Finally – after three challenging years - audiences and artists from around the world were reunited at a record-breaking WOMADelaide, celebrating the diversity and joy of music, arts, and dance from around the world in Botanic Park/Tainmuntilla 10-13 March, and attracting over 110,000 people across the festival long weekend.
With a program featuring more than 700 artists from 30 countries, the world was back, for audiences and artists alike; 50% of advance sales were by interstate visitors to South Australia and there were a record number of first-time attendees.
The festival opened with a stunning performance from Bon Iver, and Saturday night saw the debut of Florence + The Machine - with Florence Welch in spectacular form – playing to thousands of adoring, ecstatic fans.
French aerial/acrobatic artists Gratte Ciel mesmerised audience members young and old each night, as feathers cascaded from the heavens in a joyous celebration. Bangarra Dance Theatre demonstrated why they are the country’s most celebrated contemporary dance company drawing on 65,000 years of culture and Kronos Quartet (celebrating 50 years and their final Australian tour) enthralled, taking the audience on an extraordinary musical journey.
Other weekend highlights included Friday’s performances from the ‘King and Queen of the banjo’ Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, with their incomparable banjo duels, and Billy Bragg, returning to the festival after nine years, who entertained with insightful stories and protest songs.
German techno marching band MEUTE created a dancing frenzy on Saturday night, while Beckah Amani showed why she’s one of the most in-demand emerging performers in Australia. Balaklava Blues delivered two stirring performances blending multi-media, contemporary sounds and traditional Ukrainian folk music and, on Sunday, standouts were Zambia’s Sampa The Great and Colombian supergroup Ondatrópica, who gave a masterclass in Latin rhythms.
Monday included the captivating US folk-country sensation Angel Olsen, a buzzworthy performance by multi-talented South African singer Nakhane and, in keeping with the momentum, a wild late-night set from Sister Nancy Meets Legal Shot.
The final show on stage heralded the triumphant return of Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, one of Africa’s greatest voices, who performed at the first ever WOMADelaide in 1992 (and again in 2004 and 2015).
WOMADelaide Director Ian Scobie AM said “having endured somewhat of a hiatus for the past three years, being able to present such a celebratory and welcoming return for the festival from so many extraordinary artists from around the world was an absolute joy. It also marked a huge step in the evolution of the festival, which has created many defining moments for generations over its 31 year history”.