WOMEX, the largest and most important gathering of professionals in the field of folk music, celebrated the 25th anniversary in its northernmost location to date, Tampere, Finland last week on October 23 – 27. The event proved itself as a celebration of both diversity and inclusion that saw the highest-ever participation from the wider Nordic region, Baltic states and Russia.
More than 40 delegates from Estonia took part in WOMEX 25 and two Estonian artists—Cätlin Mägi and Mari Kalkun—performed in special focus programme Northern Connections that united Nordic and Baltic artists.
”This year’s edition of WOMEX in Tampere had more Nordic delegates than ever and the Northern Connections Stage showcased more Nordic artists than any previous WOMEX,“ says Tapio Korjus, Rockadillo Production’s Managing Director and the local partner of the event. “In that sense, WOMEX Tampere was a great platform for giving the spotlight to music from the neighbouring countries. I am very happy to say, that Estonian artists also delivered. Their fantastic showcases were really well received by the international talent buyers.”
Estonian talent was represented in special focus programme Northern Connections that united Nordic and Baltic artists by two innovative musicians: folk auteur Cätlin Mägi who explores the sonic potential of the Jew’s harp and singer-songwriter Mari Kalkun, acknowledged internationally for her works that evoke the rural life of South Estonia.
Mari Kalkun admits that playing at WOMEX was a long-awaited chance to come true for her. “I sense this as an important recognition to the work I’ve been doing, but also to the message of my music“, says the artist, adding: “Having a strong Estonian team behind me, it felt like the right time, too. I have huge respect for the organizers and also for the Finnish for the courage to bring the expo to the North – it was totally worth it! I´m really thankful that WOMEX is there standing up for diversity and values, which really badly need some more power in the world.”
Equality, non-discrimination, multi-culturalism, cultural diversity, easy access to culture, freedom of expression, the right to—and responsibility for—cultural heritage and the right to choose one’s own culture were some of the subjects addressed both in the opening speeches and the conference panels of the event. The Head of Tallinn Music Week Helen Sildna chaired the WOMEX conference session “The Nordic lessons in the foundations of gender balance”, discussing the Nordic way to deal with equality, plurality and diversity.
”Maybe the most important historical achievement, that hopefully will become a permanent practice, is the fact that gender equality was finally recognised and implemented at WOMEX 2019, resulting in almost half of the performers being female,” says Tapio Korjus.
Virgo Sillamaa, the Director of Music Estonia took part in the conference session that introduced successful world music projects that were supported by EU funding platforms. He also spoke at a session to help new delegates to make full use of all the opportunities available at the event.
Altogether, 40 delegates from Estonia joined WOMEX, including representatives of Traditional Music Centre, Viljandi Folk Music Festival, Jazzkaar Festival, Estonian Jazz Union, Tallinn Music Week and many others. Besides Mari Kalkun and Cätlin Mägi performing at the festival, the following Estonian artists were represented on spot: Angus, Black Bread Gone Mad, Curly Strings, FRÄNDER, Leana & Hartwin, Puuluup, Riffarrica, RÜÜT, Svjata Vatra, Tintura, Trad.Attack! and Tuulikki Bartosik.
For the first time, Estonia shared a common area with the Nordic countries at the trade fair and music development and information centres of all three Baltic countries—Music Estonia, Latvian Music Information Centre and Music Information Centre Lithuania—collaborated in the framework of the event.
Music Estonia coordinated the Estonian delegation participation and the pre- and post-programmes in Estonia.
The project is funded by Enterprise Estonia and the project is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund, under the “Development of Creative Industries” measure, it’s also financed by Estonian Ministry of Culture, Baltic Culture Fund and Estonian Authors’ Society. The project is created in partnership with Estonian Traditional Music Center, Estonian Jazz Union, Jazzkaar Festivals, Jazz Finland, Latvian Music Information Centre, Music Information Centre Lithuania, Estonian Embassy in Helsinki, and Tallinn Music Week.
WOMEX will once again return to Budapest, Hungary on 21 – 25 October 2020.