This week, all eyes will be on Adelaide’s iconic Botanic Park as it becomes a backdrop to some of the most exciting Australian and international acts. “WOMAD has become such a premier event. The artists you’ll see there and the performance level that you experience is second to none,” says Mama Kin, one half of Mama Kin Spender.
“And the way they look after artists – no festival looks after artists like that. Not that it’s a competition, but if it was they would win!” she laughs.
“I went there [WOMAD] first as a punter. I remember sitting under a tree while watching a band and whispering to myself – like I was almost afraid to let it leave my lips – ‘I wanna do that’, and it was about ten years later that I first performed there, and I performed on the exact stage. I’m getting chills as I’m talking about it,” Mama Kin says.
“It was such a profound moment,” she adds. “So to be returning there now as an established artist in the middle of a project with a really dear friend to this event, which I have so much respect for, it just feels like such a cherry on top.”
Over recent years, Mama Kin and her long-time friend, producer/collaborator Tommy Spender, have garnered themselves a loyal following as they played to packed halls and concert venues around the country, often backed by a local community choir. “Every time we’d meet a new choir we’d meet the excitement again. We’re performing with 24 singers at WOMAD as part of the Gospo Collective.” Led by choir director Virginia Bott, Adelaide’s famed Gospo Collective will appear alongside the duo with Mama Kin on the stand-up drums and Spender on guitar.
Adding to the buzz that surrounds Mama Kin Spender is the release of their debut LP, Golden Magnetic – nine exquisitely-crafted tracks of joy, hope and love, with a little science thrown into the mix. “I wrote the third song ‘Underground’ after I had listened to a Radiolab podcast about Mycelium, which is the secret web that exists under the ground in forests. Like an information super highway that trees use to share proteins, carbohydrates and nutrients with other trees so that they can support each other.
“I live really far away from my family so I had this really clear vision of my fingers reaching underground and towards all the people that I love and their fingers reaching underground towards me,” she explains. “I was really struck by the way that we love each other and support each other in seen and very unseen ways, and that it’s not always on the surface.”
Other tracks like ‘Dotted Line’ have themes of unity and equality. “’Dotted Line’ was written right before the plebiscite happened – it was written as a homage to marriage and as I was writing it, it was also sending a nod to the right to gay marriage,” Mama Kin says. “So it’s a mix of a celebration song and of a political stand. When we were recording it and when we first started to perform that song the plebiscite was in full swing, so it felt really important to sing it every night and be like ‘We stand with you’.”
When & Where: Wendouree Performing Arts Centre, Ballarat – March 21 & Ulumbarra Arts Centre, Bendigo – March 22.
You can also catch the luminous Mama Kin Spender at WOMADelaide from March 10 to 12.
Written by Natalie Rogers