Womex 2013, Cardiff, 23-27 Ottobre 2013

È stata Cardiff l’ambientazione della più famosa fiera delle musiche del mondo. L’edizione 2013 del Womex ha accolto oltre 2200 delegati, tra etichette discografiche, direttori di festival, promoter e stampa specializzata, e più di 300 artisti provenienti da ogni parte del mondo. Un fitto programma di incontri d’affari, dibattiti, proiezioni, showcase al mattino e al pomeriggio, mentre alla sera concerti e dj set serali per quella che da anni si presenta più come un flusso ininterrotto di musica che una mera fiera-mercato. Cross-over e musica tradizionale, nu folk e musica d’arte extra-occidentale, jazz declinato in salsa locale e progetti etno-digitali si sono avvicendati nella vetrina gallese. Blogfoolk accoglie la testimonianza di prima mano di un personaggio avvezzo a frequentare le fiere musicali: a raccontarci la sua esperienza di scafato womexiano è il poliedrico Nick Hobbs, cantante, promoter, manager, nonché collaboratore delle autorevoli riviste britanniche fRoot and Songlines. 

A wandering Womexican reports 
I visit quite a few showcase events and conferences every year and Womex is always the highlight. There's always a lot of good music and some great music, but even more than that, the spirit of Womex is music and enjoyment first, business second, which means, rather than dog eat dog just under the surface, there's a sense of a bunch of very different people who form a floating collegiate. And I think that's because nearly everyone in world music is deeply into the music while struggling to make a living, with the chances of making serious bucks few and far between (and it's harder now than it was ten years ago), so, rather than trying to scramble up the beacons of showbiz, we get on with the job in hand and thrive on enthusiasm. The foundation is a constantly-shifting global palette of local musics and often unlikely fusions and hybrids. Much much more varied than any other musical genre (world music of course is not a genre in a musical sense rather a kind of meta-culture). As in previous years, I find myself, a bit eccentrically, with the encouragement of fRoots, flitting between the gigs like a train-spotter and trying to quickly capture what the artist is about, and no doubt sometimes doing them a disservice because I cannot catch the whole set and/or my brain goes fuzzy in the chase. Still that's part of the nature of showcases, that short time the artist has with an audience to get themselves across notwithstanding quick soundchecks, dodgy lights, unfamiliar equipment, distracted audiences or whatever. Womex in Cardiff was one of the best-organised I've been to.
The showcase venues were all close to each other, the acoustics were all acceptable, the local sound-engineers mostly managed to do a pretty good job (tendency to pump the bass-drum apart) and especially they kept sound-levels to a reasonable level. The showcases were well-attended by locals as well as delegates (which means that few of the gigs were short on audience), the conference venue was walking distance from the showcases, all the stands fitted into one space, the wi-fi worked. And the weather was splendid. Oh, and the music wasn't bad either... And a special mention for the Arts Council of Wales who had to struggle with a great deal of persistence to get some of the British visas approved (deplorably, one group couldn't come because their visas weren't approved). Criticisms: I think the hosts got it wrong with the opening gala, and all the stages excepting the theatre were rather lower than they should have been (and I'm tall), the lights had that unfortunate contemporary tendency to point from upstage towards the audience rather than downstage towards the musicians, the Off-Womex stage was great (as there was a lot of traffic through the space) for loud bands but not good for quiet ones as the bar-chatter tended to drown out the music, it would have been nice to get kicked out slower after the last gig on Saturday night, nothing else springs to mind. There were several conference sessions I would like to have attended and some films I'd like to have seen but there was simply no time. Cultural aside: some Serbian friends paid their first visit to Britain and stayed in nearby Newport because they'd left booking their hotels late. They were shocked at that British-wide cultural phenomenon of kids out in droves getting totally wasted on Friday and Saturday nights. There's no equivalent of that in Serbia, or in most other countries.
The music... (blue means I liked them a great deal, red means I particularly liked the gig and would be happy to see the artist again soon, and black can mean anything but does mean it's not blue or red...): Land Of Song The opening gala concert dedicated to the music of Wales. Artistic Director: Cerys Matthews I grew up in Wales and love the land passionately. While at school, I had a non-relationship to Welsh culture because it seemed official, staid, and irrelevant, and sadly I never went to an Eisteddfod, nor - a few swearwords apart - learned Welsh. The adage ‘Land Of Song’ might be a lot to live up to and it always seemed to me to be part wishful thinking - as far as the kind of singing I was into was concerned anyway. Since leaving Wales when I was fourteen (though returning often for walks in the mountains), I’ve enjoyed songs by The Gentle Good, 9Bach and Phil Campbell, as well as various Welsh (English-singing) rock bands like Manic Street Preachers and Super Furry Animals, but that’s about it, so with much interest I took my seat for this gala. It seems to have become a fashion for the host cities and countries of Womexes to lay it on thick for the Wednesday evening bashes. And too easily for my taste we slide from folk into folklore, into a sanitised version of folk culture, which is what I thought I was avoiding by not going to Eisteddfods, where the proper appearance of things takes over from the soul. Where folk costumizing replaces sweat, coal-dust and mud. This evening the songs were sung beautifully, the music was well-played, and the enthusiastic Matthews was a likeable host. There were dancers, choirs, a linking-band (fronted by Matthews), soloists and ensembles.
There were historical projections and an over-wrought set. The songs themselves tended to the jolly and there was little that seemed to echo the tough history of this mining and hill-farming land surrounded on three sides by an unforgiving sea. The dancing was divided between folkloric clog-dances, entertaining but rather too professional for my taste, and freaky folk-balleting by Ballet Cymru, which was interesting because freaky but I would have preferred something much less showy. The performer I warmed to most was Twm Morys who started the evening off with a declaimed poem in Welsh. He was a bit too professional (I see a theme developing here) but he also gave it some welly and I was engaged not just amused. Otherwise I found myself floating in and out of half-pleasured bemusement where I was neither bored nor engaged. My advice would be to strip away the decorations (of all kinds), drop the niceties (just because we’re in a palace of culture doesn’t mean that we have to defer to some notion of folk-culture as high-culture) and tourist-guide effusions (folk-kitsch), and bring on the miners, farmers, fishers, and all those folk-punks who put spirit above the trappings.




Nick Hobbs 
(postato anche nel forum del mensile fRoots alla voce 'Gig Reviews')