Three global bands to look out for, courtesy of WOMEX

Every fall, musicians, artist managers, concert hosts and record labels from all over the world gather somewhere in Europe for a conference and festival called WOMEX. This year’s event took place in Lisbon, Portugal – and here are some of the top picks for emerging artists who showcased at WOMEX 2022.

The first thing to know about WOMEX (aka the Worldwide Music Expo) is that while the organizers sell some tickets to the public, it’s primarily aimed at music industry professionals as a place to find new talent – and it’s essentially a starting point for global artists. It is also an extremely important resource for the people who book music festivals and venues in the United States. For example, Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha went from WOMEX to booking a Tiny Desk concert and frequent US tours.

One of the bands that caused a stir at WOMEX 2022 was Son Rompe Pera, a band from Mexico City. They are already scheduled to play at New York’s globalFEST at Lincoln Center in January and SXSW in March.

Son Rompe Pera was founded by a couple of three brothers, the Gamas, who wanted to keep their family tradition of marimba alive. As children, they played at local events with their father. But they also played in punk bands as teenagers. At the group’s live shows you see and hear both sides: their

sound is really polished cumbia, but their look and energy is very punk-metal – lots of tattoos and hipster haircuts and jumping around on stage. The WOMEX crowd went wild for them.

That is an example of a band that brings modern energy to early music. But there is always something for everyone at WOMEX. Participants came from 116 countries, with over 60 musical showcases on tap. That means there’s always something for everyone – from cutting-edge artists to musicians who go out of their way to ensure tradition is kept. One of the latter is a great singer from India named Rina Das Baul.

Rina Das Baul is a traditional singer who hails from a small village in the Indian state of West Bengal. She is part of a spiritual community, the Bauls, whose adherents are itinerant mystics who sing praises to God. She sings to herself on a one-string instrument and a drum on her hip – and her voice is pure and full of sunshine.

Another highlight was a band from Mali called Al Bilali Soudan. Many people have come to know and love the Tuareg music of the Sahara – the so-called “desert blues” – thanks to artists such as the band Tinariwen and the guitarist and singer Bombino, among others. You’ll hear a similar style from Al Bilali Soudan, who shares his nickname with an old name for the city of Timbuktu.

What is striking and different in Al Bilali Soudan’s music is the percussion, which hits like a brick. It’s called a rhythm takambabeat like a heartbeat on gourds.

The first time I heard takamba was in Mali in 2003, which also happened to be the first time I heard Tinariwen live – but none of the other Tuareg groups that have made it to international fame make takamba as central to their sound as Al Bilali Sudan. Simply put, it’s a style I always love to hear. In the weeks just before WOMEX, Al Bilali Soudan had his first US tour, but no doubt the band’s performance in Portugal will extend its international reach.

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