The mood at Taranaki’s WOMAD world music festival is more sombre and reverent than in previous years.
The Christchurch terror attack was acknowledged at the start of the three-day festival on Friday by Andrew Little, who led a moment of silence for "our Muslim brothers and sisters", saying, “Let us celebrate what WOMAD stands for, for diversity, tolerance, and for love.”
There was a feeling in the crowd that we were here to show unity and support for performers, cultures and religions from all over the world.
Acts throughout last night and today have acknowledged the tragedy in their own ways: Jamie Smith’s Mabon slowed the pace of their inter-Celtic jigs; an MC introduced Port Chalmers songwriter Nadia Reid, saying she “has the voice of an angel … and we need all the angels we can get right now.”
Ria Hall dedicated two of her songs to Ōtautahi: ‘Te Ahi Kai Pō’, a song about healing after tragedy, and ‘Love Will Lead Us On’, which is about, “Searching for that intrinsic love from within to pull you out of a dark space and into the light – a love to lead you home.”
Belgian/DR Congo hip-hop artist Baloji said during his set: “I’ve been asked two things: not to jump in the lake, and not to talk about white supremacists. But I will talk about how we are all unified right now.”
Although there’s a sense of sadness around the festival – there are longer hugs, heavier sighs, and gentle tears – the healing power of music is evident: people are holding hands, dancing and singing along, and kids are still rolling down hills.
WOMAD is a multicultural, all-ages celebration of the unifying forces of music and dance. The festival celebrates our differences and the ways in which we are all the same, and there is no other place I’d want to be right now.