WOMEX gets underway in Hungary

The 2015 World Music Expo (WOMEX) - one of the most important international meetings for music professionals - has started in Budapest, Hungary. With a mission to promote intercultural exchange and business among music professionals, this year's event brings together music professionals and artists from across the world over the next five days to network, exchange with their peers and witness some of the most exciting artists from across the planet. 

The opening concert of WOMEX 15. Photo: Yannis Psathas
The opening concert of WOMEX 15. Photo: Yannis Psathas

WOMEX's 21st edition, dubbed WOMEX 15, opened its doors at daytime venue Bálna, where delegates and exhibitors mingled at the WOMEX Trade Fair before the gala opening concert, held in the evening at Müpa Budapest (Palace of Arts) on Wednesday 21 October. Presented under the title 'Gypsy HeartBeats', the opening concert honoured music from the Carpathian Basin by celebrating the musical impact of the Roma, whose appearance in the area can be traced back to the 15th century. The evening's performers were Attila Oláh, Romengo and Mónika Lakatos, Tcha Limberger, Bea Palya and Ferenc Radics, together with István Pál Szalonna and his all-star virtuoso ensemble. The latter artists were joined by all of the show's singers and performers for the concert finale.

Hangvető's Director of Programming, Balazs Weyer, said: "We, world music lovers, love not just the music, but the stories that come along with the rhythms and melodies. The Roma opening tells a fascinating story of different Gypsy communities of the Carpathian Region that lived together with Hungarians and their neighbours for centuries. Slowly, through mutual respect of the others' music, their cultures became a part of each other's."

With an explicit aim to promote cultural diversity and fight xenophobia, WOMEX is proud that the Roma took centre stage. WOMEX Director Alexander Walter said: "This year's opening expanded upon the WOMEX 11 Opening in Copenhagen, Denmark which presented music under the banner 'Hungarian HeartBeats'. 'Gypsy HeartBeats' took a closer a look at one of the most vital and vibrant musical cultures of this region – that of the Roma - bringing WOMEX's connection to music from Central Eastern Europe full circle. We also offer our gratitude to our local partners, Hangvető, for their tireless efforts putting together not only the Opening but also co-producing this edition of WOMEX."

The official day programme - including the conference, daily artist showcases, film screenings and trade fair – kicked off on Thursday 22 October. Over the next five days, delegates will take part in more than 20 conference sessions hosted by over 60 speakers; attend 15 striking film screenings co-produced in 19 countries and curated by WOMEX; form new partnerships at the trade fair; and get involved in round-table and one-to-one mentoring sessions as well as networking meetings and presentations.

Of course, they will also indulge in some first-class musical acts. The WOMEX Showcase Festival encompasses day and evening performances, with a special focus on music from Central Eastern Europe (titled 'Club Duna') as well as the popular DJ Summit. This year WOMEX offers a stage to more than 60 acts, with more than 300 musicians from 50 countries over 7 stages. African acts showcasing their talents at WOMEX this year will be Kenyan band SarabiPierre Kwenders (DRC/Canada), Vaudou Game (Togo/France), Blick Bassy (Cameroon/France), Mamar Kassey (Niger), Tarek Abdallah and Adel Shams El-Din (Egypt/France), and Ghanaian legend Pat Thomas and his Kwashibu Area Band. Senegalese musician Cheikh Lô will be honoured with this year's prestigious WOMEX Artist Award.

In line with its goal of facilitating cultural diversity, WOMEX 15 has been recognised by UNESCO as part of the Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which aims to protect and promote cultural diversity. WOMEX was also recently awarded the Europe for Festivals Festivals for Europe (EFFE) Festival Label, which acknowledges artistic commitment, community involvement and a festival’s international and global outlook. For more details visit the WOMEX website.

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