The intersection of music and politics is not difficult to find at WOMEX. We started our second day at a well-attended session simply titled “Resist”. A panel of four women from arts agencies in the U.S. discussed their perspectives on the resistance to the normalization of intolerance in the U.S. The panel was chaired by Karima Daoudi of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and included Shanta Thake from Joe’s Pub and Global Fest in New York, Catalina Johnson of Beat Latino, and Leyla McCalla, a U.S.-Haitian performer. The panelists provided specific examples of activities they have developed to educate and motivate their base support. They stressed the importance of returning to the base for affirmation to combat fatigue and disillusionment. They also spoke about the free-speech issues of using publically-funded and corporate-endowed agencies as a platform for resistance activities. I would recommend interviews with any of these women on WORT news or music programs.
During the same afternoon, we attended a moving performance by Dimitris Mystakidis who re-produced Greek-American immigration songs of the early 20th century, documenting the sad, tragic events of that time, with a clear message for today’s immigration crises. In the evening, the Polish band Handba (Shame!) presented songs with lyrics from mid-20th century anti-fascist writings set to a loud, in-your-face folk-punk style.
In the late afternoon we caught a showing of the film Ethiopiques – Revolt of the Soul which chronicles the history of Ethiopian pop music from the 1960s to today. The film chronicles the birth of pop recording and the decades-long effort of Francis Falceto to re-issue an extensive vinyl archive as the Ethiopiques CD series. Central to the film is political disruption of the Derg regime and how an oppressive government can silence the arts. As an aside, here is a link to my favorite artist in the series, Mahmoud Ahmed: YouTube: Mahmoud Ahmed
The evening concerts are an embarrassment of riches. For three straight nights, five stages host three bands each – 45 bands in total! It is almost impossible to see even half of an evening’s performers. The performances are called “showcases” where each artist is limited to one 45-minute set. Different than most other concerts, the artists are facing an audience who is judging whether or not to hire the band for festivals and concert tours.
The very first group we caught on the first night, Dakh Daughters, continued on a political theme. This was the most theatrical performance and offered the most challenging and artistic effort of all of WOMEX this year. Dakh Daughters are related to one of my favorite bands, DakhaBrakha, in that they both originate from amongst the players at the Dakh theater in Kiev, Ukraine. They also share a cellist, Nina Garenetska. Dakh Daughters features six women in punk-doll costumes, weaving theater continuously into their musical presentation. Their lyrics (translated in supertitles) sometimes describe post-world disasters and the nonsensical role of God. One graphically explicit piece was set to a poem by Bukowski. YouTube: Dakh Daughters
Stay tuned: I’ll divert coverage of the remaining bands to the next volume.
Next up: WORT at WOMEX 2017 Part 4
Let’s go back: WORT at WOMEX 2017 Part 2