The World Music Expo – is kind of like a traveling SXSW for global music. Mostly an industry affair, with about 2,000 attendees from 100 countries, the five days of nonstop showcases, panel discussion, meetings, film screenings and schmoozing (did I mention the concerts? Concerts too) end up setting the the pace for the year that follows. I came home from this year’s festival – held this year in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain – totally revved up and inspired by what I saw and heard.
This year’s WOMEX proved to be an incredibly strong one for Latin and Caribbean music, thanks to acts like Honduras’ Guayo Cedeño, Colombia’s Tribu Baharú and Mexico’s Troker. And a few artists and groups I already knew and loved were out in full force: the Congolese-Belgian singer Baloji‘s show was relentlessly tight; I couldn’t tear myself away from the utterly charming El Gusto Orchestra, from Algeria, or the recently renamed Orkesta Mendoza, the only U.S. group to showcase at WOMEX 2014.
The most exciting artists I heard this year were new to me, and they tended to be either hard-driving modernists or performers who presented roots music in innovative ways. I know I missed plenty of wonderful stuff, trying to navigate overlapping showcases throughout Santiago’s old quarter. Maybe by the time next year’s event lands in Budapest I’ll finally have figured out how to clone myself.
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