Various Artists: Womexizer 09

Various Artists
Womexizer 09

Womexizer 09 is a sampler. Sampler is the word I think of here, not compilation, not really, because when I see compilation, I picture a compiler setting out with an idea in mind, oh, let’s say, “I am going to find ten wonderful songs by 1970s rock bands from Lima,” or “I am going to show everyone the myriad ways in which the accordion is being played around the world.” Womexizer 09 is something more businesslike, the work of a person who has been handed a stack of albums and told to pick the tracks that seem most likely to appeal. “Are you doing anything important today?” this person might have been asked. “No? Just eating a sandwich? Good. Make yourself useful. Choose something nice from each of these. Put them in order. Thanks.” The person goggles, startled, still swallowing bread and ham.

The common thread between the musicians on the Womexizer is this: they all appeared at this year’s Womex expo. First held in 1994, running annually on the last weekend of October, Womex is a world music trade fair. The fair has moved through several different European cities during its lifetime, starting in Berlin, shifting from Brussels to Marseille to Stockholm, bouncing back and forth between Rotterdam, Essen, Newcastle upon Tyne, Seville, until this year, for the first time, it landed in Copenhagen. Now it’s over until October ’10.

The posthumous press release was chirpy:

With the recorded music industry crisis surpassed by the overall world economic crisis, we were indeed surprised — and grateful — to see our WOMEX 09 numbers: There were over 2700 delegates and 650 exhibiting companies from 92 countries in 280 Trade Fair Stand Units. And WOMEX presented 57 acts including 340 artists on 6 stages and 23 Conference Sessions, having inaugurated a new structure. Each Conference day highlighted a different key issue: Digital Myths, Markets and Mayhem; The Economy of Music …

The informal commentary less so:

There was some good music there [… ] but there were some acts who should never have left home. Having said that, it’s a bit of a nonsense wandering from showcase to showcase expecting to be able to make sensible assessments over 4 days and nights.

Womexizer 09 is the collection you’d expect from a body whose aim is to put as many acts in one place as possible and present them as pleasingly as possible so that they will be mentioned in newspapers or invited on tours. There’s variety in the styles, but the sound is kept overall light, not heavy, nothing challenging, threatening, controversial. Most of the 20 groups that appear here are European, with some Africans, Asians, and Americans. The person with the sandwich has done their best to arrange the tracks so that there’s some sort of connection between them, maybe a guitar in one song leading to a guitar in the next, but they were never meant to go together, and a leap from gnawa to mento is a jarring thing. It’s an album that was made to be broken up and skipped through. “Oh,” says the listener, me, nodding to the absent sandwich person. “Kayhan Kalhor on the kamancheh — good as usual, interesting partnership with Brooklyn Rider, whatever that is. I’ll listen to that again. The Ale Möller Band — a lot of things together but not sure it adds up to much. Listen again in case I’m judging them too harshly? I’ve liked Möller before … Mógil — Icelandic chamber orchestra indie soprano doodad. What were they doing at a world music expo?” And so on.

RATING 4 / 10