14 Mar 2017

Celebrating Womad

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 2:17 pm on 14 March 2017
The crowd at WOMAD 2016

The crowd at WOMAD 2016 Photo: Michael Flynn

15,000 people are expected to attend this weekend’s WOMAD festival in New Plymouth. It will be the 15th time the three-day trans-global music extravaganza has been held at the city’s picturesque Bowl of Brooklands and surrounding park. Among the regular attendees will be RNZ’s Trevor Reekie and Jeremy Ansell.

Reekie, who presents Worlds Of Music on RNZ National and Concert, has been making the trip from Auckland to Taranaki since 2007, when Womad went from being two-yearly to an annual event. He calls it “a weekend of discovery. You never know what you’re going to find.”

Asked to pick highlights from the past decade, he names Toumani Diabate from Mali, a master of the 21-stringed kora, who performed in both 2008 and 2015. He calls Diabate a virtuoso. “The instrument has been played for 71 generations in his family. That’s mind-boggling in its own right.”

Ansell, RNZ’s Auckland operations Team Leader, has been going annually for the past nine years.

“The number of bands you get to see, the food, the stalls. There’s just so much and they keep adding to it.

“Last year I ended up seeing, at least three times, Dakha Braka from the Ukraine. They’re a folk quartet and they wore these fantastic helmets…”

“Like road safety cones,” Reekie suggests, and Ansell agrees.

dhaka brahka

dhaka brahka Photo: Stan Alley

“Ever since I heard Kate Bush’s album The Sensual World in 1989, and heard the Trio Bulgarka,  the trio of female singers from Bulgaria - this isn’t the same thing but it’s similar and I hadn’t heard anything else like this anywhere else.”

Both Reekie and Ansell name Trio Joubran, who played at Womad in 2012, as another memorable highlight. “These guys always remind me for some bizarre reason of Led Zeppelin”, says Reekie, of the acoustic Palestinian traditional players.

A more recent highlight for Reekie came in 2015 TR with Balkan brass band Fanfare Cicollia, whose repertoire included their gypsy brass interpretation of ‘Born To Be Wild’, the Steppenwolf classic from the Easy Rider soundtrack.

This year he’s especially looking forward to hearing and interviewing Aboriginal singer-songwriter Archie Roach. “He has just written some remarkable songs. His biggest song was They Took The Children Away’, for which he received a human rights award.”

Ansell isn’t familiar with most of the names on this year’s programme  “but that’s one of the joys of discovery.”

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