Womad magic can't be broken

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 10:29 17/03/2014
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It was a Womad like never before.

Although the dreadlocks were back and the Hungarian bread puffs continued to dominate the taste buds of thousands, it was Lusi in the sky with Womad that sparked the determination of the festival-goers.

Nothing was going to get in the way of their Womad experience.

The calibre of the artists from 20 different countries moved the crowds to drop their umbrellas, cast away their inhibitions and dance in the rain until long after their feet were sore.

With Tunisian protest songs, Arbrobeat with biting lyrics and sounds from early jazz and cheeky funk, the crowd at Womad proved there really was no stopping New Zealand's premier music festival.

Cerid Jones, 24, and her mother Prue Burbidge, 60, returned to Womad again this year despite the weather warnings.

The pair made a last minute decision to travel up from Kapiti Coast for the event.

Dancing barefoot under the watchful gaze of Cyclone Lusi was special for Miss Jones.

"I had a friend called Lusi who passed away a couple of years ago, so it was kind of like she was at Womad with me. It held quite a significance," she said.

New Zealand band Weird Together were "off the hook", she said and Tunisian protest singer Emel Mathlouthi gave her tingles down her spine.

Taranaki Arts Festival Trust chief executive Suzanne Porter got to test out the event's St John facilities first hand when she took a tumble on Sunday afternoon.

She arrived for her interview with the Taranaki Daily News barefoot, with a bandage around her swollen ankle.

"I just fell on my way back from Pokey LaFarge, who was amazing, I hadn't even had a drink yet," she said.

Pokey LaFarge was one of Ms Porter's favourite acts along with Pakistani Qawwali singer Asif Ali Khan, the funky Red Baraat from the United States and the popular Ane Brun.

Swedish singer Brun left her mark on the crowd with her emotional sets. The soul-soaring songs were touted as the performances that brought the sun out on Saturday afternoon, leaving many naming her the act of the weekend on the spot.

But despite the Saturday sun, forecast gloom may have helped hit ticket sales, with casual sales down 1500 on last year.

This year there were 44,548 attendances, which averages out to 14,849 per day.

In 2013 this was 46,551 attendances at an average of 15,517 per day.

But Ms Porter was confident the festival, which costs $3.6 million to put on, would break even.

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Taranaki's Nicky Farquhar was busting out a dance to the opening act of the second day - Airileke.

The lively and beat-filled band, from Papua New Guinea and Australia, started the second day with a bang, he said.

The 36-year-old and his family had set up a tent and were camping out under a tree in the Bowl.

"This is going to keep us all dry and at the night the kids can have a little sleep in there and be nice and cosy," he said.

The family friendly environment pleased many, including Waiheke Island visitors Peter Lennox, Natalie Evans and their 2-year-old daughter Evie.

The trio had spent Saturday afternoon soaking up the Womad energy.

"It doesn't matter what you hear at Womad because it's all great and it's really about the experience and enjoying the music and the food as a family," Ms Evans said.

The couple come to Womad every year and while she danced she told the Daily News, between breaths that it was a great environment for their young daughter.

"She's had a little dance and she's a bit tired now," she said.

It may not have been so nice on Sunday morning however, as the festival was hit with rain and strong bouts of wind.

The wind zipped down the Global Village, which seemed to be a tunnel for the gusts, and whipped a corner off a wall of the Taranaki Daily News chill out

zone tent. The winds seemed to die down after that, leaving the audience to enjoy the punchy line-up on the Sunday afternoon.

The crowds converged for the yearly Womad parade, featuring school children from around the district. The children were dressed in elaborate "Things with Wings" costumes they had been working on over the weekend.

French group Dub Inc got the crowd rocking late Sunday afternoon with their stunning guitar riffs, energetic performance and combination of reggae, dub, ska, and Arab music.

The crowd jumped, waved their arms in the air and screamed for more, while a conga line started in front of the TSB Bowl of Brooklands stage during Mokoomba's last performance.

It seems even the rain couldn't stop the beautiful chaos that was Womad.

- Taranaki Daily News

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