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WOMEX Report: Afropop’s Featured Artists

WOMEX 2013, the annual gathering of some 2,000 delegates from 80 countries from all aspects of the world music biz, came together in Cardiff, Wales this past October.  Industry professionals get a chance to experience amazing performances by some of world music’s greatest icons as well as burgeoning new talent- almost every year brings with it a break out performance, and many of these artist go on to be genre- if not generation- defining stars.

As always, Afropop was excited to part of the festivities, and through the four day whirlwind, managed to select a few favorites.  Here’s a brief introduction to a several fantastic artists that are featured on this week’s show- and who we hope to hear more from in the ensuing years.



After leaving his native Burkina Faso, guitarist Abdoulaye Traore eventually settled in Paris, where he met Ivoirian singer Mohamed Diaby.  Sharing a vision of a pan-African music that would blend Ethiopian, Arabic-Andalusian, and afro-funk influences with their own Ivoirian and Wassoulou rhythms, the two have developed a style all their own.  Traore’s nimble fingers and the breathy, powerful voice of Diaby voice are a chilling as well as uplifting combination.

Les Tambours de Brazza

After witnessing a rousing finale of music closing a carnival held Brazzavile, Congolese percussionist Emile Biayenda selected a number of musicians to form his own drumming troupe, Les Tambours de Brazza.  Uprooted by civil war, the troupe has utilized time away from home to introduce other styles into their music.  Twenty-three years after their inception, they continue to combine traditional sounds with more modern influences.

Cumbia All Stars

Cumbia All Stars is a musical project that combines the talents of ex-members of Los Diablos, Juaneco y su Combo, Los Girasoles, Los Beta 5 and Los Riberenos.  Starting as the psychedelic influence of the 60’s penetrated the Amazon, local musicians began to combine their own styles of cumbia with the invading sounds of surf guitar.  Today these veterans of the Cumbia Huaracha (or simply Peruvian cumbia) continue to reinterpret this magnificent cross-cultural exchange of musical ideas.

Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda

Orquestra Contemporanea de Olinda brings the carnival brass of a traditional marching band to trade sounds with the post-manguebeat sounds of contemporary Pernambuco.  Already a popular sound in Brazil, this brainchild of percussionist Gilú Amaral has been making a name for itself since 2007.  With a Latin Grammy nomination and several US and European tours under its belt, this 10 musician ensemble continues to move crowds and traverse musical boundaries.

Ganesh and Kumaresh

Trained by their father, well known violinist Shri T. S. Rajagopalan, Ganesh and Kumaresh have been performing since the tender ages of 5 and 7.  With over 40 years of musical experience between them, this tradition steeped tandem of carnitic violin have experimented with musical conversations between jazz, western classical, and even electronica.

Los Van Van

One of the most influential bands in the history of  Cuban music, under the leadership of bassist and composer Juan Formell,  Los Van Van fused pop, rock, funk and soul with rumba, salsa, charanga and Afro-Cuban folkloric sounds.  Their pioneering efforts resulted in the formation of a rhythm, songo, which in turn gave birth to the genre of timba.  With a Latin Grammy to their name (along with innumerable other accolades), Los Van Van continue to mix old and new, inspiring generations of musicians both at home and abroad.

And in case you want more…