Wednesday, July 04, 2018

One day in August


28 August 2017: we left Aberdeen to drive at a leisurely pace, to Edinburgh.

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After a quick stop at Stonehaven, we soon stopped again at Dunottar Castle.

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We didn't pay to go down to the site, but spent a while enjoying the views. The slopes were so steep I thought I was actually going to see someone fall off while taking a selfie.


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We spent quite a while in beautiful St Andrews.

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Neither of us has any interest in golf (as a non-driver, K does like driving the cart, that's about it). But once there we sort of wished for more time to look around.

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We had a great lunch at a brewpub and then parked somewhere down near the harbour and wandered though the ruins of the cathedral and extensive cemetery.

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The slightly older St Rule's tower seems to have been built to last, or maybe wasn't such a target like the massive cathedral, apparently the biggest church in Scotland, when Catholicism went massively out of favour.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

Salvation lets their wings unfold

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Nano Stern returned to Womadelaide (we loved him in 2012) - as passionate and moving as Billy Bragg. Told us our country should treat its immigration detainees better. Couldn't agree more.

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This woman in front of us was sketching Nano as he performed. I thought she was really good too.

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Le Vent Du Nord from Quebec played heaps of toe-tapping tunes and even brought out a hurdy-gurdy. I love this kind of music.

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Directly from my notes that night on Thundercat: "Way jazzy for me but good." OK then.

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I only saw part of Daymé Arocena's set but I thought she was a gem. Short, round and gorgeous.

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I posted some photos and wrote a bit about Gratte Ciel's 'Place des Anges' nightly show on instagram.

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On Friday evening we were taken by surprise when this show started after Anoushka Shankar's set finished on the main stage.

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It started with trapeze angels gently gliding way overhead, scattering a few feathers, all very pretty. Nice. A lot of looking up. But it progresses. The 'angels' chuck more and more feathers until eventually it's a very thorough bombing from both sky and from ground cannons full of feathers. So many feathers. It was beautiful but I really didn't love being surrounded by and dumped on by so many feathers. I admire birds but have an aversion to close contact.

Plenty of people adored this show. But on social media there was also a fair bit of anger about the feathers, from vegans, from the asthmatic, and just from people who didn't like the mess. (The show was repeated each evening so by the end of the festival there was dusty dirty feathers everywhere.)

Womadelaide is a festival that has long been known for its commitment to sustainability - they had all food containers and cutlery biodegradable long before I came across that anywhere else - so they must have been satisfied that all those feathers being introduced into to the local environment would not be a problem. A bit surprising. The company behind the show provided information assuring people that the feathers are clean, hypoallergenic, and ethically sourced.

I don't have a firm opinion on it. It was beautiful, surprising, fun to photograph, gross, overwhelming - a lot of things. We watched the show a second time on the Monday night but stayed at the fringes out of the main feather dumping zone. But I have to admit there was a magic in being surprised by it the first time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

In throat, in palate, in tongue, in teeth, in lips

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So, day three of Womadelaide 11 March 2018. On Sunday we got ourselves organised and timed a visit to the Adelaide Zoo perfectly so we could not only see the pandas but also hear the keeper's daily talk. Highly recommended. I wrote more about this on Instagram.

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Hana and Jessie-Lee's Bad Habits - a country two-piece based in Adelaide and Melbourne, highly anticipated by locals in the know. They brought a collective of musicians and singers to make up a pretty full stage, majority women, and it was a kick-arse show. I wish I had gotten better photos and paid more attention to hats popping up in the front row - it was the hats (and boots) on stage that I really wanted to capture. Anyway I loved the song and bought the CD and even got it signed.

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I don't want to forget that I also stopped and listened to Jessie Lloyd's Mission Songs Project (I just took crap photos, unfortunately). This show highlighted songs written in the missions and settlements that Indigenous Australians were moved onto. The songs are mostly from the early to mid-20 century, sung in English (sadly by then the only language for many people), one of those interesting complicated bits of history that show there's always much more to it than the headlines. I think the idea was these songs had been overlooked as, I guess, inauthentic in terms of Aboriginal culture, but of course they are brimming with contemporary accounts of living through the dispossession and Stolen Generation(s) - and still completely relevant.

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On to one of my most anticipated acts for the weekend, Tinariwen. I think I first heard of this group of Tuareg musicians - former solders - when I got hold of the Festival in the Desert CD many years ago. I hope one day the organisers will be able to bring the festival back (the last one was 2012, after which security in Mali really became too unstable for it to continue.)

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I had actually seen Tinariwen at Womadelaide once before, in 2012. At that time they were missing two band members who were not able to leave Mali during the Tuareg rebellion.

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And Victoria Hanna. A fascinating combination of rebellion, intellectualism, mysticism and incredible singing and music. The program notes say interesting things - she comes from an ultra Orthodox family in Israel, a woman certainly not raised to sing on stages around the world. Apparently getting into singing helped with a stammer. But I didn't really need to know these things to be drawn in immediately by her stage presence and voice, and her ability to share with the audience her fascination with words, language, the Hebrew alphabet, Jewish prayers. It felt like she was building on her heritage in a really interesting way. And I loved the chemistry she had with the band as well.

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The Manganiyar Seduction was an incredible show. The Manganiyar are a folk musician caste from Rajasthan, India, and the music would have been enough, but the unusual staging and lighting really made this wonderful. The picture above is from the finale.  


The show starts with the stage dark. Then the curtains on a single box open and the lights go on. The curtains covering each 'cell' only open as each musician or singer joins the piece, starting with just one stringed instrument player (I think this was kamaicha) and gradually building with more players and then singers and drummers joining in. Because each box is lit only when that person is playing, this lighting and staging combination echoes the intensity of the music and highlights the orchestration and all the different instruments. 


(I have *lots* of photos of different configurations, but I'm sure you get the idea.)


Sunday, April 29, 2018

The unknown are begging to be known

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Way back in March, the tenth of March 2018 to be precise... it was day two of Womadelaide!


Due to a failed attempt to visit the pandas at the zoo (never fear, we succeeded the next day) we arrived bit early, and on impulse joined a group of Indigenous ladies from Ceduna to try basket weaving. Such a nice way to start the day. And now at least one of us has the basket-weaving bug.


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I always love an opportunity to see Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier. Turned out they had taken a family road trip to Adelaide and their three girls were singing with them! Adorable.

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I've already written about Elephant Sessions in my National Folk Festival post. I have a feeling they were a big hit wherever they went on their Australian tour. Their night time show later on attracted a big dancing crowd.

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Chico Trujillo is an enormously popular Chilean band.

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I was amused by their fairly consistent uniform: hawaiian shirt, adidas pants or shorts. (No other brands need apply.) Yeah, I always notice the clothing.

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Then Willy Zygier and the girls were back with YID! That exclamation mark is part of the name.

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Dustyesky - a choir of blokes from Mullumbimby who don't necessarily speak Russian but like to sing Russian songs together. There were some corny jokes in between but on the whole it was done with a lot of enthusiasm and love.

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My Bubba - Folk duo from Iceland and Sweden. I had come across them online before but still was surprised by how very spare the sound was. Very quirky.

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Violons Barbares - loved this show very much. They are from France and combine Bulgarian gadulka (reminded me a bit of the Polish suka) and Mongolian horse head fiddle. Oh and throat singing. These things, and the drumming, and the normal singing, all worked together really well. Skilful.