Well it’s that time of year again, when some of the most remarkable sounds in the world converge upon South Australia for probably the best run music festival in Australia: Womadelaide. The beauty is that with 8 stages, workshops, hell even cooking classes from some of the bands, you can basically program your own festival, and as such it’s a different experience for everyone who attends. Set within the gorgeous surrounds of Adelaide’s botanical gardens, if you can find a better location to experience music then I’m all ears. If perchance you can’t make it over to Adelaide, many of the artists also use the opportunity to drop by Melbourne while they’re in the neighbourhood.
Like New York’s own 11 piece Afrobeat orchestra Antibalas, who have not only been pumping out blistering slabs of afrobeat for years, but were the house band for the recent acclaimed Fela the Musical on Broadway. Last years self-titled album is a typically upbeat blast of Afro funk, heavy on extended instrumental grooves. Their live shows are reportedly wild. You can find out at the Prince on the 5th of March.
Goran Bregovic is Balkan music royalty, casting himself as a debonair, washed out composer perennially at the end of the night. His music is gypsy brass, and breakneck tango, though also brings in pop and jazzy influences in his at times mournful, others life affirming music. He appears to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, appearing on the cover of his previous two albums holding wine glasses and most recently he’s almost passed out on a chair holding two empty glasses on 2012’s Champagne for Gypsies. He’s bringing out his 19 piece Weddings and Funeral Band and to see such a large gypsy ensemble in the flesh is a rarity. He’s playing the Arts Centre on the 19th and 20th of March.
Vieux Farka Toure is the son of delta bluesman Ali Farka Toure. The Delta is of course the Niger delta, and his acoustic blues drew interesting parallels with his American cousins. His son however has elected to plug in, exhibiting near virtuosic electric guitar playing, influenced by the likes of Hendrix and Zeppelin, yet also drawing on Malian traditions. He played a show at the Thornbury Theatre a few years back and it was mind blowing, and the next week he was playing to 20,000 people at the opening to the Olympics in South Africa. This is one show you should not miss. On the 11th of March you need to be at the Corner. Minds will be blown.
Cretan lyra player Psarantonis is a renowned improviser who plays what he feels. He’s performing alongside his son and Dirty Three percussionist Jim White, a man who knows a thing or two about improvisation. With his indie cred down it’s no surprise that he’s also playing Golden Plains, though watch out for a show at the Forum on the 22nd of March.
One artist who thus far has no Melbourne dates is the remarkable Malian Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba. Bassekou is a master of the West African stringed instrument called the ngoni and his band is based around this instrument. They’ve released two albums, their most recent I Speak Fula was released on Next Ambience a sub label of Sub Pop, and featured View Farka Toure on a couple of tracks as well as kora legend Tounami Diabate. The texture of the strings of the ngoni is truly one of the most captivating sounds ever put to tape, and they create beguiling textural webs of sound on the album, They’re actually about to drop their third album that was apparently recorded during the recent Malian uprising and from the tracks this writer has heard, it’s a much more urgent recording, louder with an increase in tempo, where the band battled rolling blackouts and the instability in the country found a voice in the music. They’re the reason that this writer will be heading west on the 8th of March, and you should too. The opportunity to experience music like this live is nothing short of a gift.