13 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: WOMAD organisers ask unwell attendees to stay home

12:59 pm on 13 March 2020

Organisers of the WOMAD festival in Taranaki this weekend are asking people who feel unwell to stay home as part of their plans to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 virus.

Tuuletar performing at a Womad pop-up show at Puke Ariki in New Plymouth on Thursday.

Tuuletar performing at a Womad pop-up show at Puke Ariki in New Plymouth on Thursday. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

They insist that - beyond taking extra care with their personal hygiene - healthy festival-goers need only come prepared to have a good time.

WOMAD is being held at Brooklands Park in New Plymouth for the 16th time this year and can attract up to 15,000 people on each of its three days.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

Festival director Emere Wano said its management had been monitoring health officials' advice and so far everything pointed to the event going ahead.

Wano said WOMAD was following steps set out in its risk management plan.

"It's common sense stuff really, when you look at the environment it's all about basic hygiene. If you're not well don't come to the festival, don't come and get amongst groups of people. Look after yourself.

"Washing hands, we should all be doing those things anyway. They're not rocket science as we see it."

Womad festival director Emere Wano

WOMAD festival director Emere Wano. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Wano said behind the scenes microphones and hand railings would be being wiped down on a regular basis and the festival cleaners would be upping the ante across the venue.

The artists who have had their travel histories examined - resulting in Korea's Kim So Ra having to withdraw - had also forgone hongi and handshakes at the pōwhiri at Owae Marae as a precaution.

Wano said beyond these basic measures it was a case of getting on with the show.

"We've got everything from drum 'n' bass to folk to Japanese cumbia. You know, you've got the melting pot and I think that's the what everybody comes to WOMAD to discover and explore."

Wano's festival tip was Finnish vocal group Tuuletar. Group member Venla Ilona Blom said they performed folk music but not as you might expect it.

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"We mix different elements from the Finnish folk tradition and folklore and then combine it with different cultural influences from all around the world and also from other musical genres so it's a fusion but very must rooted in the Finnish folk tradition."

Welsh classical harpist Catrin Finch forms one part of an unlikely duo also featuring Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita.

Finch said the combination, which began as an experiment about six years ago, just seems to work.

"It's very touching music. I think it transports you so the harps they fuse the sound worlds together and like I say we draw on classical influences, folk influences, world music influences and all these things go into one big stirring pot with this kind of beautiful strings sound, and out comes what we do really."

Orquesta Akokán, with Jacob Plasse front right.

Orquesta Akokán, with Jacob Plasse front right. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

If ever there was a band designed to blow away any anxiety festival-goers might have about the coronavirus, surely it is Orquesta Akokán.

Band leader Jacob Plasse, a New Yorker, insisted there would be dancing.

"We play mambo music, like Cuban music from the 1940s and 50s. Pre-salsa inspired by Benny Morey and Parez Prado and what was going on in the casinos of Havana pre-communism. You have to dance. It's required.

"It's like very high energy. It's a big band. There's two percussionists, four saxophones, two trombones, two trumpets, piano, bass and guitar so we're like a dance band but it hits you in the face. It's a lot of fun."

That would be music to the ears of harpist Catrin Finch who reckoned something like Womad was just what people needed at the moment.

Catrin Finch

Catrin Finch Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"You know, there's a lot of stuff going on in the world.

"In fact, whilst I've been on this trip I've kinda turned the news off because it's just depressing every time you switch it on so this is really great that there is a corner of the world where there's going to be some happiness and music-making going on."

WOMAD begins this evening at 6pm and runs through until Sunday night.

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