and the wisdom that new generations can derive from it. Then the seven stages came alive. It is impossible to see or hear all at once.

From Stage 3, The Tallest Man on Earth, Kristian Matsson, charmed a good crowd with his acoustic guitar accompanied songs with contemporary folk feel and political edge. On Stage 5, three ladies from Siberia, Ayarkhaan, in lovely pastel ethnic costumes powered with mystic voices and khomus instruments in hand, illustrated through their music what it is to be a beautiful and strong woman from Siberia on this 8 of March – the International Women’s Day.

Stage 2 was celebrated South American roots. Spanish singer Amparo Sánchez got the people dancing with her grating voice and Cuban rhythms. Later on Chillean band Illapu played from the heart.

By far, the most important performance and highlight of the night were the fourteen songs pumped out by renowned Australian band The Cat Empire. This performance gathered the largest audience in anticipation of their first appearance at the festival since 2009. Dancing, singing along and totally transported into another world, old and young were totally thrilled with Cat Empire’s sonic fireworks, unpredictable song structures, fusions, virtuoso playing and singing, and sheer good will for a better world that sparkles from their lyrics. There is no other band that epitomises the freedom and richness of world music to such a great extent as The Cat Empire and them being Aussie makes us boast and yell out loud ‘Good on Ya’.

‘Music is a language of our soul’, they proclaimed in one of their songs, echoing what viola da gamba star Jordi Savall chatted about in an interview with Andrew Ford earlier. ‘Any traditional/popular music is a result of very deep human experience. The beauty of traditional song is in that it reflects the spiritual and the emotional of its people, that which they have used to survive’, he said and then gave examples. When a Jewish family have been destined to leave their home and resettle elsewhere and when they sit down and sing their songs that last night before moving on, it is these songs that give them strength and hope for a safe passage. When an Irishman has left his country for an industrial and cold American city away from his family, the warmth and energy of his fiddle make him remember what happiness feels like.

WOMADelaide 2013

Venue: Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Dates: Friday 8 – Monday 11 March, 2013

Written by Daniela Kaleva, University of South Australia

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