WOMEX DAY 4
There was once again an eclectic mixture of music professionals and local music lovers at the closing evening of WOMEX’s biggest edition in its 12-year-history. Musical acts of note included the powerful showcase performances on Saturday by Tcheka with his Cape Verdian verve; Kurdish artist Aynur and her soaring voice; the experienced acumen of Juan Carlos Caceres; Darko Rundek’s usual mixture of slightly barmy brilliance; the unusual Adjagas yoikers from Norway; and the slick closing set by DJ Click. Meanwhile, the stage seemed too big for living legend Calypso Rose. The Tobagan did what she could to compensate the loss of her entire band - stuck in London after airplane cancellations -, yet it was a sad experience to see her vibrant calypso singing disappear in the vast confines of Pavilion 3.
Speaking of which, what has frustrated the professionals this year, have been the FIBES acoustics. They impeded our finer judgement, as sound bounced around the pavilion’s high ceilings, coagulating uncomfortably during the more electrified sets. As a result, the old grumbles and complaints returned in 2006. A record number of participants in Sevilla also meant an unprecedented number of ears fine-tuned to the musical richness this planet has to offer us. Yet, for much of the four days and 43 showcases, there was difficulty finding the high standards set in WOMEX 2005 in Gateshead, England.
What did evolve positively in this twelfth edition was the space and organisation reserved for the trade fair. Time was short as usual, negotiations brisk, even frantic, but the stalls were user-friendly and had lost the oppressive feel of last year’s vast tent. “We never stopped trading and our exchanges have gone some way to palliating the crisis the music industry is going through,” remarked one label manager who finalised an impressive series of tour dates for her artists. Another tour promoter was just praying that the semi-promises proffered would come to fruition in the coming months.
Equally successful were the conferences and film screenings that climaxed with the moving documentary on Ali Farka Touré and his recording sessions in Hotel Mandé. Since the passing away of the great Malian guitarist/singer/songwriter on March 7th the accolades have showered down on his final works, recorded in the improvised studios off the River Niger. World Circuit had the wisdom of filming Farka’s exchanges with kora player Toumani Diabaté, aware that history was in the making. Visibly moved at Saturday’s screening, producer Nick Gold described the dignity and musical wisdom of this African giant, only months before his death. Deborah Cohen, a longtime friend of Farka, promised the packed audience she would continue his work thanks to a foundation she is coordinating internationally with Mali’s Ministry of Culture. This will be devoted to the monumental legacy the guitarist has left behind in the cultural and agricultural domains.
Such magic moments at WOMEX helped offset the concerns over the future of “world music” in an entertainment industry that continues to try to marginalise this genre. Despite the challenges, WOMEX 2007 will once again return to the shores of Sevilla’s Guadalquivir River with an expanded trade fair and promises of new initiatives. Perhaps it will be inspired by the hero that legend claims built this beautiful Andalusian city, Hercules. Could WOMEX number 13 be the Greek personality’s thirteenth labour of love?