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Ian Scobie's must-see shows at 2018 WOMADelaide


Around 70 solo musicians and groups from around the world will perform at WOMADelaide in Botanic Park this long weekend. Here, director Ian Scobie gives InDaily his top 10 must-see musicians and shows.

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Place des Anges

This French aerial ballet show, to be performed nightly as darkness falls in the park, is Ian Scobie’s “top must-see”. It will be presented by a 32-strong cast and crew from France’s Compagnie Gratte Ciel.

“In a completely out-of-the-box way, this is going to be the kind of piece people will never forget. I saw it in a small town in France and immediately thought we have to do this.

“It’s a really unusual piece in that it’s a mixture of choreographic movement, almost ballet-like … it’s suspended above the heads of the audience, a long way in the sky, and it just brings out the absolute child in everybody.

“It’s gorgeous to see not just the show, but the look on everyone’s faces. It’s really beautiful. I think people will be quite astounded.”

Kamasi Washington

Scobie has a soft spot for the crossover free-range jazz style of Kamasi Washington, a tenor saxophonist, composer and bandleader from America who garnered international praise for his 2015 album The Epic.

“With influences from Herbie Hancock through to Kendrick Lamar, he’s an extraordinary artist, and the kind that we don’t get to see that often.”

Washington will perform one show only at WOMADelaide (7.30pm, Sunday, Foundation Stage).

Anoushka Shankar

British-Indian sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar is the daughter of the famous Ravi Shankar, with whom she performed at WOMADelaide in 2015, and will warm up the festival crowd with an opening-night performance (7.30pm, tonight, Foundation Stage).

“I have had the pleasure of seeing this set and in a way it connects to the piece we did last year, Cie Carabosse, about the refugee crisis,” Scobie says. “Anoushka created this work in response to the refugee crisis.

“But it is also an amazing musical journey in terms of the amalgam of sound between the sitar and the percussion … it really has quite a symphonic crescendo.

“And having her return after performing here with her dad in 2015, that’s quite a moment that we’re really thrilled is going to happen.”

Gogol Bordello

“They are just mad, in the nicest possibly way,” Scobie says of this “gypsy punk” band, which formed in New York City but includes members from the Ukraine, Ecuador, Russia and Ethiopia.

“Their style is so full of energy both in terms of the sound they produce and also this amazing energy that comes off the stage for their performance. There’s not a moment when they’re not all bouncing around the stage; they’re great entertainers and full of the love of life.”

Gogol Bordello will close out the Saturday night of WOMADelaide (10.30pm, Foundation Stage).

Rahim AlHaj Trio

Presenting a very different sound will be Iraqi oud player Raham AlHaj, who is bringing his trio featuring Iranian santour and Arabic percussion and will play two seated shows (6.30pm, tonight, Novatech Stage; 4pm, Monday, Moreton Bay Stage).

“Rahim AlHaj is an extraordinary composer and player of the oud; it’s just the gentlest, quite sweet sad Arabic sound,” Scobie says.

“His work is about exile and the horror that’s going on in Syria … so that will be extraordinary.”

AlHaj – who was forced to leave Iraq and live in Jordan and Syria because of his political activism, then later moved to the US as a political refugee – will also take part in an artist-in-conversation session on Sunday evening.

Le Vent du Nord

“Back on the upside, there’s Le Vent du Nord from Canada ­– we’ve tried for five years to get them…

“They’ve got a really interesting, progressive French-Canadian folk sound – it’s great fun and really engaging. The sort of sound that on the one side people think of as being WOMAD, in terms of a big African band, but also the Celtic connections of Le Vent du Nord are instantly recognisable.”

The band, which will play two festival shows (2pm, Sunday, Stage 2; 5pm, Monday, Foundation Stage), combine “hurdy-gurdy, accordion, bouzouki, guitar and fiddle with foot-stomping, vibrant harmonies and large doses of humour”, according to the program.

Moussa Diakite & Wassado

Originally from Mali – where he performed with African musicians such as Salif Keita and Toumani Diabaté – guitarist Moussa Diakite now lives in Australia and has joined with Sydney band Wassado to play what Scobie describes as “a great mix of blues, Cuban and Afro-rock”.

They will play two WOMADelaide shows (6pm, Sunday, Novatech Stage; 2pm, Monday, Stage 2).

The Manganiyar Seduction

“Another blockbuster not to be mixed is Manganiyar Seduction – it will completely confound people’s expectations; they won’t have seen anything like it,” Scobie says.

Hailing from India and presented by Roysten Abel, who was also responsible for The Manganiyar Classroom at last year’s festival, the show features 40 musicians who are seated in a large purpose-built “jewel box” and revealed one by one as the windows open and they start to play.

“It’s an amazingly original and captivating kind of performance that I think people will really find extraordinary.”

The performers span three generations of Manganiyars, a caste of musicians from the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, and will present performances in Frome Park each night of the festival.

Constantinople & Ablaye Cissoko

The Constantinople ensemble, which features members from Canada, Iran and Senegal, are joined by kora player Ablaye Cissoko for their Jardins Migrateurs performance – described as a poetic meeting between strings and voice.

“It’s a beautiful sound and generous-spirited kind of music … it crosses the sound of East meets West and it’s really engaging and warm,” Scobie says.

They will perform an afternoon and evening show WOMADelaide (6.45pm, Saturday, Moreton Bay Stage; 2pm, Monday, Novatech Stage).

Yirrmal and the Miliyawutj

Indigenous singer-songwriter, musician and dancer Yirrmal – whose father and grandfather both performed with Yothu Yindi – gives voice to songs of his Yolngu culture.

“It’s really fantastic to have the younger generation of Indigenous musicians,” says Scobie.

“He’s really delivering in terms of singing of Yolungu culture and he has this youthful, positive, energetic sound which is wonderful … he’s such a terrific ambassador and at the beginning of his career, which is great to have at the festival.”

Yirrmal will perform with his three-piece Miliyawutj (2.30pm, Saturday, Novatech Stage; 2pm, Sunday, Stage 3).

WOMADelaide opens tonight in Botanic Park and continues throughout the long weekend. See the full timetable here, and read InDaily artist interviews and stories about the Planet Talks program here.

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