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April 16, 2018 | by  | in Arts Music |
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The common responses I get at the mention of WOMAD are, “isn’t that just a weird hippie festival?”, and “I don’t know any bands on the lineup”. Firstly, since when were weird hippie festivals a bad thing? Secondly, yes, but that is exactly the point. WOMAD is a festival that traverses the globe, and is a celebration of world music, being the World of Music and Dance. Or World of Music, Art, and Dance, I can never remember. You go to WOMAD to hear and see music that you had no idea existed, to discover new bands, and most importantly, to boogie. Taking place over a Friday night and all day and night Saturday and Sunday, it showcases dozens of gems in performance and dance culture, as well as presenting you with the best festival kitchen in all New Zealand, one that will make eating five meals a day completely justifiable.

While many artists fly into New Zealand the day of their concert and fly out immediately afterwards (looking at you Migos), WOMAD is a festival where artists can form relationships with their audience over the length of the festival. Daymé Arocena for example played on both the Friday and Sunday evenings, taught Cuban cooking at a stage dedicated to Taste the World and did an artist meet and greet in between. Kamasi Washington finished his set and wandered into the food village where he told me he was having a “lovely time” before continuing on his way among the “beautiful people”.

He seemed to get the idea that WOMAD is a very fluid experience. You dip in out (though mostly in) at liberty, based on what takes your fancy. Often I’d find myself going in the direction of one stage to see a particular artist, but getting distracted on the way by some enticing smell or interesting sounds and would end up at another stage with some Hungarian fried puff bread. It was a far cry from the temporal stress and social politics of crammed and conflicting schedules at other festivals (I’m looking at you Laneway. With death in my eyes). It is by far the chillest festival I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Tired? Just lie down on the grass for a bit, there’s always a couple of areas where not much is going on. Thirsty? Hungry? I feel like I’ve already covered this adequately. Every single person at WOMAD is catered to, even the 65+ who have special elevated seating areas, though as Daymé Arocena pointed out, “my grandmother is 70, and she dances. A lot”.


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