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Eight must-see gems at WOMADelaide

WOMADelaide is the place to make new music discoveries, and ahead of this year’s event Annette Tripodi shares tips for some must-see acts spanning Ukrainian folk, Balkans ska-rock, West African funk and more.

Mar 06, 2024, updated Mar 06, 2024
UK eight-piece Ibibio Sound Machine are a shot of positive energy and will bring their distinctive sound to Botanic Park on the Saturday and Sunday. Photo: supplied

UK eight-piece Ibibio Sound Machine are a shot of positive energy and will bring their distinctive sound to Botanic Park on the Saturday and Sunday. Photo: supplied

Firstly, it’s wonderful to have so many artists in the one line-up with careers spanning three or four decades – Morcheeba (UK), Gilberto Gil (Brazil), Nitin Sawhney (UK), Cymande (UK), Sharon Shannon Band (Ireland), Illapu (Chile), WITCH (Zambia), Baaba Maal (Senegal), Seun Kuti (Nigeria) and Ziggy Marley (Jamaica) – the last three also being exclusive to WOMADelaide.  

Here are a few you may not know as much about, which we feel sure will become firm crowd favourites: 

Son Rompe Pera (Mexico)

The two brothers in the group grew up performing folk music on marimbas, alongside their father Batuco. Since forming the band in 2017 they have taken this giant percussion instrument into wild new territory, taking it from the streets of Mexico to the world. The cumbia rhythms pick up pace and, before you know it, you are in the midst of an energetic, shirts-off punk-rock show. (Saturday and Monday.)

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DakhaBrakha (Ukraine)

A highly theatrical show that honours Ukrainian folk music but also experiments with it, combining thumping percussion with accordion, jaw harp, cello and innumerable instruments from around the world. The three women singers ­– wearing tall, black fur hats – draw you in with their complex, layered vocals, bird calls, whistles and wails, and the effect is hypnotic and otherworldly. (Friday and Sunday.) 

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Ibibio Sound Machine (UK)

A vibrant clash of West African funk and electronica, this eight-piece band are a shot of positive energy. Fronted by charismatic Nigerian singer Eno Williams, with songs brimming with synth stabs, blaring horns, post-punk and disco grooves, their harmony, chemistry and the joy they radiate is irresistible. It’s a bold and distinctive sound that switches seamlessly between genres, with Afro rhythms always at the core. (Saturday and Sunday.)

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DUBIOZA KOLEKTIV (Bosnia-Herzegovina) 

One glance at their brilliant social media accounts will tell you that this group have a great sense of anarchic, black humour. The biggest and probably most hardworking band in the Balkans – they perform up to 300 shows a year – play rambunctious ska-rock with potent social and political messages. Lyrically they rail against right-wing parties, xenophobia and fascism, but every song is a party-starter. (Friday and Sunday.)

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Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia)

One of the biggest artists in contemporary Arab music, Emel first came to the world’s attention with Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free), which became the anthem for the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring uprisings. She has a haunting, stop-you-in-your tracks voice, one that commands attention and moves you. For her return to WOMADelaide after a 10-year absence, she will be joined by her band and three Adelaide-based strings players from the former Zephyr Quartet. (Friday and Sunday.)

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Al-Qasar (France/Turkey/Armenia/USA) 

A truly cross-cultural four-piece creating a sound far bigger than you might expect, Al-Qasar explore musical boundaries with their intoxicating, exhilarating Arabic psychedelic rock, fuzzy guitars and trancelike vocals. Formed in 2017 in LA, the band has collaborated with artists from all corners of the globe, including Sudanese singer Alsarah and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranadlo. It’s brazen, intense and uplifting. (Saturday and Monday.)

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Emma Volard (Australia)

This Melbourne/Narrm-based neo-soul singer is one to watch. Her debut album Deity, released in 2022, was filled with lavish jazz harmonies, broken beats and deeply personal stories of the perils of the modern world. She has a powerful voice and it’s a genuine thrill to watch her lead her band of virtuoso musicians through her complex, exciting compositions. (Saturday. Note: Volard also sings backing vocals for Bumpy, an outstanding young woman First Nations soul singer performing at the festival on Monday.)  

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Thee Sacred Souls (USA)

The band’s sweet soul sounds have struck a chord with millions of people in the past couple of years, but this will be their first time in Australia. It’s a beautiful, warm vintage sound inspired by classic 1960s Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Al Green – great vocals and gentle grooves that are perfect listening for both of their afternoon timeslots. (Saturday and Monday.)

We are also excited about the relationships we have set up between visiting internationals and local artists: Omar Rajeh I Maqamat (Lebanon/France) are working with four guest dancers from Australian Dance Theatre for Beytna; AURUS (Réunion) will perform with three singers from Aurora Vocal Ensemble; Tenzin Choegyal (Tibet/Australia) will perform with Pocket String Quartet; and Elephants Laugh (South Korea) are working with ActNow Theatre and five members of the local refugee community on Muljil.

Annette Tripodi is associate director of WOMADelaide. The full program for this year’s March 8-11 event in Botanic Park can be found here.

Read more WOMADelaide stories here, and see all InReview’s 2024 Adelaide Festival coverage here.

This article is republished from InReview under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

InReview is an open access, non-profit arts and culture journalism project. Readers can support our work with a donation. Subscribe to InReview’s free weekly newsletter here.

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