McKenzie Graur


I'm super stoked to get back to WOMAD, in New Plymouth, this year.  There's nothing better than waking up in the shadow of Mt Taranaki.

Dad says it used to be called Mt Egmont.  I was told it was used in a Tom Cruise film, The Last Warrior because it looks like Mt Fuji.  

I've been a few times to WOMAD and there are always many highlights.  Dad's a journalist, so I've been lucky to meet and even interview some of the performers.  One year I met Kimbra.  She told me that to be successful in the music business you have to have a really good plan and a lot of cd to send out to the record companies.  But more than anything else, you need a really strong idea of whom you want to be.  The interview was in this beautiful, tranquil garden at the back of a New Plymouth boutique hotel, surrounded by waterfalls and native plants.  Kimbra quietly sat in the corner, calm and charming.  She was so gracious.  Before the festival I didn't know anything about her but after meeting her and seeing her show and her fantastic costumes I've become a firm fan.  

Last year I got to interview Wellington Estere, who told me all about her best friend, 'Lola', her MPC - a wee digital box that makes music as wide and varied as an orchestra.  She showed me how she makes beats and samples out everyday objects like banging chair legs and rattling cutlery drawers.  She was very sweet to me, as were all the reporters and artists at WOMAD. 

My strongest memory from last year was seeing Sinead O'Connor - what a voice!  She was so different - tattoos, skins head, dressed in a priests cassock!  But also very funny – she cracked up when upstaged by the ducks on the pond!  

Once or twice I got to sneak back stage at the Brooklands Bowl stage.  Seeing that massive stretch sprawling all the way from the small lake at stage front nearly a mile up the hill was an awesome sight. 

There are smaller stages, too.  One Sunday morning I joined a Flamenco class, another time I went to a big singalong at the Chimney Stage.  With 5 different stages, most with something happening you can roam around.  It's like tasting all the jams at a fair, except with music!

This year I'm looking forward to seeing De La Soul.  They make hip hop from old records like those in my Grandad's collection and samples from TV shows like Sesame St. And I definite want to see Tiny Ruins.  Holly Fullbrook has such a wonderful, delicate voice.  I love her videos, too.  But then I'll be keen to see everything.  That's the thing about WOMAD, so much to discover.

A huge draw card for me is the kid's section.  Situated in the zoo area, it's a children-only space with its own clowns, entertainers, and massive art tents where you can make banners, flags, drums, totems and even your own carnival costume.  And all from recycled materials or eco-friendly paints.  Last year I made my own super hero costume and joined the kid’s parade, which is a big part of the Sunday's programme.  Everything stops for the grand procession.

Another highlight of the festival is the delicious, multi-ethnic food available, which has to include my own personal discovery: Hungarian puffs - Topped with diced tomatoes, basil and rock salt.  Yum!  I have one every time I go to WOMAD - it's my tradition! 

Of course there's also plenty of art projects, massage rooms, healing tents, traditional Maori tattooists.  And a special feature are the talking books - people who tell you stories about their lives and experiences.  If you are feeling hungry, there’s the World Kitchen where bands cook food from their own cultures. Jax from Masterchef runs it and always gets them to sing for their supper!

I think WOMAD is a great place to take a friend.  I would really love to share this special experience with as many people as I can.  Even if the music isn't their thing, there’s so many other things to do - Like the world market, with everything from clothes to hair accessories to cultural bits and pieces.  They could have a go at playing a cigar box guitar, an African drum or their hair done in a 50's beehive (that would look cool at school, I think).  Actually that's the only real downer to this festival - having to go back to classes the next day!  But with the ringing of the final acts in my ears and a last minute hot chocolate for the drive home, I'll plenty of time to beg Dad about to come back next year!

Written by Mckenzie Jennings-Gruar. Mckenzie is 13 yo, goes to St Oran's in Lower Hutt, and is the daughter of journalist Tim Gruar.  This is her fourth WOMAD and her second as a writer.