Now in its fifteenth year, the World Music Expo has become the premier meeting ground for artists, labels, presenters, and agents from an incredible array of countries and backgrounds. Anastasia Tsioulcas reports from Copenhagen.
A man stands by the door of a crowded train, chatting on his cell phone in Korean. Next to him, three voluble Greeks argue, moving their bags out of the way of a Southeast Asian woman in hijab, a small boy trailing behind her as they fruitlessly search for seats. Are we on the 7 line?
No, we're on the Copenhagen metro, making our way from the city center to a convention hall on the outskirts of Hans Christian Andersen's charming, canal-lined Nordic capital.
The polyglottic, multicutural reality of today's Copenhagen makes it a perfect home for WOMEX. Now in its fifteenth year, WOMEX (the World Music Expo) has become the premier meeting ground for artists, labels, presenters, and agents from an incredible array of countries and backgrounds, from singers from the tiny Indian Ocean island of Mayotte to Texas native Cedric Watson’s Creole band to groups like Parno Graszt, whose music wells from the same spring that nourished composers like Brahms and Bartok. This conference provides fertile ground for burgeoning talents to meet movers and shakers from across the globe.
“World music” is a highly contested phrase anyway. Ask anyone here what it means, and most likely you’ll spark some heated words. (Actually, the conference guide warns, tongue firmly in cheek, “Anyone hear uttering the questions ‘What is world music?’ ‘Is it world music?’ or ‘Is it good for world music?’ will be escorted from the premises by security staff and banned from WOMEX for a period of five years.”
One of the areas that has always fascinated me most as a listener and as a writer is those liminal places where musics meet. This year’s WOMEX showcases include an event that I’m really looking forward to hearing: the collaboration between the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the Iranian kemencheh (spiked fiddle) master Kayhan Kalhor. This is a project that has long interested me, and I can’t wait to see how the “world music” community, however it is or isn’t defined, responds.