WOMEX 12 Professional Excellence Award
WOMEX is proud to announce the winner of the WOMEX 12 Professional Excellence Award: Alexander "Sasha" Cheparukhin from Russia.
He will receive his Award on Sunday morning, 21 October 2012, at the WOMEX Award Ceremony accompanied by a WOMEX Networking Breakfast, both open to WOMEX delegates only. The laudation will be offered by Lemez Lovas (UK), Producer, Lyricist, Artist.
What is the WOMEX Award? A small way in which we can give praise to someone who deserves recognition at the highest level for a lifelong contribution to our community. But it is more than that. It is an opportunity for us at WOMEX to think about the values that we try to uphold. World music is not just another sector in the music industry: for one, we don't attract money men looking for a fast buck (or at least they tend not to stick around too long) - and for that we should be grateful. So who does stick around? People who have a specific set of values and ideas about the way the world should be. These common values are what makes WOMEX and our music community, and what keeps us coming back time and time again to what is unashamedly one of the most colourful, diverse and friendly group of international music lovers on the planet.
The WOMEX Award is also about how our community responds to events outside. This past year has seen a great deal of political upheaval and tension - uniquely in our collective history, hardly a single member country has been unaffected by rising economic and social tensions. There is no better moment for all of us at WOMEX to step back and think about what we can contribute at a time when music can seem like a luxury. And so, in honour of this unsettling time, the WOMEX 12 Professional Excellence Award is for someone who underlines those values that we at WOMEX seek to uphold in good times and bad - a deep awareness and respect for our environment, an open-mindedness and constant desire to expand boundaries, and an unfailing dedication to freedom of expression on every level.
Artistic director, activist, musician and tour producer Alexander "Sasha" Cheparukhin was born in Sevastopol, USSR (now Ukraine) in 1958. Growing up in a military family, he had the opportunity to travel across the vast country as a child, igniting an interest in cultures and languages that has stayed with him. Holder of a doctorate in Environmental Economics, for much of the 1980s he was an activist and researcher - President of the Association for the Support of Ecological Initiatives (ASEI); a presenter at the Moscow session of the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED); coordinator of "Children of Chernobyl" activities that brought crucial medical training and equipment to Belarus from Germany and Switzerland and sent local children abroad for treatment; and reporting for the German and Austrian press, where he gained exclusive access to leading opposition figures like Boris Yeltsin and Vytautas Lansbergis (then leader of Lithuanian independence movement and later President of Lithuania).
Denied the ability to travel abroad until the perestroika years, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 led to Sasha registering one of the first Russian international tour operators, GreenWave, taking tour groups to the Caribbean and the USA, including as an official tour agent for the 1994 World Cup. It was this American connection - and an invitation from renowned ethnomusicologist Ted Levin - that led him to switch full time to music management and booking.
"He sent me a tape of an unknown Tuvan group," remembers Sasha. "I was completely possessed and amazed - I could never imagine that this kind of music could exist in Russia. Ted asked me whether I can find somebody to help organising the first US tour and to serve as a tour manager, driver and a kind of "narrator" (replacing Ted Levin in concerts, telling stories about Tuva, meanings of Tuvan songs etc). I told him that I want to try it myself. So, in January 1994, I rented a Ford Club Wagon van and started a long US tour of Huun Huur Tu (booked via International Music Network). That's how my "music career" really started."
From then on, GreenWave became a hub for the Russian roots music scene. He had already produced concerts and collaborations with international artists for the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, the country's leading traditional ensemble, as early as 1985. By the mid-90s, GreenWave Records was releasing albums by artists such as Huun Huur Tu, Sergey Starostin, Moscow Art Trio, Farlanders, Vershki Da Koreshki, with Sasha looking after record production, management and international touring. In the years that followed he became artistic director for a great many festivals at home and abroad, including most recently the biggest festival in Russia, the Creation of Peace Festival, and he has been at the forefront of the cultural transformation of the university city of Perm in Siberia into the "Cultural Capital of Russia", with a series of large music and theatre festivals including a number of major international commissions. And as artistic director of another festival in Siberia - the Mir Sibiri festival (formerly Sayan Ring) - he could have spent all of his time in a self-imposed exile, if not for recent political events which brought him back to the capital.
That Russia is a tough place to be politically engaged goes without saying. But the unprecedented protests around the country - in themselves a testament to the great Russian sense of creative humour, involving miniature toys with placards and blue buckets worn on protesters' heads - have triggered a wave of political optimism. Sasha: "I was a political journalist in the '80s and '90s, leading demonstrations to block nuclear power stations and manning the barricades at the White House. Now I see an awakening of civil society again after all these years of cynicism, gangster mentality and extreme capitalism. Now is the time for self-organisation."
One facet of his spirit of self-organisation means taking musicians on "concert actions" around the country to support isolated democrats in the provinces. "Musicians should be engaged. Music is the most emotional way to express yourself, and musicians are very strong mediums for communication. This is also why so many musicians want to stay away from politics - they think it is too powerful and they don't know where it will lead." One possible destination is arrest, beatings and jail - all of which he has seen at first-hand. Despite this, he is upbeat: "These protests have lots of creativity. It was so beautiful - young and old all together saying we don't want to live in this society. People don't want to pretend any more. This is not about oppositional politics or new leaders - it is about supporting Russians who want to live in an honest, transparent, free society."
Honest, transparent and free: three words on which we would all do well to focus on as we go around the trade fair this year. Three simple attributes that our world music community wants to see the world over. We in the WOMEX community know that we love what we do, and that we are very lucky to be able to do it. This year's WOMEX Award goes to someone who helps us to remember why.
Text: Lemez Lovas
Photo 1: Sasha by Alina Vlasova
Photo 2: Sasha, Boris Yeltsin (in a train, 1991)
Photo 3: Sasha, Stevie Wonder, Huun Huur Tu, Angelite, Moscow Art Trio (Los Angeles, 1997)
More information about Sasha's work: www.greenwavemusic.ru
See also: Meet the Winner of the WOMEX 12 Professional Excellence Award