Bringing together professionals from the worlds of folk, roots and traditional music, WOMEX is the highlight for the world music calendar. This year will look a little different, as it will no longer be taking place in Budapest as the music showcases, conference, films, award ceremony, exhibiting companies and networking opportunities are going online.
Alongside the official showcases, we’re thrilled to present three Welsh musicians at this year’s virtual Horizons at WOMEX. First established at WOMEX13 when the event was hosted in Cardiff by Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales, Horizons ensures that individual talent from Scotland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales can reach new, international markets by sharing resources, information and stages between nations.
We will be sharing Lisa Jên from 9Bach’s performance filmed by Neuadd Ogwen for their new festival of indigenous languages, Gŵyl Mawr y Rhai Bychain. Lisa is the main singer and songwriter for 9Bach, whose second album 'Tincian' won Best Album at The BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 and who have recently released their third album, ANIAN, which has been critically acclaimed nationally. She cites her collaboration with the first nation indigenous Australian super group Black Arm Band in 2012 as a pivotal point in her song-writing career.
N’famady Kouyaté, a master musician from Guinea, will be sharing his contemporary take on West African Mandingue songs and rhythms. Although a multi-instrumentalist, his primary instrument is the balafon – a traditional, wooden xylophone which he plays as a solo artist and as part of his band The Successors of the Mandingue. The performance shared on the Horizons at WOMEX website was filmed for Neuadd Ogwen’s Gŵyl Ara Deg.
The Gentle Good completes the trio of performances with his live performance at Tafwyl, a festival celebrating the Welsh language, arts and culture based in Cardiff Castle. Performer Gareth Bonello is known for his enchanting melodies and skilful guitar style, creating timeless folk songs that he’s played to audiences all over the world. His latest album is set to release in 2020 and showcases musical collaborations with Khasi artists from Meghalaya in North East India.
In addition to these three showcases, we have partnered with Neuadd Ogwen to create and curate a conversation to launch their new festival of indigenous languages, Gŵyl Mawr y Rhai Bychain, which is scheduled to take place in Autumn 2021. Continuing the legacy of last year’s Ein Llais yn y byd conference in Aberystwyth as part of the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages 2019, this conversation titled Music, Indigenous Languages, Global Emergencies and Me takes places between Lisa Jên (9Bach), ShoShona Kish (Digging Roots), Gareth Bonello (The Gentle Good), Brìghde Chaimbeul and Jo Frost, editor of Songlines. It looks ahead to the UNESCO Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032, with a renewed focus on human rights and the impact of climate change on indigenous languages and cultures and will be included in the programme of the World Music Pan-Indigenous Network, who will be holding their third annual meeting at WOMEX 20.
We have offered bursaries for promoters and music industry professionals to attend WOMEX for a number of years, and we’ve continued to offer these again this year. We’re pleased to have funded 7 passes for presenters, promoters and artists to access this year’s festival – some of them for the first time. Look out for when we announce their names on our socials during the week.
You can learn more about their experiences by following their takeover of our Instagram channel later this week: @waicymruwales.
Despite so much disruption and uncertainty in recent months, we believe that connecting with peers and learning from others from different cultures all across the world in events such as WOMEX ties us ever deeper into our global community. The shift to digital working and festivals has enabled us to continue important conversations and valuable relationships, and we’re thrilled to be bringing a new group of people on that journey with us through our presence at WOMEX this year.