You should have been at WOMAD

Just in case you missed it, here are the top five reasons you should have been at WOMAD 2020.       

Words by Joel Calliss

Lucy Partington Photography

Matt Corby
Less than five days before he was due to headline the festival, Ziggy Marley, son of reggae legend, Bob Marley, announced that he was unable to perform due to unforeseen family responsibilities. The cancelation left festival goers disappointed and wondering who, in all of music, could possibly replace Ziggy Marley and his unspoken mandate to connect them to a higher power. Enter: Matt Corby. Uou may ask ‘wait, isn’t he the guy from a later, less popular season of Australian Idol?’ and you would be correct. I am sure I wasn’t alone in questioning the decision to replace Rastafarian royalty with Idolatry… but then Matt Corby took us to church. His brand of lo-fi piano melodies, gospel chorus, and a soulful ethereal voice both breaks your heart and mends it again. Corby ushered away the weekend with a seven-minute rendition of his heartfelt ballad Miracle Love, which at any other time is a song that has the potential to make you feel everything, but there, and in that moment, it seemed to mean much more. The song showed us all what is possible if we work together, reminded us of the undying need for human connection and understanding, absent of judgment and fear. That, my friends, is hope, is love, is WOMAD.  

Courtesy @marina_satti

Marina Satti & Fonés and other fantastic newfound artists
In a zeitgeist of repetitive commercial radio and the algorithmic echo-chamber that is Spotify, there is something attractive about discovering new music based on little else but the name and a short bio found on Womad’s online line-up. Sick of Taylor Swift? How about spend an hour vibing to a Marina Satti & Fonés, the Greek-Sudanese popstar blending Greek, Balkan and Middle-Eastern sounds with a modern, urban edge? Tired of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry? Let’s go check out Kikagaku Moyo, a five-piece psychedelic folk-rock outfit from Japan, or Sprigga Mek, a hip-hop artist from Papua New Guinea. With around 500 artists from over 30 countries performing each year, it was impossible not yo fall in love with something entirely unknown.    

It’s basically the Garden of Unearthly Delights, but way better
Spread across 84 acres, Botanic Park is, on a normal day, something truly wonderful to explore. With the addition of eight stages, endless alleys of food stalls, bars, restaurants, and boutique shopping, I found myself in what can only be described as a wonderland of goodness and mystique. It seems no matter where I was in the park or how many times I made the trek from stage three to stage seven and back again, it always felt as if, with every bend in the path, I was left thinking to myself “have I been this way before?” And there’s a magic to that.   

Courtesy @staazi_and_co

The vegan yiros
With over 50 food stalls, a cool looking sit-down restaurant and only four days to try them all out, it was hard to pick which delicious things to eat. From Indian cuisine to baked potatoes, places specialising in mushroom, to corn on the cob, there was no better way to wait for an anticipated artist than to grab a plate and a beverage and find a shady place on the grass to enjoy it. I was particularly impressed by the wide array of vegan options. This isn’t to say that there is no meat available, there is, but the indistinguishable plant-based lamb yiros from Staazi & Co was incredible. A true festival highlight!

An invitation to be yourself
There is a reason why the atmosphere at WOMAD is often touted as being a major draw card to the festival, and that reason is simple – inclusivity. Far removed from the stereotypes of young people wearing singlets and glitter on their faces at other music festivals, WOMAD delivers a uniquely mature yet easygoing atmosphere. Age hardly matters, gender is a social construct and the only thing that matters is your respect and love for the planet, and your fellow humans. Together, this breeds an atmosphere that is palpable with an overwhelming invitation to be yourself. While it is not mandatory that you must wear organic fabric of a rainbow of colours, it is just that the option is definitely available to you if you so desire.