WOMEX responds to refugee crisis

Building bridges and crossing borders, culture tops the agenda in Budapest

Music’s role in facilitating social change and cultural understanding will come into focus this year at WOMEX 15, taking place 21 – 25 October in Budapest, Hungary. In light of the Hungarian government’s treatment of Syrian refugees, the debate on how to welcome refugees coming to Europe has spread to WOMEX delegates and reporting media. As such, organisers and delegates will attend the expo with the aim of strengthening the role of culture in the debate, whilst positioning their work in an even broader context.

Says WOMEX director Alexander Walter: ‘We clearly stand up against all forms of xenophobia, but this is only the least we can do. More importantly, it is our aim to set positive examples and stimulate mutual cross-cultural understanding though concrete, targeted and grassroots action. WOMEX impacts the city and region where the event takes place as well as a global community through our international conference and public concerts to be held in Budapest and reported on all over the world. This year’s artists, who come from 50 countries, demonstrate how essential diversity is: it is a building block of harmony. We feel signals like this are needed more than ever before.’

Balázs Weyer, of local organiser Hangvetö, supports Walter’s vision: ‘Amidst the turbulence and concerns of the past weeks, unprecedented numbers of Hungarian and international volunteers have showed their solidarity to refugees. Some of these efforts are triggered by musicians of various genres who came together to mobilise their fans, organised aid chains and were personally present in the crisis zones. We have witnessed several moving moments that show how music can change mindsets, build trust and organise actual help. One of those moments has been the pop-up concert of Bea Palya. The singer, who will be on stage at the WOMEX 15 opening, played for and with refugees in a transit zone. Look at the pictures that show the capacity of music to build bridges in an instant. It’s our responsibility to use this capacity whenever it’s needed.’

WOMEX organisers Piranha Arts have also reaffirmed a commitment to building bridges through music and will host discussions on how to change the world through music at the world music expo. At a series of events, delegates will be urged to join in the dialogue about promoting cultural diversity.

Iranian Ramin Sadighi of Hermes Records, who has played a key role in building Iran’s music scene, will receive this year’s WOMEX Professional Excellence Award and for the first time, WOMEX will gather together representatives from the social impact sphere to discuss projects that use music and culture to bring about social change.

The self-described “label with a punk rock attitude”, Glitterbeat, will receive the WOMEX Label Award for the second time running.

The 17th WOMEX Award Ceremony will be held on Sunday, 25 October at Müpa (Palace of Arts) in Budapest