Nathan Seyoum

A great act of approbation was garnered by the city of Katowice in the outskirts of southern Poland. This feat as described in the Cities of Music, a UNESCO venture, purports the beckoning that Katowice was indeed one of the “most important music centers in Europe.” A claim of sorts was not achieved alone and thus was affected by a confluence of happenings which began by the visit of WOMEX to the city and culminated in a five-day event packed with several bonanzas. Then as they say, the rest is history.

Perhaps the operational definition here is WOMEX, a conflated acronym to reveal the Worldwide Music Expo. It is an event of epic proportions siphoning the magnanimity of large-scale production and the intricacies of a small one. WOMEX is a get together of sorts of different musical delicacies from all over the world. It is one of the largest and greatest music scenes on the globe.

Created by founders Christoph Borkowsky and Ben Mandelson, WOMEX has celebrated 25 years of music and spectacles. Back in 1994 when it held its first event in Berlin, Germany, there were only 200 people who registered for the event. Now, over 2,500 performers and professionals from 83 countries come to share stories, network, meet new faces, and enjoy music that they lest have heard before.

A typical WOMEX day starts with a shot of cortado to get through the vast schedule of the day. The first day would be allocated to the shenanigans of the opening day where speeches are made and the expo ribbon is officially cut. The second day will consume you with the different blend of curiosity blinders as you go to the trade fair and quickly jolt back to the different conference sessions and network meetings that are happening simultaneously. However, the music is only the first part. Besides the auditory arts, the visual arts are given a medium wherein you get to visit their film library and bask in the screening of officially selected films from festivals. In the midst of all these, there would be showcase concerts that spotlight over 60 acts from all over the globe. These 60 acts are carefully chosen, as per proposals submitted, by the grandiose Club Summit. The Club aims to select final showcases for the Official WOMEX showcase – something like a grand finale.

Upon reaching the end of the fifth day, a networking farewell is done to bid adieu. As most people collect their business cards for future collaborative prospects and some just enjoy the treat of new and undiscovered music, the final event would commence – the anticipated WOMEX Award Ceremony. It is a ceremonious occasion that began in 1999 to recognize “exceptional achievements in” various categories such as “musical excellence, social importance, political impact, and lifetime achievement.” A fitting end for a roller coaster of a week.

Every year WOMEX is visited by thousands of people from all over the world. There are companies, exhibitors and performers networking to create a hub for new musicians to discover the world in their bubble and seasoned practitioners to see what new talent is out there to foster the relationship of musical collaborations or to break new markets that they might have not known. Some may find inspiration to find new paths that otherwise were hidden and perhaps build new musical identities through the experience of various artists. WOMEX has carved this path and it will carve it out for the next 25 years of music, film, and art that is yet to come.

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