Thursday, October 28, 2010

WOMEX 2010: Opening Night

It's chilly and rainy in Copenhagen, but the world music faithful are gathering in their thousands for their annual summit.  The trade fair, held at the Copenhagen Forum not far from downtown, is abuzz with record labels, booking agents, festival organizers, and national and regional cultural organizations, many amid the hundreds of stands on the expansive trade floor, but just as many moving around with their computers and phones, virtual offices on two feet!

Night time concerts happen on the DR Koncerthuset, the "blue cube," as Womexicans affectionately call it.  Affectionately because it is a huge, stunning facility.  The three performance spaces WOMEX is using rival any this gathering has known in its sixteen years.  The opening night concert took place in the largest venue, a yawning, woody cavern of pleasure!  The show featured a remarkable presentation of Korean music called "The Chaosmos of Korean Music: Heaven, Earth, and Human."  As cosmic as it sounds, the performance featured a shaman, two Buddhist monks dancing with enormous cymbals, and three different ensembles of musicians who played first separately, and in the finale, together. 

For African music aficionados like Sean Barlow and myself, the most satisfying action turned out to be afterhours at an off-off-WOMEX nightclub called Global.  There, straight from Conakry, Guiniea, a rootsy but streetwise band called Les Espoirs de Coronthie cranked out a super-charged blend of Mande tradition--three strong male singers, virtuoso kora and balafon players, dancers, percussion, Wow!--with shades of ragga, rapping and hip hop beats.  A visceral taste of the new Africa.  So much more to come!

Banning Eyre

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