Monday, March 19, 2007
They're all shouting something at us, waving and pointing
Which bands did I see at Womadelaide - continued.
Femi Kuti Dancers - a workshop session. We had seen Femi Kuti and his group the night before, and I had worked up a mild annoyance with yet another instance of the old standard model - male singer in charge of it all, large all-male band, three female dancers/backing singers mainly employed to waggle their bottoms really amazingly. Kuti is supposed to be all about the political consciousness. So anyway I was heartened to see that the three women were doing a workshop, thinking we might hear them talk about what they do, & try to teach the audience a few. Maybe all the butt moves could be construed as a girl power thing.
Then I was so disappointed to find that one of the male band members was running the workshop, directing the women to demonstrate various moves one by one, and noting in halting English that to do this job is not only about the dancing (or having the Afro-beat in your blood) but also playing percussion instruments, "and they also make their own costumes".
I have to concede, I might be judging quite unfairly given that a language barrier was likely a large part of the problem. Still there was an icky feeling to it, especially as the three women seemed a bit disengaged & not thrilled to be there.
Augie March - I had been curious for a while without actually checking them out. I enjoyed their quite mellow set a lot, sitting back in the shade on a hot day. I had wondered if they would seem out of place during the daytime, but no worries there.
Blue King Brown - including a guest appearance from Emma Donovan, as well as some guest percussionists from other groups. Great fun set to dance. And it was a bit of a welcome antidote to see a woman not just lead singing but really leading the group.
Fat Freddy's Drop - I stayed for a bit of this but then went wandering. The music was a bit too chilled out.
Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier - gorgeous songs including one Deborah said she wrote after attending Clare Bowditch's wedding, where Clare sang a she had written instead of making a speech. Deborah sang what she said would be her wedding song, making it pretty clear she and Willy are not planning to actually get married.
Emma Donovan Band - she has a great strong blues voice, and taught the audience some words in her mother's Koori language. She was a member of the Stiff Gins which I know I heard on the radio (Artsound maybe?) once or twice. It was the sort of stuff I always enjoy live, though probably wouldn't buy on CD.
Lila Downs (again - she was just so much fun)
Sweet Baby James & Rob Eyers (I only came along at the end)
Yasmin Levy - from Israel, sings traditional Sepphardic songs (her father used to collect and preserve them) but also pisses off the elders by singing some of these precious old songs in Flamenco style. She was a lovely delicate soft-spoken woman, with a huge singing voice. I liked her cheek.
Then we caught the caught the end of Mariza's set which seemed pretty awesome.
Mr Scruff - a dj set. We danced for a while but I didn't last long, M and I sat leaning on a tree waiting for the others to run out of steam.
San Lazaro - Melbourne group with strong Afro-Cuban heritage and influences. Some hot salsa dancing too. Very good fun band to dance to. J bought their CD & we got the obligatory CD-signing photos. Ahem, there were some lookers amongst their numbers, for sure.
"Women's voices" - I only caught the last two acts, Yasmin Levy and Emma Donovan, thought they all jammed a bit together at the end. This was good but not as great as I hoped. The others were the Mahotella Queens, Lila Downs. They really had very diverse styles but they gave it a go.
Sambasunda - The starting point is an Indonesian Gamelan orchestra and then they add completely unexpected instruments and play a variety of styles, including samba.
"History of the Blues" - I only caught the end of this. It was a huge crowd at a very small stage. When I got there someone was doing a lot of talking, which we could hardly hear. Very frustrating.
Rebetiki - An Australian-based Greek group playing a particular Greek style (rembetika). Great fun. This was a sit-down stage but lots of people people made a large space at once side to dance Greek-party-style in big circles. Two older Greek gents emerged from the audience and got really into their solo dancing - all very entertaining.
Salif Keita workshop - three members of Keita's band played a great set and talked about the origins of their Malian instruments. Two played percussion and one a stringed, vaguely guitar-like instrument. They all spoke French and used an interpreter, which worked surprisingly well.
All-star jam - the first year I went to Womadelaide, we made the mistake of giving up on the all-star jam too early - this often starts a bit oddly but really builds up momentum by the end. There are always a couple of acts at the start that they can't really blend in - but at least I got to hear the Huun Huur Tu, Russian "throat singers", this way. Like last year, percussion players featured heavily - easiest to combine disparate styles that way I guess...
Augie March - a difficult choice, as they were up against Deb Conway who I have seen live many times over the years, and always love. We had to wait a long time for it to start, in a big crowd, at a smallish stage, but most of the people were pretty nice. I enjoyed the set, although I was so tired by this point that it was a slog to get through a slow middle section with no danceable songs. Also we caught a whiff or two of obnoxious rock star 'tude from the lead dude. No regrets though. I'm sure I'll see Deb again.
Salif Keita - whoo, this show was a big highlight for me. The Malian afro-beat I just really love. Dig it. The backing singers/dancers were nicely clad in flowy robes, and they danced all over the stage, and were gorgeous and dignified. Keita had a lovely friendly vibe. The late Sunday night slot is a pretty big one. It didn't "go off" quite like Jimmy Cliff last year (in the rain too) - Cliff's reggae is probably more accessible to more of the audience.