Many bands hit gold at some point. It might be an era when personnel meshed brilliantly; a concert when repertoire, audience and venue all combined for a stunning show; the final mix of a recording on which they know they really nailed it.
Now I have a third golden moment to add: the launch of Makarrata Live at the closing evening of WOMADelaide 2021, in which Midnight Oil collaborated with great First Nations artists such as Leah Flanagan, Troy Cassar-Daley, Frank Yamma and Bunna Lawrie.
Revelation is a word closely associated with WOMADelaide for me.
Sure, when the artist announcement is released, I’ll be familiar with a few of the headliners. But each year I go along confident that it will be a weekend of surprises, as an array of instant new favourites are revealed.
Opening night was always going to be an emotionally-charged event. Archie Roach came on stage for his 7th and final WOMADelaide show – more repeat performances at WOMADelaide than any other artist – and the crowd responded with a standing ovation before he’d sung a note.
And he did it – as he has at recent concerts – accompanied by an oxygen cylinder, to boost his airways as he copes with obstructive pulmonary disease. Ten years ago he’d recovered from a stroke and also having half a cancerous lung removed. Last year – just before his induction to the ARIA Hall of Fame – Archie was in ICU for treatment and then performed with a medical team on hand backstage.
But Archie’s big heart and yearning to bring people together through storytelling in his unmistakeable voice is as powerful as ever.
I have to confess that I felt cheated when I first saw the COVID-safe plan for WOMADelaide 2021. How can it be WOMADelaide if it’s not in beautiful Botanic Park, and if it’s really just a series of 4 evening sit-down concerts?
But eventually I realised I was being greedy. After all, how lucky were we to squeeze in a full WOMADelaide last year, just before COVID lockdowns and border closures swung into force?
And I also remembered how brilliant the mini-WOMAD in the Vales had been in 1998, starring the late great Geoffrey Oryema of Uganda.
Whenever summer begins to make way for the dappled light of autumn, my mind turns to WOMADelaide; the expectation of the year’s best weekend coming up, and the memories of so many previous WOMADelaides.
I had a chat with Fatoumata Diawara ahead of her appearance at WOMADelaide 2019.
Brian: First of all, many congratulations on your nomination for this year’s Grammy Awards for your album Fenfo. Will you be attending the Awards Ceremony?
Fatou: Yes, I’m going to go, definitely. Last year it was the Victoires de la Musique in France, so I’m familiar with the significance of the ceremonies.
Brian: Many West African artists we’ve had at WOMADelaide have been in the wall of sound tradition, with horns, electric guitars and kora all competing for attention. But your new album Fenfo is much more spacious and open in style. Is that the style you prefer to use?