Nigerian Afrobeat star Femi Kuti, Australian ARIA-winning singer Megan Washington, and Kiwi “seven-headed soul monster” Fat Freddy’s Drop are among the diverse line-up announced today for the 2014 WOMADelaide.
It will be the only Australian performance by Kuti, son of renowned Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Femi played at the festival six years ago and is returning in 2014 with his aptly named band The Positive Force.
“They’re a huge force on stage,” WOMADelaide program manager Annette Tripodi told InDaily.
“We saw them at WOMAD in England in 2012 and were reminded of just how mesmerising and dynamic this 10-piece band and stunning dancers are. There’s that driving percussion that comes with Afrobeat, and Femi is a superstar.”
Indie-rock singer Washington, who has previously collaborated with Paul Grabowsky and was named best female artist and breakthrough artist at the 2010 ARIAs, will perform two shows in Botanic Park. She is among a strong contingent of Australian acts that includes “future-soul trailblazers” Haitus Kaiyote, a re-formed (for one show only) The Brown Hornet, and Aboriginal band Coloured Stone, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary at the festival.
“Their song ‘Black Boy’ was probably one of the first songs by an Aboriginal band to get radio airplay and they have a new album due out,” Tripodi said.
Also joining previously announced acts such as Billy Bragg, Arrested Development and Emel Mathiouthi are Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca, who played with Buena Vista Social Club; Britain’s avant-garde Balanescu Quartet; Kiwi dub/reggae/soul band Fat Freddy’s Drop; Pakistani sufi singer Asif Ali Kahn; and Scandinavian singer Ane Brun, who has previously toured and recorded with WOMAD founder Peter Gabriel but has never been to Australia.
“The great thing about WOMAD is that it brings artists to Australia most people have never heard of, yet the experience of seeing them is hopefully something they will never forget,” Tripodi says.
“Many are big in their home countries, but have never been to Australia.”
Tripodi, who spends part of her working life attending other music festivals and gigs to see potential WOMADelaide acts live, said “wrangling” the program was like “a really difficult jigsaw puzzle”. The right mix is the key to success.
“The program has so many ebbs and flows with different styles of music … it might be something dancey at the end of the night, or something meditative and slower.”
Falling into the latter category is the music of young Portugese fado singer Carminho, who will make her WOMADelaide debut in 2014.
“When I saw her I was quite teary, and I was by myself,” Tripodi says.
“I turned around and a complete stranger was leaning against a pole and we sort of embraced and we were lost for word. She’s a really beautiful singer with a really powerful presence on stage and wonderful fado musicians.”
WOMADelaide 2014 will also feature a program of international DJs, including Japanese hip-hop collaborator DJ Muro, said to have one of the world’s biggest record collections, and a moving-image installation by US artist David Michalek called Slow Dancing which will show giant projections of dancers slowed down so they appear to be suspended in the air.
The Planet Talks program will include speakers such as former Midnight Oil frontman and federal Labor minister Peter Garrett, UK anti-“ecocide” campaigner Polly Higgins, ABC political journalist Annabel Crabb and former Greenpeace international CEO Paul Gilding.
WOMADelaide 2014 will be at Botanic Park from March 7-10. The full program can be viewed on the official website.