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WOMADelaide opens the mind

By Nicole Pierre

When asked to describe the best ways to experience next year’s edition of WOMADelaide, Festival Director Ian Scobie says his most important piece of advice is to be open-minded to all means of creative and artistic expression.

“Come in with an open mind such as listening to artists you have never heard before, and make new discoveries,” Scobie says.

Interestingly, Scobie suggests coming with an open mind also means embracing the whole “Mad March” experience in Adelaide, meaning visitors should get along to the Adelaide Festival and Fringe as well.

WOMAD, an acronym for the World of Music and Dance, came into existence in Britain in 1982 under the enthusiastic leadership of rock singer Peter Gabriel. The 2017 WOMADelaide (March 10-13), will celebrate 25 years of providing audiences with an eclectic ensemble of world music, arts and dance held in the evocative venue of Adelaide’s Botanic Park.

Huge cultural event

Now acknowledged as one of the biggest cultural events in Australia’s festival calendar, the extraordinary 2017 line-up of artists handpicked from countries including Chile, Spain, Mali, Colombia, Japan and Poland goes beyond an ordinary music festival. Sure, it’s about the music but there is also theatre, art installations, international food stalls, cooking demonstrations and panel talks– creating a rich sensory experience for all festival-goers.

For Scobie, Manganiyar Classroom is one particularly special performance secured for WOMADelaide’s 25th anniversary. Director Roysten Abel creatively brings members of Indian society to centre stage. It’s set in a Rajasthan classroom filled with 35 schoolboys – together they create a joyful and (at times) hilarious mix of loud playful music through song, percussion and rhythm. Yet at the same time, “the theatrically staging paradoxically tells the stories of Manganian tradition within the confines of classroom conformity,” Scobie says.

Environmental masterpiece

As for that one not-to-be-missed event, Scobie suggests the Philip Glass Ensemble performing the musical score from Godfrey Reggio’s seminal 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi. Under the musical direction of long-time music director Michael Riesman, the ensemble will perform live with Reggio’s “environmental masterpiece” screening in the background. Despite its title, the dramatic mélange of cinema and music has a darker meaning – a life out of balance from urban society’s technological saturation.

Also exciting is the appearance of Austrian electro-swing producer Parov Stelar and his band. Known for their extremely inventive music combining elements of 1920s cabaret and jazz with a distinctly modern sensibility, they exude pure joy on stage.

A massive flame installation by French arts company Carabosse promises to be a strikingly moving presentation. Scobie says it’s an interactive piece – allowing spectators to travel around and between huge plant pots of enclosed flames. The installation ‘Exodus of Forgotten Peoples’ is a burning contemplation on the worsening plight of the world’s refugees.

While the festival is hugely well-supported by a local audience as one of the year’s major highlights, Scobie says close to 40 per cent of the audience come from overseas or interstate.

Passion for Mad March

Originally an out-of-towner himself, Scobie went to high school in Adelaide and has now lived in the city for most of his life. As a self-declared local, his passion for the whole of Mad March is very strong. He is particularly looking forward to Neil Armfield’s masterful production of Kate Grenville’s ‘Secret River’ that will be performed in an abandoned quarry on Anstey Hill as part of the Adelaide Festival.

“What’s more, sitting up on Anstey Hill offers great views of the whole city,” Scobie says.

As for his favourite local pastimes, he adds a visit to the wineries of McLaren Vale is an easy drive from Adelaide or even a simple tram trip to Glenelg Beach are both quintessentially  South Australian experiences that are both relaxing and enjoyable.

Beyond the music of WOMADelaide, Scobie says ‘Planet Talks’ will be back with topics related to issues of humanity and the environment. Former archaeologist, music composer and producer Sir Tim Smit will be talking about his award-winning Eden Project. Eden has become one of the world’s most popular man-made eco-tourism destinations with more than 16 million people visiting it since 2000. Scobie says the man-made eco-tourism project creates an “arch between beauty and preservation”.

Aptly keeping to the Planet Talks theme, the crew commander of a year-long Mars Simulation mission, Carmel Johnston and Australia’s Mars One candidate Josh Richards will discuss the Mars project and the burning question of whether colonising Mars is the next giant leap for humanity or is it a waste of time and money?

Scobie is also enthusiastic about a panel discussion involving science pundits and iFixit founder Kyle Wiens who will discuss the dangers of depleting resources and the accumulation of waste.





Virgin Australia flies to Adelaide from all major Australian cities. Most major hire car companies are at Adelaide Airport.


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