Womex 2010 - Editor's Highlights (part one)
Here at WorldMusic.co.uk we've recently returned from Womex 10 - the world's leading World Music Expo held this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. Over the space of five days it's a chance for the globe's leading movers and shakers in the sphere of world music to get together, meet new people, network, do deals, hear new bands and recordings and talk about the future of world music. We've had a great time with the other 2400 odd delegates, 1360 companies, 850 Festival and Concert bookers, 600 labels and distributors, 350 journalists and broadcasters and 300 artists.
Enough stats! Here is the first blog of my Womex 2010 highlights, taking in the first full day and night. Of the 40-50 official showcases, the 9 official 'unofficial' off-Womex showcases and the many unofficial showcases you can only take so many acts in no matter how hard you try and how organised you are. Of the ones I did manage to take in these are my standouts…
"a voice as pure as an angel's"
Antonio Zambujo currently Portugal's number one male fado singer - I've already writing a separate concert review of this (see under Reviews), but just to say, if you ever get the chance to see this man - go! Exquisite artistry and a voice as pure as an angel's - he had the audience utterly entranced and bewitched from the moment the first notes shimmered across the Koncerthuset. This guy and his band are stunning. (www.antoniozambujo.com)
"dancing in the aisles in musical ecstasy"
Later on that night in the same venue Papa Wemba the veteran Congolese rumbero had the audience dancing in the aisles in musical ecstasy - special mention must go to his solo encore track. Trust me, this guy didn't need a band behind him - he stood alone in front of a microphone at the edge of the stage and took us into his song; just Papa and his voice stripped naked. Once again the power of the human voice to haul our hearts up to new levels never ceases to astonish me. The audience of seasoned world music industry insiders agreed and clamoured for more. But there was no need for more - he'd said it all. Papa had sung his heart out. He bowed, turn around and walked off-stage. Priceless moment. (www.papawemba.fr)
"Great live band!"
Germany's LaBrass Banda take 'Oompah' music to a new level too! Ditching the unintentionally quasi-comic image of traditional Bavarian brass they come nearer to the Balkan heavy brass vibe (even in leiderhausen!) crossed with some heavy rock attitude. Difficult to describe, all I can say is that, as a live band these guys are very exciting indeed. Great live band! (www.labrassbanda.com)
"an utterly impelling groove"
Another band taking the traditional music of their country and giving it some serious 'rockismo' are the Argentinian band, Tremor. These three young guys, (Leonardo Martinelli, Camilo Carabajal & Gerardo Farez), mix the many elements of their country's rich musical heritage (Argentina's not all tango guys!!) and play charangos (tiny 10-string instruments - originally made from armadillo shells, now of wood), t'arkas (wooden flutes with a particularly harsh sound) and bombo legüero (the deep bass goatskin drum) with electric guitar, keys, loops and melodica! They take what seems a very unusual mix of instruments and what at first seems to be a sparse set and sound and create an utterly impelling groove powered in particular by Camilo's thundering bombo rhythms and punk attitude. As their press release said: "This is no languid lounge music . . . digital folklore for a new generation". Great festival band - and lovely guys offstage too! (www.zzkrecords.com/artist/tremor)
"a voice that could floor a man at a hundred paces . . . "
I only managed to catch the dying notes of Galician bagpiper Cristina Pato on the Sounds from Spain stage, but made sure I was well in place for the multinational Barcelonian flamenco band Las Migas. This was definitely one of my highlights of Womex: four beautiful - and extremely talented - women on violin/accordion, two Spanish guitars and cajon/vocals (accompanied by Andalucian percussionist Carlos Cortés Bustamante). The musicianship evident on-stage would be enough to make it to my highlights list on its own, but what really catapults them above other similarly talented bands is the stage presence of their lead singer, the cantaora Silvia Pérez Cruz. Seated upon her cajón centrestage, she is like a magnet to the eyes and ears - no mean feat considering the skills and charisma of her compañeras - and certainly for me that night she had the elusive duende so sought after in flamenco. Posture, grace, facial expression, delicate hand-movements and a voice that could floor a man at a hundred paces . . . She effortlessly travels between flamenco and jazz in the most subtle nuances of her voice. Offstage she is tiny compared to the brilliant guitarist (and curvaceously statuesque beauty!) Marta Robles Crespo, but onstage Silvia is like a queen holding court. As you can tell, she ruled my head, ears and heart that night. The reality is that the whole band were stupendous, the playful Lisa Bause (from Germany) swapping between violin and accordion, the slightly more serious Isabelle Laudenbach (France) on guitar, the effortless fluidity of Marta Robles and not forgetting the sympathetically subtle percussion of Carlos Cortes. I came not knowing at all what to expect - I left utterly converted. ¡Viva Las Migas! (www.lasmigas.com)
That first night finished off with a DJ set from three DJs (Oops, Pezao & Barata) from the Brazilian collective, Criolina. Hailing from Brasilia, the capital of their country, they have been together for five years, playing every Monday and pulling an average audience of 700 a time (yes, on a Monday!) with spin off nights in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Only three of the five main guys came over for this, but what a show. It's not easy to get a large room of world musos rocking at 1.45 in the morning after they've worked all day long and then seen half a dozen or more amazing bands already that night, but these guys pulled it off. Working as one they selected, dissected, tweaked and twiddled over and around each other without let up as they shared one musical vision and one brain split between three bodies. What truly made them good was not so much the technical virtuosity they displayed whilst setting bits of one tune against the rhythm of another, but the choice of raw material they sourced it all from (and it wasn't just Brazilian music either). This was no boringly predictable mishmash of pre-programmed loops and beats from the myriad of DJ-software out there, but authentic tunes - real music - that would probably sound perfect played with no cutting and splicing anyway; and it's that quality that shone through - these guys really love the tunes they played. That's the way I like to DJ myself - if you can't get excited about the music yourself, how can you expect the audience too. It worked. I was knackered beyond belief when they came on and yet within a few minutes I was gyrating round the floor as if I'd just stepped out fresh and ready. By the time they hit the cumbias, I was good to go all night. Criolina rock! (www.criolina.com) - for a taste of what they actually played that night go to: soundcloud.com/criolina/sets/sistema-criolina-live-copenhagen-womex-2010