19 Mar 2016

World of music brings sun out to play

3:41 pm on 19 March 2016

The rain dried up, the clouds parted and the gods of music smiled as the first notes sounded for WOMAD 2016.

And those opening notes were familiar ones - the strum of an acoustic guitar and the singing in te reo of Te Kapa Haka O Te Whānau a Apanui.

When I saw visiting musicians from Senegal and France rushing to get out their mobile cameras and capture the performance I was reminded that what is familiar to citizens of one country will seem wildly exotic to others.

Wildly exotic was certainly my impression of DakhaBrakha, a Ukranian quartet whose three female members wear improbably tall black hats that appear to have been designed for an eternal winter, and sing in high keening sopranos while beating a variety of drums as the sole male of the group pumps an accordion.

Oddly familiar were the quartet Songhoy Blues, a young, high-energy band from Mali whose electrified music, based on ancient griot traditions, sounded something like ZZ Top might if you played their music backwards.

As the sun went down, French electronicist St. Germain was joined on the huge Bowl stage by Senegalese and Malian musicians to entertain a packed hillside.

Meanwhile on the small Dell stage, the virtuosic Asia Minor Trio prepared for an intimate performance of Macedonian mountain music.

The festival had been going for just two hours, with roughly 28 more hours of scheduled music to go.

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