Between 13 and 15 March, the New Zealand WOMAD festival returns to Brooklands Park and TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth for yet another weekend of incredible music, arts and dance from across the globe.
One of the most beautiful outdoor festivals New Zealand has to offer, WOMAD also features food, arts, crafts and, crucially, the family-friendly Kidzone. It’s always an enriching and life-affirming trip away, and this year looks set to be no different. Below I look at four acts from the line-up who genuinely deserve your ears.
Since she began recording in 1969, Bolivian singer/charango player Luzmila Carpio has been celebrating the ancient music and culture of the Andes through colourful costume, performance and song. Fluent in the Aymara and 2,000-year-old Quechua tongues, she has a stunningly unique bird-like voice and was once described by Yehudi Menuhin as a “singing violin”. I prefer to say her songs are so joyful that they make Kate Bush sound like Darth Vader. Within her music, Luzmila pays respect to nature, rebels against western colonisation, and rallies against sexism, injustice and racism. Live, or on record, she provides an unforgettable experience.
Malawi Mouse Boys
Vocal group Malawi Mouse Boys recall the devotional power and ‘Sunday best’ purity of the great American gospel recordings of the 1950s. However, their singular interpretation of that form grew into what it is today in the unlikely landlocked African country of Malawi. Across their two albums, sky-high six-part harmonies pluck at heartstrings over the top of idiosyncratic junkyard guitars/ukuleles and DIY percussion. Produced by Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson), 2012’s He Is #1 and 2014’s Dirt Is Good have won them critical love and worldwide touring opportunities. A quick YouTube browse marks the group out as an essential WOMAD listen.
For six generations, the family of Indian classical singing star Meeta Pandit have represented a 200-year-old tradition of elite singers. Blessed with a fragile-yet-firm voice that stretches over three octaves, Meeta’s detailed treatment of her country’s classical music has won her regional acclaim and status as a youth icon in India. Be it Tappa, Khayal, Tarana, Bhajan, Thumri, Sufi or cross-cultural music, her performances are immaculate. Accompanied live by a tabla player and a sarangi player (an Indian 38-string violin), her music hits you like a tidal wave.
Through virtuoso skill and an emotional sensibility, Ramzi Aburedwan uses the violin and long-necked buzuq to tell heartfelt stories of Palestine with his deeply cinematic instrumental pieces. Born in Bethlehem in the late 1970s, Ramzi grew up in the al-Am’ari Refugee Camp in Ramallah. Deeply affected by the Israeli occupation of Palestine during his childhood, at 16 he took part in a music workshop, which eventually led to further musical study in France. He now divides his time between concert performance, bandleading, musical direction, composition, and arrangement with Ensemble Dal’Ouna and the Palestine National Arabic Music Ensemble.