Held in Adelaide’s beautiful Botanic Park since 1992, WOMADelaide, a four-day festival of Music, Arts and Dance celebrating cultural and creative diversity, held over the March long weekend each year, has become a truly unique part of the Australian festival landscape, showcasing the best, the essential – and the surprising – in global music, dance, art and ideas.
2020 program highlights also include the darling of modern folk, UK singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Winner of the 2011 Brit Awards for Best British Female Solo Artist and Best New Artist at the 2011 NME awards, Marling has gone on to release seven studio albums. Her maiden performance at WOMADelaide will be a stripped-back solo set.
Hailed by NPR as “one of America’s defining voices of freedom and peace,” living musical legend, civil rights icon, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Award-winner, Mavis Staples is the kind of once-in-a-generation artist whose impact on music and culture would be difficult to overstate.
With their fierce, fresh beatbox rhythms and other-worldly harmonies, Tuuletar have taken a novel approach to traditional Finnish folk music. Pioneering the genre of ‘vocal folk hop’, the singers won the prestigious Finnish EMMA award (the equivalent to a Grammy) for the best ethno album in 2017 and continue to enchant audiences with their ethereal, tribal energy.
One of the nation’s most exciting young vocalists, Thandi Phoenix, started her performance life as a clarinetist and chorister at high school. Fast forward just a few years and her melodic pop-electronica is on high rotation on both Triple J and commercial radio, she’s done knockout shows at Splendour in the Grass and the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony, collaborated with Rudimental and released her debut EP.
One of the biggest stars of Brazilian music, Jorge Ben Jor became a global sensation in 1963, with the release of his first album and the smash hit Mas Que Nada. His smooth and distinctive mix of samba with Bossa nova, funk, pop and rock placed him at the forefront of the ‘jovem guarda’ (young guard) and ‘tropicalia’ (tropical-psychedelia) movements.
Also included is Australia’s acclaimed Kate Miller-Heidke who effortlessly glides between the worlds of contemporary pop, folk and opera and PNG/AUS force of nature, Ngaiire whose striking live shows fuse fashion, art and music. Venezuela’s Los Amigos Invisibles, celebrated for their explosive live shows with their acid jazz, cheeky disco-funk and Latin grooves, return after a decade.
Best known for his defining drum n bass hit Incredible and work with Shaggy, Desmond Dekker and Sly & Robbie, UK MC General Levy, brings his staccato vocals and creative twists through jungle, ragga and calypso and, leading the late-night DJ sessions are techno producer Misstress Barbara (Italy/Canada) and disco/electro maestro Greg Wilson (UK) whose careers have seen them play almost every major music festival worldwide.
Called a “fire-breathing R&B belter on her own terms” by Rolling Stone, Tami Neilson takes on sultry ballads, golden-age country, gospel and soul with total confidence. She can hush a room with an original song that channels the hurting spirit of Patsy Cline or the sensuality of Peggy Lee, or bring the audience to its feet on a rockabilly raver. The Canada-born, NZ-based Neilson is bold, sassy and utterly unforgettable.
Fresh from the release of their seventh studio album and a tour of Europe that included two shows at Glastonbury, The Cat Empire return for an unprecedented fifth appearance. Over 17 years, the band has come to be considered ‘family’ – growing up with the festival since their first show at WoZone – the festival’s late night club, in 2003. In 2020 the adored headliners will close the main stage on 6 March.
Defining the sound of the American South across a career that spans seven decades, living legends of gospel music and five-time Grammy Award winners, The Blind Boys of Alabama, will make their first ever appearance at the festival in Adelaide’s Botanic Park on 6 and 7 March 2020.
Towering 13 metres above the audience, As the World Tipped by renowned UK company, Wired Aerial Theatre, is an exceptionally ambitious and beautifully crafted aerial performance where dance and theatrics entwine with extraordinary projections which illustrate the very real and immediate realities of climate change.
Also heading to WOMADelaide is Orquesta Akokán (Cuba) – a stunning big band that redefines the golden era of Cuban Mambo, morphing Havana with the creative and talented spirit of the NY Latin scene, the USA’s master of lo-fi, underground rock, Bill Callahan, best known under the band name Smog, and Australia’s Grammy-nominated Hiatus Kaiyote with a new album on the way, joining New Zealand’s indie superstar Aldous Harding.
Hosting some of the world’s foremost thinkers, scientists, activists and leaders, the four-day Planet Talks program features inspiring and thought-provoking conversations about all manner of issues concerning the planet and how we can work to achieve a sustainable relationship with it and each other. Speakers include Marc Fennell, Christiana Figueres, Damon Gameau, Fran Kelly, Doha Khan, Michelle Lim, Sabra Lane, Robert Elliott Smith and Sandy Verschoor.
Over the last 30 years, Australian artist Craig Walsh has become widely known for his pioneering works including innovative approaches to projection mapping in unconventional sites. MONUMENTS represents a haunting synergy between the human form, natural environment and the act of viewing. Moving images transform trees into sculptural monuments surveying the immediate environment. For WOMADelaide, the installation will pay homage to individuals who have made a significant commitment to the environment.
The 180 coloured flags (The Flags) you see across Botanic Park are created by Angus Watt, an English visual artist who is fascinated by the interplay between light, colour and movement offered by simple fabrics. Angus has produced a unique range of flags for display at each WOMADelaide since 1999 and, for the past decade or so, has been working from his home studio in the mountains in Spain.
“WOMADelaide plays host to an incredible program of traditional and contemporary music, arts and dance from around the world,” said WOMADelaide Director, Ian Scobie. “Being able to bring together such diverse artforms – from spiritual and trance music to folk and funk music, contemporary dance and theatrical site performances and circus – in the space of only four days, in such a beautiful environment, is what keeps this festival so vibrant. It is a one-of-a-kind event and our 21st edition is no exception.”
The 2020 WOMADelaide takes place in Adelaide’s Botanic Park: 6 – 9 March. For more information and full program, visit: www.womadelaide.com.au for details.
Image: Tuuletar – courtesy of WOMADelaide
Note: Editorial updated on Thursday 5 March – as we were advised by WOMADelaide that, unfortunately, Ziggy Marley will no longer be performing at the festival this coming Monday 9 March.