Not Only Music, Culture and People but New Regions and Countries Came Together at WOMEX 18.
The 24th edition of WOMEX successfully wrapped up with new perspectives and a stronger sense of cultural unity. The closing ceremony celebrations concluded with a mesmerising performance by San Francisco's Kronos Quartet, who received the WOMEX Artist Award 2018. Prior to the concert, part of the closing ceremony at Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Canadian musician and activist ShoShona Kish and Glitterbeat Records were also honoured, respectively, with the WOMEX Professional Excellence and Label Award.
For its first Transatlantic edition, WOMEX was able to gather, yet again, a very positive balance, proving its position as the most diverse, influential and wide-ranging world music market and showcase festival worldwide. The proximity to the African continent and the geographical location were also key points to this year's successful edition, reassuring the position of the Canary Islands as a harbour of rich, cultural exchange.
Antonio Morales, president of the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, was greeted with regular mid-speech applause. He shared: “In these serious times, where different governments and world organisations are proposing to close borders, reduce rights, treat people like goods, here in Gran Canaria, we must send a clear message of respect for human rights and solidarity with those who suffer war or poverty. We must raise our voices against racist, xenophobic or class-based discrimination that forgets the supreme value of life and equality among all people.”
The 5-day event as promised has once again proved to be the most diverse music meeting worldwide, hosting 2,700 music professionals from 92 countries, more than 60 musical acts with 300 artists representing over 50 countries, 16 films including documentaries from across the globe, 23 conference sessions, mentoring opportunities with 60+ experts including 4 roundtables and 5 one-to-one mentoring sessions, 19 network meetings and offWOMEX presentations and a new initiative: the WOMEX Academy.
Although year after year WOMEX and its community have been steadily growing in all demographics, this year has been exceptionally well received and well attended by younger audiences and professionals. Thanks to the ever-increasing interest in global music from newer regions, country export and cooperative initiatives, music festivals, venues, promoters and artists; this is a promising sign of ideas and innovative approaches that are constantly evolving.
The grand opening of the 24th edition of WOMEX yesterday evening at Auditorio Alfredo Kraus confirmed the position of the Canary Islands as an exemplar of the exchange of cultures. With more than 1,200 guests in attendance, and four mesmerising performances by AKA Trio (Senegal, Italy & Brazil), new wave flamenco project Aurora, Brazilian alt-indie troubadour LaBaq and acclaimed mestizo group from Tenerife, Caracoles, the evening concluded on high note with all the artists coming together on stage for one final performance, making it an unforgettable experience for everybody present.
Tránsitos Atlánticos, the evening with a carefully curated line-up of regional and global music artists was programmed by Germán López, the brilliant, home-grown young Timple star of the Canary Islands who was the artistic director for this year, and in partnership with Alberto Hernández Sicilia, representing López and Jeito.
WOMEX Awards: Kronos Quartet, ShoShona Kish, Glitterbeat Records
With over 60 studio recordings and countless performances all over the globe, Kronos Quartet's exemplary work celebrates openness, curiosity, and intercultural dialogue, making them more than deserving of this award. Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of New York University in Abu Dhabi and co-founder of GlobalFest presented the award to the quartet.
David Harrington, the founding member of Kronos Quartet on receiving the award expressed: "On behalf of John, Hank, Sunny and myself: thank you WOMEX for this great honour. We’d like to express our appreciation to Alexander Walter, Ben Mandelson and the entire WOMEX team for adding Kronos Quartet to the esteemed list of award recipients. We are really humbled to be in this company (...) there is so much to do in music and it seems there’s more to do every day. I think WOMEX is such a fabulous opportunity for the community to gather, reenergize ourselves and get ready for the following year."
ShoShona Kish, a founding member of Digging Roots, was awarded the Professional Excellence Award for her role in the ongoing revolution in giving voice to indigenous communities and their culture, while introduced by Jo Frost, editor for Songlines Magazine, who enhanced Kish's noble dedication to the cause. In her speech ShoShona Kish very heartwarmingly shared: "A very heartfelt ‘chi-miigwech’ (big thank you) to the WOMEX team for seeing the work that is happening in indigenous Canada, indigenous communities around the world, and for your gracious hosting before the event. (...) In these times of darkness is our greatest potential. It’s like the seed beneath the earth waiting to burst forth. And it’s at these moments of darkness that we have the most potential to create light."
Germany-based Glitterbeat Records were honoured with the WOMEX Label Award for their dedicated work within the music industry, this year counting five distinctions in total. This award is statistically calculated by equally combining data from both the World Music Charts Europe and the Transglobal Music Chart, both indicators of the most popular world music at the time.
To receive the distinction Glitterbeat co-founder, Chris Eckman conveyed:
"It’s absolutely humbling to be here again, I have to say that. It’s not something we ever take for granted and I feel I say the same thing every year: We do this on behalf of our artists. This is an artist-driven business, it’s not a business driven by us that work in the office. It’s driven by the magic created on stage and on records."
WOMEX 2019 Travels to Finland
WOMEX will travel to Finland for the first time to one of the best-kept secrets in Northern Europe – Tampere – to celebrate the 25th edition of the most important conference and showcase festival for global music.
Surrounded by two lakes that gives Tampere its distinctive spacious feel, this city is a vibrant regional capital with active cultural life and a versatile event scene. There are more live concerts per capita than in any other Finnish city. Over 30 annually organized music festivals cover almost every genre imaginable. All in all, Tampere boasts Finland’s most vivid and versatile nightlife.
Tampere will become the centre of global music, when WOMEX – the World Music Expo – will take place there 23 – 27 October 2019. Throughout the centuries, Finland has been the arena of cultural encounters of the West, the East and the North: the Slavic influences in Karelia and Russia, the music of the Sámi people in Lapland and various musical movements and trends from Europe via Sweden have all added their unique components to the mix.
Kimmo Pohjonen, the Finnish accordionist extraordinaire, on WOMEX 19 being held in Finland shared: "My solo showcase at WOMEX 1999 in Berlin was more than winning a lottery. It created a lot of interest around the World, and the gigs that followed made it possible for me to fully concentrate on composing and performing my own music. It is fantastic to have WOMEX finally in Finland. I believe it can provide similar possibilities to other Finnish artists for an international breakthrough".
Finland’s folk and world music sphere is vibrant, highly versatile and has rich musical traditions, so much so The Folk Music Department of the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, received the WOMEX Award for Professional Excellence in 2008.
Photo Credits: (1) WOMEX - The World Music Expo, (6) Kronos Quartet, (7) Kepa Junkera (unknown/website); (2) Júlio Pereira, (4) Gaye Su Akyol (by Yannis Psathas); (3) Germán López (by Jacob Crawfurd); (5) Vishtèn (by Eric van Nieuwland).