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WOMEX 18 Closes with New Perspectives and a Stronger Sense of Cultural Unity

Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Matti Mattila

The 24th edition of WOMEX, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 24–28 October 2018, successfully wrapped up yesterday with new perspectives and a stronger sense of cultural unity. The closing ceremony celebrations concluded with a mesmerising performance by San Francisco's Kronos Quartet, who received the WOMEX Artist Award 2018. Prior to the concert, part of the closing ceremony at Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Canadian musician and activist ShoShona Kish and Glitterbeat Records were also honoured, respectively, with the WOMEX Professional Excellence and Label Award.

For its first Transatlantic edition, WOMEX was able to gather, yet again, a very positive balance, proving its position as the most diverse, influential and wide-ranging world music market and showcase festival worldwide. The proximity to the African continent and the geographical location were also key points to this year's successful edition, reassuring the position of the Canary Islands as a harbour of rich, cultural exchange.

With over 60 studio recordings and countless performances all over the globe, Kronos Quartet's exemplary work celebrates openness, curiosity, and intercultural dialogue, making them more than deserving of this award. Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of New York University in Abu Dhabi and co-founder of GlobalFest presented the award to the quartet.

David Harrington, the founding member of Kronos Quartet on receiving the award expressed:

"On behalf of John, Hank, Sunny and myself: thank you WOMEX for this great honour. We’d like to express our appreciation to Alexander Walter, Ben Mandelson and the entire WOMEX team for adding Kronos Quartet to the esteemed list of award recipients. We are really humbled to be in this company (...) there is so much to do in music and it seems there’s more to do every day. I think WOMEX is such a fabulous opportunity for the community to gather, reenergize ourselves and get ready for the following year."

ShoShona Kish, a founding member of Digging Roots, was awarded the Professional Excellence Award for her role in the ongoing revolution in giving voice to indigenous communities and their culture, while introduced by Jo Frost, editor for Songlines Magazine, who enhanced Kish's noble dedication to the cause. In her speech ShoShona Kish very heartwarmingly shared:

"A very heartfelt ‘chi-miigwech’ (big thank you) to the WOMEX team for seeing the work that is happening in indigenous Canada, indigenous communities around the world, and for your gracious hosting before the event. (...) In these times of darkness is our greatest potential. It’s like the seed beneath the earth waiting to burst forth. And it’s at these moments of darkness that we have the most potential to create light."

Germany-based Glitterbeat Records were honoured with the WOMEX Label Award for their dedicated work within the music industry, this year counting five distinctions in total. This award is statistically calculated by equally combining data from both the World Music Charts Europe and the Transglobal Music Chart, both indicators of the most popular world music at the time.

To receive the distinction Glitterbeat co-founder, Chris Eckman conveyed:

"It’s absolutely humbling to be here again, I have to say that. It’s not something we ever take for granted and I feel I say the same thing every year: We do this on behalf of our artists. This is an artist-driven business, it’s not a business driven by us that work in the office. It’s driven by the magic created on stage and on records."

WOMEX 18 Recap

Wednesday’s opening programme Tránsitos Atlánticos was the perfect start to this year’s edition. Over the five days, INFECAR was buzzing with music enthusiasts and professionals, from all corners of the world, connecting, discussing, networking and making the most out of their attendance. The conversations were a collection of all the currently burning issues, challenges, and current affairs. Topics varied from music and migration to tech and blockchain, from Brexit to the recent rising visa issues for artists, from bringing the world of indigenous music together, to discussing the rights of women as well as nonbinary gender and ethnic minorities within the arts and many others.

Auditorio Alfredo Kraus was a host to six stages this year with a variety of music and artists to select and discover. As diverse in bringing sounds and cultures together as ever, the music and the artists had travelled from as far as Korea to New Zealand to Cuba to Serbia and everywhere in between. As a special section of the programme, the late-night 'Club Summit' had once again brought urban dance styles by DJs and music producers from around the globe. The musical styles of the showcases varied from folk to jazz to cumbia to flamenco to fusion rock to stoner blues to the deeper sounds of electronica and Afrobeat layered with synths and much more.

Another new addition to this year's film programming is the launch of WOMEX Films on Demand: a brand new venture giving exclusive online access to the 2018 film programme to the delegates. In collaboration with filmmakers and production houses, 14 films have been made available on virtualWOMEX for 30 days post the expo.

About WOMEX - The World Music Expo

WOMEX is the leading international networking platform and showcase festival for the world music industry – a global family meeting of music lovers and entrepreneurs. The annual five-day event comprises jury-selected showcase concerts in the nights plus a daytime professionals’ programme featuring a packed trade fair, an extensive conference and selected films.

WOMEX is the point of presence for a wide range of musical styles from the most traditional to global pop and juxtapositions of the two, including jazz and classical styles.

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