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Womad 2018 filled with fresh and diverse global acts

The organisers of New Zealand's Womad festival have 29 acts for next year's three-day event, which is set to bring thousands of people to New Plymouth's Brooklands Park.

Tara Shaskey of reports from the launch event in Wellington. 

Nano Stern's music nourishes those hungry for social justice.

The grandchild of Jewish immigrants who fled Europe during World War II, Stern was born in Chile 32 years ago during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

His childhood was coloured vividly with music and activism under the influence of his family and now the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is known for his passionate stage performances, largely driven by political purpose.

With a music style now encompassing trova, folk and rock, Stern joined the underground punk rock scene in his teens and later followed it up with classical and jazz training.

The South American artist has been known to bring his audience to not only their feet, but also tears with his soulful lyrics, melodies and message.

On Wednesday night, Stern was announced as one of the acts for next year's much-lauded music festival, Womad New Zealand.

The three-day arts celebration, held in New Plymouth, was recently named Best National Event of the Year 2017 at the New Zealand Event Awards.

Next year's programme announcement came at a launch event held at the Grand Hall in Wellington's Parliament Buildings, which revealed a line-up filled with fresh and diverse artists from across the globe.

About 200 key sponsors and dignitaries attended the event, which rang out with applause as the acts were revealed over a big screen.

Guest speaker Jonathan Young, New Plymouth MP, told those gathered at the launch event that in 14 years Womad New Zealand had seen more than 150,000 people and had created many revenue and economic opportunities for the country while enhancing New Zealand's social fabric.

"The core bearing of Womad is to create awareness of the work and potential of a multi-cultural society," he said.

But it was Charles Duke, deputy CEO of TSB Bank and another of the speakers, who best summed-up the festival.

"Womad is a delightful experience and should be on everyone's bucket list."

The internationally-established festival of music, art and dance is renowned for its diversified and inspiring line-ups and next year's event is set to be no exception.

A fusion of folk, afro-funk, hip hop, classical, jazz and punk rock performed on violins, ouds, koras and squeeze boxes is set to play out in the city's Brooklands Park.

Including Stern, the programme boasts 29 acts from far-flung places around the world, including Ghana, Cuba, Jamaica, Iraq, India, Sweden and Mali.

Among the talent pool is Jojo Abot, a Ghanaian artist who seamlessly blends electronica, indie-soul, reggae and hip hop.

The artist, who expresses herself through music, film, photography, literature and performance art, will no doubt be part of a growing global conversation with festival-goers.

Israel's vocal hip hop star Victoria Hanna will deliver tales from ancient texts and stories of current social injustices.

Raised in an ultra-orthodox household in Jerusalem, the artist found a way to express herself and overcome her stutter when she discovered secular music.

The singer, who performs Aramaic hip hop and wild, hypnotic and rhythmic raps on ancient Hebrew texts, is said to be an experimentalist who is both unpredictable and bewitching.

Also in the mix is a trio of musicians from Mongolia, France and Bulgaria who perform under the moniker of Violons Barbares.

Having met in France while working on the Silk Road project with famed violinist Yo Yo Ma, the three-piece, all from wildly different cultures, formed their group in search of new sounds.

Using the Mongolian violin, the Morin Khur, the Bulgarian Gadulka and percussion, they create an irresistible fusion of energetic rhythms and harmonies.

Womad New Zealand programme manager Emere Wano named Violons Barbares as one of her festival picks.

"The mix of Mongolian violin, throat singing mixed with Bulgarian percussion is a potent fusion which we don't get to see much of here in New Zealand," she said.

Wano also pegged Australia's singing and beatboxing duo Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum, and dynamic Mexican guitar twosome Rodrigo Y Gabriela as must-see acts.

"Wow," she said, after stating the guitar-playing pair had electric fingers.

"I'm also looking forward to seeing Hopetoun Brown and The Miltones, two up-and-coming New Zealand artists."

Milly Tabak, vocalist and guitarist from The Miltones, said being selected to play Womad was a "dream come true" for the quintet who formed less than two years ago.

The ​razor-sharp blues and bayou folk-frenzy group from West Auckland is known for its lively stage performance.

"I've always wanted to go to Womad, and now I get to play it,"  Tabak said.

"It's right up our alley. It's probably the only festival to best suit our music."

Other acts from Aotearoa include folk singer Aldous Harding, Taranaki's The Slacks, who boast a mix of laidback, feel good, folk-rock-ska sounds, and already announced classic Kiwi band Dragon.

Los Angeles saxophonist, composer and jazz superstar Kamasi Washington and Indian classical and progressive sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar have also been previously revealed as part of the line-up.

While programming for Womad was generally carried out between April and August of every year, Wano said it never really stopped.

"I basically don't stop looking for artists for the programme," she said.

"Some of the international artists have been on our wish list for four or more years, but timing and schedules have not worked out."

When picking the acts diversity was king, she said.

This was tempered with a balance across the programme in terms of what acts will enhance or contrast the overall line-up.

For New Zealand artists, the same principles are applied. 

"Sometimes an artist won't be programmed, not so much on artistic ability or stage presence but more on their overall fit within the programme.

"Is there too much of one thing and not enough of another? Where are the gaps that I need to fill for the audience?"

Wano said the festival was a representation of today's world music and continually supported diverse voices on stages.

In addition to the live acts, the event also features cooking demonstrations, music workshops, a Kidzone, cuisine from around the world, a global village and a living library.

Womad NZ 2018 is on from March 16 to 18. Tickets are on sale now.

Womad 2018 line-up:
Adrian Sherwood
 (UK), Aldous Harding (Aotearoa), Anoushka Shankar (India/UK), Bixiga 70 (Brazil), Chico Trujillo (Chile), Constantinople (Canada), Dayme Arocena (Cuba), Dragon (Aotearoa), Ghada Shbeir (Lebanon), Havana Meets Kingston (Jamaica / Cuba), Hopetoun Brown (Aotearoa), Jamie McDowell & Tom Thum (Australia), Jojo Abot (Ghana / USA), Kamasi Washingtonemon (USA), Lemon Bucket Orkestra (Canada), Le Vent Du Nord (Canada), My Bubba (Sweden/ Iceland), Nano Stern (Chile), Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania), Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana), Rahim Alhaj Trio (Iraq), Rodrigo Y Gabriela (Mexico), Spooky Men's Chorale (Australia), The Miltones (Aotearoa), The Slacks (Aotearoa), Thievery Corporation (USA), Tinariwen (Mali), Victoria Hanna (Israel), Violons Barbares (France/Mongolia/Bulgaria)

This article originally appeared on 

Tara Shaskey travelled to the Womad 2018 announcement in Wellington courtesy of the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust.
Photo credit: Amandala Photography

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