18 Mar 2016

WOMAD set to stay in Taranaki

6:22 am on 18 March 2016

The organisers of WOMAD New Zealand, which kicks off in New Plymouth tonight, have secured a new deal which guarantees the world music festival will return to Taranaki for the next three years.

WOMAD 2014

WOMAD looks set to stay in Taranaki. Photo: Simon O'Connor

The contract with WOMAD International also includes a three-year right of first refusal which could see the festival mark two decades in New Plymouth.

The Taranaki Arts Festival Trust (Taft) has put on WOMAD at the picturesque Brooklands Park since 2003 after it failed to gain traction in Auckland.

It now attracts about 10,000 out-of-town visitors each year and has contributed more than $93 million to the regional economy since heading south.

Speaking at the pre-festival artists' BBQ, Taft chief executive Suzanne Porter (who came onboard in 2007) said the festival always had huge potential.

"All of us who have been closely involved with WOMAD truly believed in its potential and what it has done for this city.

"I think it's that strong partnership base in behind us that makes it bedded here, wedded here and its going to stay here so for me I can see another 50 years of it."

Ms Porter said making the artists feel at home was a huge part of the festival's success.

Director of WOMAD International Chris Smith

Director of WOMAD International Chris Smith. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"We pride ourselves in our manaakitanga so our care of our guests and we want our artists to arrive, be rested, enjoy our hospitality, and that's what the BBQ is all about, and then of course we think that grounds them in this place and puts them in a really good state of mind to perform and do really brilliant performances."

Director of WOMAD International Chris Smith said the combination of a stunning venue and community backing meant he would happily bring the festival to Taranaki indefinitely.

"I think it's always going to be both these kinds of events need some kind of support but actually to me if it wasn't a great location, if we didn't have the support of the town and couldn't put on a good show we wouldn't be here.

"It's always both but actually to us the creative opportunity, the location is really, really key."

WOMAD is all about diversity and it is no surprise at this BBQ hip-hop royalty was shoulder-to-shoulder with an Iranian songstress.

Kelvin Mercer aka Posdnuos of De La Soul is no stranger to New Zealand and also familiar with the WOMAD vibe.

"It's a blessing to be here and even though we've come here so many times I've never come this far out, you know Auckland, Christchurch we'll always go to.

"I've been blessed to play WOMAD UK so to know they were doing it out here it was a great team to be a part of. This is right at home for us."

Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul.

Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mahsa Vahdat, who sings traditional Persian songs with her sister Marjan, the opportunity to play WOMAD New Zealand is more of a privilege.

"It's not possible to perform in Iran, for females singer. Not solo in a mixed audience, just we can perform solo in to a female audience but we never take part in that kind of setting, we don't like it. So we prefer to perform outside of Iran."

Headliners at WOMAD 2016 include American singer songwriter John Grant, French producer Ludovic Navarre (alias St Germain) Tex-Mex exponents from the US, Calexico, and four-time Grammy winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa.

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat.

Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin