Been | Poppin’ my WOMAD cherry!

As I raced back to Auckland to catch the tail-end of another festival in what I can only describe as a tin can with wings, I paused to reflect on the WOMADness of the past day and a half, and I’m glad I gave into the FOMO epidemic that has gripped the nation (and my girlfriend).

Ready to take in all things WOMAD.

Ready to take in all things WOMAD.

For the past 12 years, the friendliest city in NZ, New Plymouth, hosts WOMAD. This year’s festival was the third most attended ever in New Plymouth, with a near sell-out crowd of 12,000-16,000!

My WOMAD experience far exceeded expectations- from the moment I landed until the moment I headed back to Auckland – I felt like I had traveled world; experienced new cultures, traditions, and culinary delights, without having to leave the comforts of home.

Set in the picturesque surroundings of Pukekura Park, a 52ha lakeside forest – WOMAD took place over 3 days, with 5 stages becoming the performing arena for over 30 artists from 26 different countries. Additionally (and perhaps my favourite), festival-goers were treated a World food stage, where artists cooked traditional dishes from their homeland for the crowd to try.

There was a steady stream of festival-goers, as gates opened for the first time on Friday. Te Kapa Haka o Te Whanau a Apanui opened the festival and welcomed, setting the mood for artists and the audience alike. Performances then followed on the various stages across the evening.

The crowd taking in Te Whānau-ā-Apanui on Day 2.

The crowd taking in Te Whānau-ā-Apanui on Day 2.

One of our highlights from Day 1 was experiencing 47Soul conjure a Middle Eastern delight on the food stage – we were treated to an hour of entertainment that included an insight into the journey of how these artists, hailing from Jordan, Syria and Palestine came together.

We spoke to the guys as they served up their dish Ramzi Aburedwan – it was delicious!

As we made our way to the main stage, also known as the TSB Brooklands Bowl – we couldn’t help but stand in awe at the stage being placed in the middle of the lake, with thousands of people dancing in unison to the hypnotic sounds of St Germain. He and his band of musicians and vocalists mesmerised the crowd with old tracks and new.

Taking in the fiery sounds of Calexico

Taking in the fiery sounds of Calexico

We were then treated to Calexico – a tex-mex band, with calming and tangy chords, followed by fiery riff. Following Calexico’s burn, it was a sheer delight to end the night with the large crowd who had gathered to sway with Bic Runga.

The following day, we had a couple of hours to kill before our journey back to Auckland – we treated ourselves to Edma Castaneda Trio who took us on a mystical journey with the sounds of his harp.

We spoke to the namesake of the trio on Friday about performing at WOMAD and the struggles of growing up in Columbia.

From the experiences of the musicians, it’s interesting to note that in many cultures, the arts are not nearly as recognised as other professions. In the words of Songhoy Blues (whose live performance was one to watch), if you perform at WOMAD, you know you’ve made it in the music business.

Turns out it wasn't gumboot weather after all

Turns out it wasn’t gumboot weather after all

I finally made it to WOMAD, and I’m certain I’ll be back again.

WOMAD will be back in New Plymouth in 2017 – March 17-19.