Out of this world

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WOMADelaide attracts an enormously broad range of performers, drawn together by a love of sounds and rhythms, writes CLARA IACCARINO.

Nestled in Adelaide's Botanic Park, WOMADelaide is one of the most magical festivals Australia has to offer.

On any given festival weekend each March, you're liable to experience everything from African hip-hop to tribal dancing, see your favourite world music personality cook a dish from their home cookbook or watch in awe as Japanese drummer girls pound gigantic taiko drums with aerobic grace.

WOMADelaide's operations and program manager, Annette Tripodi, is dedicated to presenting a fresh program each year ''packed with brilliant and intriguing artists from across the planet''.

''Our audience is very open-minded and generous,'' she says. ''Many people come to the festival not knowing a thing about most artists on the bill. We ask ourselves questions like, who is the legend we have been chasing for years? Who are the new stars? Who have we seen live that we loved? Who is taking the old and making it new? And then we start to piece it all together.''

A festival of music, arts, dance and food, WOMADelaide was first presented in 1992 as part of the Adelaide Festival. It began as a biennial festival and is now

co-presented annually by WOMAD Limited and the WOMADelaide Foundation. WOMAD co-founder Peter Gabriel may have put this world-music festival on the map but the Adelaide-based team has put its own stamp on the festival, creating a unique program each year that draws on WOMAD UK's repertoire but is under no obligation to follow in its footsteps.

''We are essentially free to create the festival we want because our parent, WOMAD Ltd in [Britain], taught us well and has learnt to let go, like all good parents should,'' Tripodi says.

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''Naturally we consult with them during the year as we create the program but we've been a successful festival since we began so they trust our judgment.''

Each year WOMADelaide presents 30 to 35 international acts with about 60 groups overall including bands, street theatre performers and dance troupes. It is an all-ages festival and last year, the first time the festival ran over four days, WOMADelaide attracted more than 81,500 people.

''I love that all ages - from toddlers to nannas - can have such a fulfilling, exciting, safe and beautiful experience,'' Tripodi says. ''It's a festival with great music, arts, dance, food and friendly people in a lovely setting - the kind of place you'd like to live year-round.''

In fact, apart from the sensational array of music, the international food is a highlight. There are more than 45 gourmet catering stalls and cafes. Not to mention the ''Taste the World'' program, in which the artists cook a dish from home.

While the full program is yet to be finalised, WOMADelaide has already confirmed a wonderfully diverse array of acts for 2011.

Take for instance Joanna Newsom. The singer, songwriter and harpist has been described by The Herald's Bernard Zuel as having a voice that is ''both a struck bell and a dewdrop, a child's and wizened adult's''. Raised in Nevada City, California her songs are quasi-mediaeval and fantastical.

Then there's Australia's own Angus and Julia Stone, fresh from winning a cluster of ARIA awards. Also in the line-up are the Creole Choir of Cuba, a 10-voice group formed in 1994 by Haitian migrants, and Hanggai, a group from China's punk scene who incorporate overtone singing, horsehead fiddle and tsuur flute. There's also globally celebrated beats maestro, producer/DJ Nitin Sawhney from Britain, Indian flautist Rajendra Prasanna, Syrian folk-pop in the shape of Omar Souleyman and the ''sonic voodoo'' of Rango from Egypt and Sudan.

Although the details will not be divulged until the program launch on November 17, Tripodi hints at a spectacular theatrical installation that has been years in the making and will take place over 22 hours across the four-day festival. She can't reveal all but promises ''a series of six captivating, magical theatre installations run by 20 French actors who are half human, half vegetable''.

Surely the most alluring element of WOMADelaide is the discovery of new music. Tripodi is constantly overwhelmed by feedback from audiences who love experiencing new acts. But the festival can also be a hugely emotional experience for the acts involved.

''At the first WOMADelaide I worked on in 1999, I cried when the Drummers of Burundi stepped on stage,'' Tripodi recalls. ''They had undertaken such a mammoth journey, geographically and culturally, to get here from their village of 1200 people.''

WOMADelaide runs fromMarch 11-14, 2011. For details seewomadelaide.com.au.

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