Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Our WOMAD experience

Went to WOMAD last saturday. WOMAD is this wandering music fest which visits Singapore every year for 3 days. AG and I had been seeing the handouts and flyers all over town and had been telling ourselves that this year no matter what we will make it to the fest. (Last year we got lazy!!!).

So Saturday, we reached the Fort Canning Park grounds at around 7:00, and found the place all crawling with fellow music lovers. The place was set up with 4 stages (Top stage, Fort Stage, Fort Green Stage, The Gallery) for the performances and myriad tents selling food, souvenirs, drinks, jewellery and even Reiki and palm reading.

Aparna, Vivek, Divya and Kanags had reached punctually and were already enjoying Bill Cobham (USA) playing the drums at Top Stage. We wandered around checking out the place and searching for what else... food :) Finally we settled for some Indian fare dished out from one of those tents and collected our complimentary bottles of Coke light. Filled up... we poked around at the various stages. First we listened in a bit at the Bill Cobham performance. The man was good but got repetitive so we moved on to the Fort Green stage where Idan Raichel (Israel) was playing from his first ever solo album. This too was not really our cup of tea and we decided to join the rest of the gang at the Fort Stage to watch Les Yeux Noir (France). And boy!! was it a clever move!! The band plays some incredible music inspired by Central European gypsy and folk tunes... instantly lifting and soulful at the same time. We twirled, tapped our feet, clapped, snapped fingers, swayed, did the slow gypsy hip wriggle... all to the music of these magicians. And to top it there was some delectable eye candy too. (Am drooling even as I write this!!) The lead singer was a charmer with his roguish looks, great sense of humor, killer smile. And as if this wasn't enough the man could sing divine and play the violin like magic. The drummer too was quite a killer!! After the performance I had to roll my tongue back in and force my jaw shut!

Right next to Fort Stage was the Top stage and we moved there to listen to Akim El Sikameya (Algeria). He started well and had the audience on its feet swaying and clapping from the very start. But the music tapered off and we soon moved back to Fort stage to watch Ravibandhu Vidyapathy and Ensemble from Sri Lanka. The musicians were attired in traditional Sri Lankan outfits and the instruments they carried were cousins of some Indian instruments. There were 2 different kinds of drums, the morsing, ghatam, an instrument very like the bansuri but shorter, and a few other instruments unique to Sri Lanka. The performance started 15 minutes late and the crowd was getting restive. But once they started they had the audience enthralled. The music was earthy and fast, interspersed with soulful interludes from the bansuri. Then there was the jugalbandi or thanyavarthanam, as it is called in carnatic classical music, where the various instruments played competing with each other.

They were still wrapping up when we left to attend the much awaited Dhol Foundation Workshop. The gallery was jam packed with eager fans of this group which plays the traditional Bhangra music. Sheema Mukherjee was still performing on the sitar when we arrived. She was uninspiring and a majority of the crowd looked clearly bored. But she played on blissfully unaware of the restive crowd and rudely ignoring the pleas from the organisers to wrap up as her time was long over and the next performer was waiting. The Dhol Foundation team started late and since it was a workshop, insisted on discoursing on the dhol and bhangra music to the audience which was impatiently waiting for them to actually play something. The rest of our gang moved on after a while to the Fort Green Stage where Apache Indian was to perform soon. AG and I lagged behind. We got lucky and after enjoying the Bhangra music for sometime we ran down to Fort Green Stage to catch Apache Indian and his group.

This was the icing on the cake of this wonderful evening. Both AG and I are old fans of Apache Indian and the man is a great performer. He had us sweating it out, jumping, screaming, dancing to his songs. And he performed all the old favorites... Arranged Marriage, Chak The, Boom Shak A Lak....

When he finished, it was past midnight and we hurried down to the road to catch a cab before the rest of the mad crowd would join us in hunting down the cabs or would start calling in for them. We got lucky and were soon bundled in a cab, hurtling home, bathed in sweat and drunk on music... telling each other how our bodies will hurt the next day and hoping the maid comes in late so that we get some extra time to sleep off. Also next day I was to attend a workshop at the National Library on Spoken Word Poetry. But that is for another post! Enough said for now!