WOMEX 2016 Conference Overview
By Leigh Ann Hahn (Director of Programming)
The 2016 season marked our 30th summer of taking musical, dance and theater trips to what seems like most parts of the world…a really big island (Tarika/Madagascar)…across North Africa (with the legends of Raï music Cheikha Rimitti, Khaled, Cheb Mami/France, Algeria)…we’ve see China through modern dance (Beijing Modern Dance/Guangzhou Modern Dance Company and Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company)…and we’ve had dance parties with Asian pop music (Shoukichi Kina and Champloose/Taiwan; Yuna/Malaysia; and Dengue Fever/Los Angeles & Cambodia.) We’ve explored the Silk Road, made stops all along the 34th parallel, presented more music and dance from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America than I can list here…and chased African and Latin rhythms and beats across the wide Atlantic countless numbers of times. In both directions.
One of the ways GP staff keeps an eye on the ever-changing global musical landscape and the business around it, is to attend the annual World Music Exchange (WOMEX) Conference – a five-day event that convenes 2,400 delegates. Concert/event promoters, recording labels, publishers, distributors, government and education institutions, booking agents, managers, producers and journalists attend performances, panels, networking sessions, film screenings and spend hours roaming and rushing about the Trade Fair (700 exhibitors at 300 stands) with overall conference representation from 95 countries.
This year Michael Alexander and I traveled to Santiago de Compostela for the conference, which has taken place in cities all around Europe including Berlin, Thessaloniki, Copenhagen, Cardiff, Seville, and Budapest. GP staff (and board members) have attended the conference since 1998 to see performances, meet with colleagues, collect music, share meals, worry about visas and all the battles that go along with trying to move artists from place to place, country to country, and continent to continent.
If we had been able to attend every showcase (we tried!) we would have seen over 60 artists/ensembles featuring almost 300 performing artists on 7 stages from 43 countries. WOMEX featured 11 films including 2 world premieres and there were more than 40 conference session, network meetings and presentations with around 90 speakers.
Through all of these interactions, we’ve come to know that we believe the world is a better place when we share and respect one another’s art. If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a cultural explorer/traveler. Here’s a link to a Spotify list that includes artists that we liked from this year’s conference. We didn’t see all these artists perform – some of them we learned about through conversations with other attendees, picked up cds, or read reviews in an industry trade magazine. Not all of these styles or genres might be to your taste or liking – but they’re all pretty darned good. Click here to listen.
(Pro Tip: This playlist was made specifically to be listened to in the order they are listed )
photo 1: The daytime conference and tradeshow activities were held at Cidade da Cultura de Galicia (in Santiago de Compostela, Spain) which is a complex of buildings designed to reflect Galicia’s rolling hills upon which the development is sited. (Photo: Leigh Ann Hahn)
photo 2: The Iran Music Association is just one of the 300+ exhibitors supported by countries, recording labels, festivals, educational and cultural institutions, individual artists. (Photo: Leigh Ann Hahn)
photo 3: CHURROS!!! Just like the crispy deep-fried choux pastry we know and love in L.A. except that like their Mexican counterparts, Spaniards serve them with thick and rich hot chocolate. (Photo: Leigh Ann Hahn)
photo 4: It’s good habit to leaf through the non-English language magazines included in the WOMEX bag otherwise you might miss a nice feature article on Saxophonist, composer and bandleader, Ben Wendell His group Kneedelus, was a GP featured artist last July 1 on a double bill with Guadalajara-based jazz-rock crew, Troker. (Photo: Leigh Ann Hahn)
A Los Angeles/WOMEX highlight: Daniel French and Hector Flores from hometown favorites Las Cafeteras as they joined Colombian-Canadian musician Boogat’s official showcase and put the “Mex in WOMEX.”
The 23nd edition (October, 2017) of WOMEX will take place in Katowice, Poland. I’m excited to explore Poland for the first time – especially after the government official who spoke at this year’s closing ceremony described Katowice as his country’s New Orleans. Forward on all fronts!