What WOMEX tells us about World Music in 2013 and Beyond
By Sam Murray
This week has seen WOMEX the world’s largest world music expo come to the Welsh capital city Cardiff. The expo brings in world music industry types from all reaches of the globe and I’m pretty certain nearly every country had representation in some form or another! The event is a surreal experience allowing you a glimpse into the music industries’ world where musicians are essentially being bought and sold on their various assets from the live skills to which record label they will end up at. Festival bookers were there at large looking for the next exciting World music act to book and there were plenty on offer.
WOMEX can tell us what kinds of music are doing good business and what is looking set to make a larger impact. I spent a day at WOMEX networking and meeting various people from across to globe to learn more about their music and what I should be including in forthcoming editions of Union of Sound. I received various CDs to listen through and have spent my time post-WOMEX having intense listening session sorting CDs into piles. In fact as I type this the pile is still being worked through!
So here’s a little guide to what music seems to be hot on the WOMEX floor:
Music inspired by Judaism seems to be an unintentional theme within the WOMEX European stands. Poland and Sweden are the countries offering these Jewish delights with Swedish singer Louisa Lyne leading the pack in terms of musical content. Louisa herself was at the Maestro Music stand for her label seeking bookings. Louisa has gained national attention winning awards for her album ‘Debyut’ a record she recorded with Di Yiddish Kapelye. Whilst most people will assume Klezmer is leading the musical pack Louisa has released a record of Jewish folk music that is frankly superb with interesting nuances and orchestrations that are worth a listen.
Reggae is another genre with a strong WOMEX showing particularly from France and Italy where the genre has exploded and festivals devoted to the genre are highly popular. The WOMEX floor saw stands from Reggae specific promoters and a whole host of new names to explore. Unfortunately in terms of albums it has been hit and miss with some predictable records although some crackers! One stand out mention must go to Polish reggae singer Ras Luta whose record ‘Uratuj Siebie’ has made my listen again pile and onto my iPhone for some dedicated listening and he makes the poppier side of reggae intriguing.
Latvia. Latvia has to be the nicest WOMEX nation I came across with a stand devoted to Riga and the city’s forthcoming European Capital of Culture year in 2014. Latvia could very well be the nation to listen to as far as world music goes with its vocal music set to grace larger ears. The accommodating WOMEX delegation explained to me all about their musics and given me enough to make a Union of Sound article in the coming weeks featuring an interview with Saucejas singer Vija Veinberga who is a fascinating musician.
Fusion is always a shakeable ground in world music with it either being horrendous or something wonderful. Thankfully the live showcases have shown it is in a healthy state this year. British Global Bass act Transglobal Underground have finally cracked their perfect collaboration by teaming up with Fanfara Tirana. Even though the record came out last year expect to see this at most of the festivals next year as their live show is ferocious. If your band had a word remotely sounding close to Fanfare you shined this WOMEX. Another bands to hold an audience captivated were Fanfaraï an Algerian/French fusion group drawing on many Arabic musical styles including Algerian Rai which the band name refers to. When they start I thought this was going to be another boring over-exoticised group of Arabic musicians playing the usual musical tricks, then BAM! A wall of polyrhythms hit me and they had me in the palm of their hand. Fantastic musicianship and dancing combined is a recipe for all things awesome and Fanfaraï are certainly that. I’ve been listening to their album Tani and it is a magnificent record that’s going to have them playing to some bigger audiences in the near future. Tani is quite possibly my record of WOMEX.
As expected Portugal were represented well with their musical offerings at the trade fare. Whilst they may not have had any notable musicians performing the trade fair showed that Portugal is going to be entrusted with more musical acclamations. Not only do we have new stunning offerings from Deolinda and Luisa Sobral, we also have a new rising Fado star who is going to be adding something to the work Carminho and Ana Moura have done. Luisa Sobral has only gone and made another cracking record with ‘There’s a Flower in my Bedroom’, a quirky cute jazz album that again is bilingual and features duets with Antonio Zambujo and Jamie Cullum. I can attest to it being a perfect record for some late night ironing! Definitely a contender for the record of WOMEX, although it was a shame Luisa wasn’t performing. The new rising star of Fado is Cuca Roseta whose self-penned record ‘Raiz’ is stripped back and joyfully soulful giving a real essence of emotional intensity to Fado. Cuca appears to offer a soulful gospel-like edge to the Portuguese traditional form. I’m excited by this record and really feel she could be as big as Carminho or Ana Moura. Being a Fadista who writes her own Fados gives her a big advantage and I can’t wait to hear more. I hope she will tour the UK soon.
The live evening showcases gave a chance for the industry types to see the music in action. The artists did not disappoint! Amira, a Sarajevo-born Sevdah singer, gave a stunning performance with her haunting vocals being supported by the mind-blowing piano of Bojan Z and Nenad Vasilic bringing new life to the double bass. Another highlight was British folk group Lau who always excite with their wacky inspirations and class musicianship. They crowned off my experience with quirk and imagination to leave me nostalgic.
My Records of WOMEX
Cuca Roseta – Raiz
Luisa Sobral – There’s a Flower in my Bedroom
Fanfaraï – Tani
Ras Luta – Uratuj Siebie
Amira – Amulette