At this presentation we got to learn what WOMEX is. It is not a musical festival as some might think. WOMEX stands for World Music Expo, and is a community and place to meet for people engaged with world music, be it performers, record companies, distributors, directors of music festivals or educators. It started in Berlin in 1994 with around 200 delegates, and many critics thought it would be a one time event, as it was non- commercial with 90% of the budget coming from registration fees. The critics were proved wrong, though, and today the number of delegates has increased to 2500. Yet, it is still a small budget event.
There are three departments of WOMEX. The first is The Conference, where speakers present interesting, educational and sometimes controversial topics. This year, for instance, there will be a delegate presenting the music scene in Iran and another presenting the Norwegian heavy metal scene. The second department is The Trade Fair, where delegates present their music at separate stands. The third is the Showcases, where between 30 and 40 artists, known and unknown, present their music through live performances. The number of showcases will probably not increase much more due to the need of keeping WOMEX small enough for the delegates to be able to see and discuss the same showcases. There is also a film market for music documentaries, awards and a radio WOMEX studio broadcasting live.
World music is nearly impossible to define. It includes all genres from classical to rock and pop to folk music. What seperates it from other “musics” is that it crosses musical and geographical borders much more than other genres. World music is therefore closely connected with globalization. World music artists are often economically and/ or politically motivated and have an oral music education instead of an academic music education. Still, WOMEX is trying to get more educators to the event in order to spread world music through teachers.
WOMEX is dominated by world music from Europe and is therefore trying to attract more delegates from Africa and Asia. In order to include delegates on other continents that can not afford to travel to Europe, WOMEX has established regional platforms for poor countries.
The aim of WOMEX is to innovate diversity of music. People from the hardcore music industry are therefore not represented in order to avoid the artists and their music becoming commercialized. Apart from that, all are welcome, including artists of rebel music or music in support of political powers.
By Jon Inge Lomeland