Botanic Park, Adelaide, March 9-12
Have you ever taken a selfie with an angel? Or frolicked on a carpet of feathers so deep you could disappear into it?
At WOMADelaide, Botanic Park was transformed into the playground of mischievous angels on ziplines, weaving magic high above our heads as their wings moulted feathers in ever-growing white clouds.
These ethereal creatures from French aerial theatre company Gratte Ciel became a kind of leitmotif for the festival, with attendees donning strap-on wings and white plumage accumulating like snowdrifts across the entire site. The nocturnal show, Place des Anges exemplified the immersive nature of this four-day event, which has always been far more than a collection of concerts.
Amid the kora players, brass ensembles and Bulgarian singers, you might find your eye drawn to a row of black-clad dancers undulating on a dimly lit stage in exquisite unison (China's Tao Dance Theatre), or encounter a young girl with enchanted red shoes and a puppet doppelganger (Cie Bivouac).
You might even find yourself in the middle of an impromptu singing parade, led by Russian vocal troupe Dustyesky (actually a male choir from Mullumbimby) striding through the park like Slavic Pied Pipers.
On stages large and small, artists opened windows onto ancient cultures or brave new worlds – sometimes within the same set.
The Manganiyar Seduction was part concert, part visual spectacle, with more than 30 Rajasthani musicians and singers seated in a curtained, multi-tiered jewel box, evoking both quiet devotion and ecstatic celebration.
Anoushka Shankar, who first performed at WOMADelaide with her father Ravi in 2010, also borrowed from classical Indian traditions, but coaxed them into a contemporary setting with the addition of keyboards, bass and electronic percussion. Her music was undeniably alluring, though the bass-heavy mix sometimes reduced her astonishingly intricate sitar playing to a silvery backdrop.
Yid!'s 22 energetic (and slightly unruly) members took old Yiddish songs and wrapped them in ingenious, elaborate arrangements spiced with funk, electronica, Afrobeat and big-band swing.
Language, of course, is no barrier in music, and audiences were transfixed by Constantinople's Farsi poetry, Tinariwen's hypnotic Malian blues and Le Vent du Nord's irresistible Quebecois folk.
Two Spanish-speaking singers made particularly strong impressions: Chile's Nano Stern, who wears not just his heart but his social conscience on his sleeve; and Cuba's Dayme Arocena, who strutted across buoyant Afro-Cuban rhythms and soulful, jazz-inflected beats with equal assurance.
There were plenty of other musical highlights, from the superb US saxophonist Kamasi Washington to Chilean cumbia kings Chico Trujillo.
But for the sheer magic, Gratte Ciel's capricious angels were in a league of their own, criss-crossing the sky as they danced upside down, descended like spiders on invisible webs and beckoned to a giant illuminated cherub.
As they played, one tonne of pillowy feathers built from a gentle cascade to a veritable snowstorm, blanketing the ground and turning thousands of spectators into awestruck children – or perhaps temporary angels, given licence to frolic and trailing fairy plumage as we disappeared into the night.
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