the carefree, relaxed spirit has been harder to find this year

This year’s WOMA Delaide marked the return of international artists to the festival in full force. After two years of severely disrupted events with limited audiences and a focus on homegrown acts, guests were clearly eager to reconnect with the WOMAD experience in all its multicolored glory.

Festival passes sold out in record time and viewer capacity expanded from 25,000 to 30,000 per day. People poured through the gates in greater numbers than at any time in the festival’s history to immerse themselves in this four-day celebration of music, arts and cultural diversity.

Florence Welch performing at WOMADelaide 2023.

Florence Welch performing at WOMADelaide 2023.Credit:Jack Fenby

The impact of the larger crowds on the festival’s facilities was immediately apparent and patience was tested by appallingly long queues for toilets, food and drink. It was challenging to navigate the grounds of the Botanic Park; finding a place to sit or stand near one of the stages; to catch a glimpse of itinerant artists; be spontaneous and change your festival schedule according to your mood.

Yes, it was a thrill to be enveloped by the roar of the crowd as Florence + The Machine swept onto the Foundation stage on Saturday night. Florence Welch looked like a Pre-Raphaelite leprechaun but sounded like a rock goddess as her voice soared over an endless sea of ​​ecstatic faces. Yes, it was moving to see Sampa the Great transport the crowd into a state of surging joy, accompanied by an impressive Zambian band that highlighted the raw power and conviction of Sampa’s vocals.

But many guests (including myself) found the crowds overwhelming at times, and – having been a regular visitor to WOMADelaide for more than two decades – I felt the carefree, laid-back spirit I associate with the festival got heavier this year was to be found.

Gratte Ciel at WOMA Delaide 2023.

Gratte Ciel at WOMA Delaide 2023.Credit:Wade Whitington

Luckily, on an artistic level, the festival program was as impressively diverse and nutritious as ever. It was well worth climbing through a forest of picnic chairs and blankets and peering through branches to catch a glimpse of Bela Fleck and Abigail Washington, whose twin banjos play enchanting tunes. On the same stage, Canadian-Ukrainian trio Balaklava Blues took us far from the Botanic Park to the devastated cities of war-torn Ukraine, their dazzling set – a mix of traditional folk with techno and trance music – accompanied by strong visual imagery and heartbreaking stories from their homeland. The Deutsche MEUTE also created a techno party, but with purely acoustic instruments. Their pounding rhythm section consisted of marching band drums and a sousaphone, with throbbing horns, marimba and playful choreographed moves that urged the audience to move with them.

MEUTE's playful choreography invited the audience to join in the movement.

MEUTE’s playful choreography invited the audience to join in the movement.Credit:Wade Whitington

A number of notable violinists conjured wildly different musical worlds on Sunday afternoon: Romanian Gheorghe ‘Caliu’ Anghel with his latest gypsy project Taraf de Caliu; Italy’s Mauro Durante in an intimate duo with British guitarist Justin Adams; and David Harrington and John Sherba as part of the venerable Kronos Quartet’s recent Australian tour. the carefree, relaxed spirit has been harder to find this year

Jaclyn Diaz

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