How to describe WOMAD to an alien, or someone from Porirua? It is nothing quite like any festival I have been to before. For a start there are few of the po-faced Indie diehards, the nothing-but-rock and-steak-burgers tough nuts or the students too stoned to notice any of the acts.
There are, however, an endless trail of packs of teenage girls, some of whose members regularly break out and hug a boy, and packs of teenage boys waiting for those girls to lunge at them. Then there’s the tie-dye, grey-haired brigade with their ‘you’re only as young as you feel’ attitude and total inability to dance. But there’s little inbetween, the late teens, and 20 and 30-somethings are generally few on the ground. I guess they’re getting ready for St Patrick’s Day which falls on the third and final day of WOMAD.
Those people are often families allowing their six-year-olds the opportunity to hear Kiwi bard Sam Hunt swear profusely. Anyone over 28 comes prepared: blanket, foldable chairs, umbrellas, raincoats, an extra layer of clothing, packed lunch, flasks, wipes, bags for recycling and bottles of water. The teenagers come armed with an iPhone.
As for the music, I wouldn’t imagine the local schoolkids listening to Japanese classical music or Tibetan monks at home, but some of the music will rub off I’m sure. I am hoping that one act, The Alaev Family, receive some deserved attention. They contain three generations of the same clan, including their 80-year-old grandfather and mentor, who certainly isn’t here for a novelty piece, as he can fairly sing. Starting with three of the family banging the drums, they soon expand to seven though you get the impression they would be happy to accommodate many more musicians. Imagine gypsy/ Meditteranean music played by whirling dervishes for close to an hour and you get a picture of the Alaev Family on stage.
My wish seems to be partly fulfilled as the Taranaki Daily News’ front page on the Saturday is entirely taken up by Ariel Aliev banging the drums.
The other act I catch that evening is Lau, a Scottish three-piece, who I will feature on these pages in the near future. This is the chillout piece following our friends from Tajikistan though they can fairly pummel those instruments – guitar, accordion and fiddle. Save The Bees is a robust campaign to see the beemakers. Tosca is an electric instrument and Martin Green gives a warm-hearted introduction to Horizontigo, about his fear of mountains, coming from the flatlands of East Anglia.
Lau play largely their own material but have space for a rendition of Lal Waterson’s Midnight Feast.
Keep checking this site for a review of the second day and first part of the third.