9 Mar 2020

Preview: WOMAD 2020 - Five unmissable acts

From RNZ Music, 1:00 pm on 9 March 2020

Nick Bollinger picks five must-see acts at this year’s WOMAD festival.

WOMAD has been delivering its annual smorgasbord of global sounds for so long now that it’s easy to forget how drab one’s musical diet used to be.

This year’s menu includes a few musical delicacies New Zealand has had a chance to sample before - Salif Keita, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Laura Marling - as well as some homegrown treats, including Reb Fountain and the remarkable Troy Kingi.

But in the spirit of discovery that has been the source of all my most memorable WOMAD moments, here are five acts I’ve never seen, and in some cases had never heard of, which I’m picking to be weekend highlights.

1. King Ayisoba

Though steeped in tradition, this thunder-throated Ghanian singer and player of the kologo (a two-stringed lute) creates with his group a ferocious percussive music that is contemporary, urban and political. He has also been known to sport a great line in macramé.

2. Trio Da Kali

From Mali, land of the desert blues, this mesmerising trio might be a soothing balm after King Ayisoba’s strident intensity. Combining the stringed rhythms of a n’goni with the beautiful tones of a balafon - a big wooden marimba - plus a woman singer with a voice as exact as a scalpel, this is music with deep acoustic roots.

3. Tuuletar

The all-women Finnish quintet call their music folk-hop, and given the way they combine eerie, off-kilter harmonies and vocal beatboxing the term makes sense. There is also something primal, pagan and slightly unhinged about them, and you’ll hear more rolled R’s than a day in Southland.

4. Orquesta Akokan

A dozen years ago the late Sharon Jones provided a WOMAD highlight when she performed an immaculate set of 60s-style soul with her band the Dap-Kings. Now from the same Daptone stable comes Orquesta Akokan, a band of Cuban mambo kings who similarly recapture the sound and energy of an era I thought was gone forever.

5. L. Subramaniam

The virtuoso violinist is one of the iconic figures of Indian music. He is also one of the most borderless, as he crosses between Indian classical and western jazz, orchestral and electronic. Whatever he does at WOMAD this year, we’ll be in presence of a master.

WOMAD takes place from March 13-15 in Taranaki's Brooklands park. More info: https://www.womad.co.nz/

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