WOMEX takes a stand against xenophobia amid refugee crisis

Ahead of the upcoming World Music Expo (WOMEX) being held in Budapest, Hungary from 21 to 25 October this year, the recent debate on how to welcome refugees to Europe has also spread to the WOMEX organisers and delegates, who are determined to take a strong stand against xenophobia and racism, and to promote diversity and unity through music.

Colombian band Tribu Baharu at WOMEX 2014. Photo: worldmusiccentral.org
Colombian band Tribu Baharu at WOMEX 2014. Photo: worldmusiccentral.org

In a recently released press statement on behalf of the WOMEX community, WOMEX Director Alexander Walter said: We clearly stand up against all forms of xenophobia - and this is only the least we can do. More importantly, it is our aim to set positive examples and stimulate mutual cross-cultural understanding though concrete, targeted and grassroots action. WOMEX impacts the city and the region where the event takes place, as well as a global community through our international conference and public concerts to be held in Budapest and reported on all over the world. This year's artists, who come from 50 countries, demonstrate how essential diversity is: it is a building block of harmony. We feel signals like this are needed more than ever before."

Balázs Weyer of local Hungarian partners Hangvetö, added: "Amidst the turbulence and concerns of the past weeks, unprecedented numbers of Hungarian and international volunteers have showed their solidarity to refugees. Some of these efforts are triggered by musicians of various genres, who came together to mobilise their fans, organised aid chains and were personally present in the crisis zones.

“We have witnessed several moving moments that show how music can change mindsets, build trust and organise actual help. One of those moments has been the pop-up concert of Bea Palya. The singer, who will be on stage at the WOMEX ‘15 opening, played for and with refugees in a transit zone. Look at the pictures that show the capacity of music to build bridges in an instant. It’s our responsibility to use this capacity whenever it’s needed," added Weyer.

The WOMEX organisers - and the expo’s many delegates - aim to strengthen the role of culture in this debate and see their work in an even broader context than the refugee debate suggests. The world music community is able to - and needs to - contribute to cross-cultural understanding. Dedicated events in the programme include:

  • A Roma-themed WOMEX opening, 'Gypsy HeartBeats', on Wednesday 21 October at MüPa Budapest, produced by Hangvetö.
  • A “change the world through music” network meeting at WOMEX, to be held on Thursday 22 October.
  • The Professional Excellence Award, which this year will honour Ramin Sadighi of Hermes Records, who has played a key role in building Iran's music scene.
  • Exciting showcases by artists from all over the world.

Outside of the main event itself, WOMEX is also working for the cause in other ways, for example by promoting joint statements for diversity and against racism; by taking a stand in public wherever they can be heard; by supporting individual migrant aid initiatives, whether through their head office in Berlin, in London, or in this year’s host city of Budapest; and by sharing opportunities to help and arranging for donations at WOMEX as well as online.

Last call for ‘late rate’ registrations and book your mentoring slot

Music and arts experts will be on hand this year to give insight into and advice on a range of subjects relevant to the global music community as part of the popular Round-Table and One-to-One Mentoring formats, which will be held during WOMEX.  Get tailored insight into how to grow your business, expand your audience or take your music to new heights from those in the know through the WOMEX Round-Table and One-to-One Mentoring sessions. Delegates are encouraged to take part (participation is free) but need to book a spot in advance by emailing conference@womex.com. To register for the Late Rate click here. The deadline is Friday 25 September. For details visit the WOMEX website.

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