Another year later and I’m once again nursing an epic hangover from a wonderful three days at WOMAD in New Plymouth. This year we had the most stunning weather imaginable, the mountain was out in full glory, the flags were glistening in the sunshine and the people were kicking off their shoes and embracing bare feet as a cool-down method. The Bowl of Brooklands was looking its finest, and the music, food and dance that filled it was certainly world class, here are my picks:
The crowd favourite award:
This has to go to UK ska superstars The Specials. Their energetic set to close out Friday night was just what the doctor ordered. They had the bowl stage packed in and everyone was up on their feet dancing away as they charged through a hit filled set. Songs like Message To You Rudy and Ghost Town were echoing in my head for hours after they left the stage, only complaint – an hour set wasn’t long enough!
The unforgettable award:
The Soil, an acapella trio from South Africa, blew me away. I am lost for words when I think back to their closing set on the Dell stage on Sunday night, it was the perfect performance to finish the festival on. This trio have voices like I’d never heard before and their ‘kasi soul’ sound is modern but traditional at the same time. It was simply magical to listen to under the trees and stars and beside a shimmering lake. I’ll never forget their show and that feeling.
The stage presence award:
Mali dance music hero Inna Modja had the most compelling stage presence. I couldn’t take my eyes of her! She moved with grace and funk, sang each note perfectly, told stories with pride and passion and generally just had me as putty in her hands.
The best dance party award:
New Orleans jazz-hip hoppers the Hot 8 Brass Band had the crowd at the Gables Stage on Sunday dancing like mad things with their funky blend of genres. They had a contagiousness to their performance and I had a stupid grin plastered on my face as me and friends bogeyed the set away. Their musicianship was outstanding, to have so much talent on one stage is pretty darn impressive. Special mention to the trumpet player who regularly gave me chills as he hit such high notes so effortlessly.
The wow factor award:
Marlon Williams, our kiwi folk prodigy, ditched the dingy bar concert venues to take on the mighty Bowl of Brooklands and he did it superbly. He and his talented band the Yarrabenders, had the huge crowd overwhelmed in various fashions throughout his show. I was close to tears numerous times and kept gushing over how long he could hold a note for. I loved being up stomping my feet in a mad dash to keep up with the fast moving guitar before sitting back by the lake front to sway side to side in a mesmerised daze.
The unexpected delight award:
Sitting down on a sunny Sunday afternoon to watch some of New Zealand’s best dancers on stage was a true privilege. The New Zealand Dance Company had the crowd captivated and were the talk of the festival for their stunning perfourmance of Brouhaha. I’m no dance expert but I loved it and didn’t want it to finish! Great to see the D put back in WOMAD.