womad3WOMAD (Festival of Music, Arts and Dance) takes place each year in the TSB Brooklands bowl in New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park. Over the three days there are continuous performances on 5 stages.

Two of our grownup children had suggested that we should join them at WOMAD.

“You’d love it,” they said.
I wasn’t too sure if I could last the distance but we did go and it turned out to be a great experience. We didn’t feel out of place at all. There was a very generous sprinkling of grey hair amongst the crowd.

My partner is the musical one. When he was at Varsity he was very active in the folk music scene in Palmerston North. But those days are long gone. The last time we had been to a big folk festival was in the sixties in Ngaruwahia.

I had fossicked around in our wardrobe for some suitable gear. But the tie-dyed T-shirts, ponchos, long Indian skirts, crocheted waistcoats and leather headbands had long since found their way to opshops.

womad4But jeans were fine. Anything goes at Womad (except perhaps twinsets and pearls) As well as a lot of hippy gear there were some extraordinary colourful and creative outfits which made people watching part of the fun,

We could have sat on the Special elevated seating platforms which had been erected for the over 65’s but preferred to sit amongst the crowds on the grass. It did get very hot during the afternoons and suntan lotion, sunhats, water bottles and an occasional glass of cold cider were a necessity! It was a relief when the sun went down and we could sit under the stars in the cool of the evening.

My son located a place for occasional family meetups under a shady tree where beanbags had been provided. It was close to the Taranaki Daily News Lounge where free newspapers were available each day and was the perfect place for an afternoon snooze.

Food was plentiful at WOMAD with 40 stalls selling a wide variety of fast food from many different cultures. It was impressive to see how the cooks, who worked very long hours, managed to stay cheerful while dishing out hundreds of meals. There was food to please everyone from falafel filled pita breads, sushi cones and Asian noodle salads to more traditional tucker like hamburgers, pies and chips. The biggest queue always seemed to be at the Hungarian fried bread stall.

The music was outstanding, a mix of mainly international and some local talent.
Some of my personal highlights were:

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui who were recently crowned the overall winner of the Te Matatini National Kapa Haka Festival, performing at the opening.

The Spanish singer Diego El Cigalo’s passionate and dramatic performance. He has a gypsy heritage and has been called “the Sinatra of flamenco.”

Spiro, an English string quartet (violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin and accordion). The standout performer in this group was Jane Harbour, whose performance was both energetic and mesmerising.

Dakhabrakha, a group from the Ukraine who make the most amazing animal noises and bird whistles. While their music is firmly rooted in Ukrainian folk music they have given it a new and contemporary twist.

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat: Two Iranian sisters whose love of Persian poetry came from their grandparents. Many of their lyrics, which resonated with joy, sorrow and love, came from these mystical poets.

The session by the two Iranian sisters especially touched my heart. They shared with us how restricted the lives of female singers are in Iran and how they are only allowed to perform in private before all female audiences. So, the chance to perform at festivals like Womad is a welcome alternative. When they go back home to Tehran they mentor and encourage female folk singers keeping their hopes up that there will be a change in the future.

My partner joined me for a third session by Tulegur, a modern nomad group whose music has been called Mongolian grunge. This is a combination of throat singing which he learnt from Mongolian farmers, traditional music, and rock. Their lead singer had even Jax stumped by his outrageously humorous performance in which he threatened to poison us all if we tried his recipe.

womad2When I felt like taking some time out from the music I headed to some of the Nova Energy Taste the World cooking sessions. These were held in a marquee in the Kunming Garden and were hosted by Jax Hamilton of MasterChef NZ fame.
In these informal sessions the artists showed off their cooking skills and shared recipes from their own countries (which were homely rather than gourmet).

It gave the audience a chance to get close up, to interact with them and to hear their personal stories. The music, the food, and the cooking demonstrations were all good fun but what really made it a perfect long weekend was that we had a chance to enjoy it with our son and daughter. We’re already thinking we’d all like to do it again next year.

By Lyn Potter. Read more here.