Confessions of a WOMAD virgin

Taking in the sights and sounds at WOMAD. Nothing is out of the ordinary.
Taking in the sights and sounds at WOMAD. Nothing is out of the ordinary.

It's a bit of a dirty secret but I'll admit it; I was a Womad virgin.

I didn't have the hippie skirt or dreadlocks and music wasn't a ''metamorphosis of my life'' (a legitimate quote from an artist this weekend).   Colleagues whispered that my outfit for the festival's opening night was a ''bit square''.

''What's more, you're from Christchurch,'' one of the photographers said to me, as if that pointed to some deep-seated conservatism in me.

(It's true my father would rather watch the Crusaders than feel the beat of the Master Drummers of Burundi).

So it was with some excitement and a larger measure of trepidation that I faced down covering the event so dear to Taranaki's heart.

The Womad experts had given their advice on the must-sees, it was time to test the waters.   But the thing about Womad is, there are no categories.

Nothing is out of the ordinary; anybody fits in.

A man called Paris dressed in a startlingly pink sequined top and alluring skirt gave me no sideways look.

Policy analysts, artists, engineers and union lawyers shared picnic rugs, music tips and puffs of something not quite legal.

One guy from Wellington sporting a ripped purple t-shirt told me: ''Why would I be self conscious to dance? It's music, it's people, you're in a group, it's a good time.'' Mostly, it's the colour that takes your breath away.

The flags, the shade shelters, the outfits from festival-goers, the performers themselves; leaping and twisting in flashes of bright green and reds, coaxing the crowd to their feet through sheer passion and skill.

Then there are the sparkling lights at night illuminating stalls as children dart between legs and climb trees well past their bed time.  As Australian songstress Mama Kin put it; ''You've been given voices people, use them. Sing. Enjoy it.''  The one disappointment?

The Wonuts.  I thought the stall selling mini-donuts would somehow have Womad-ified the deep fried treats into a different food sensation experience.

But no, they were just the regular donuts of my youth.

Ah well, you can't win them all.

Taranaki Daily News