Since the introduction of the WOMEX Award in 1999, the list of extraordinary artists and professionals from our community deserving of this special praise has continued to grow. The WOMEX Award honours exceptional achievements in world music on the international level; musical excellence, social importance, commercial success, political impact, lifetime achievement– any or all of these might make one a worthy recipient.
WOMEX presents three Awards every year:
The WOMEX Award statuette was created at a time when there was no such thing as Asia or Europe, black or white, First or Third World. The Award figurine is an ancient mother goddess statue, dating back about 6000 years to the Neolithic age. It was found in Haçilar in modern-day Turkey and bears witness to the existence of a matriarchal society. Such a female goddess appears in many ancient mythologies as an initial primal figure, representing fertility and procreation either as the earth itself or as a mother giving birth to the world and all the creatures in it. Supporting musical creativity and fertility, it is only fitting that the mother of all and everything represents WOMEX’s tributes to the Award winners.
What better symbol for our widely varied fields of music?
In a style known equally for its outspoken messages and its party vibe, it truly takes a great Calypso artist to stand apart for their mastery and relevance, as Calypso Rose has done, for over six decades.
In her long career, Rose has transformed calypso in many ways. Her most obvious achievement involve making the calypso scene more open to women: the scale of her talent and success made her impossible to ignore, leading to unprecedented prize wins, including the Trinidad Road March and, the highest of all, the title of Calypso King – renamed the Calypso Monarch in her honour.
Rose is also a musical innovator of her style. She pioneered changes such as shortening her songs to three verses and writing fewer songs every season – both of which became the norm – and in her personal repertoire, she also explores styles such as soca, punta, reggae and ska. As a living legend and someone who has done so much to revolutionise her field, we are extremely pleased to be able to present Calypso Rose with the WOMEX 16 Artist Award.
Calypso Rose performed live at the WOMEX 16 Closing, with the participation of Kobo Town, supported by Canada Council for the Arts. You can see a video of this performance on YouTube and hear Calypso Rose's introduction by Ivan Duran on virtualWOMEX.
Henry Arteaga, MC and band leader of the Colombian "Crew Peligrosos" will receive the WOMEX 16 Professional Excellence Award. Arteaga founded - and manages until today - the hip hop school 4Elementos Skuela, making good use of his reputation amongst local kids in what used to be one of the most violent neighbourhoods in Medellin, Colombia. The Award honours this remarkable example of the power and the independent force of music on society. The school was founded more than 15 years ago and is entertained without any public or institutional funding. Today it gives free access to over 400 regular attendees every week and thousands have passed through its ranks.
Arteaga sees his work less as a project and more as part of a process: It is due to influences and initiatives like his one, that the city of Medellín, once known as the most dangerous in the world, has transformed into a culturally dynamic and flourishing city.
Henry Arteaga received the WOMEX 16 Professional Excellence Award on behalf of the 4Elementos Skuela and everyone involved with the school.
Three is a magic number, and Glitterbeat have made it! Glitterbeat, who also received the Label Award at WOMEX 14 and 15, will join us again in Santiago de Compostela to receive the award for the third time! World Music Charts Europe has tracked the monthly charts of 45 radio broadcasters from 25 countries, and Glitterbeat is the label that has the most popular releases in the network this year – their success coming from albums by artists including WOMEX 16 showcase artist Bixiga 70 and WOMEX 15 showcaser Aziza Brahim as well as M.A.K.U. Soundsystem and Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra.
A full list of the Top 20 record labels, as well as their most successful albums over the past year is available here.
See our Awards archive for more information and a full list of all previous WOMEX Award winners.
Photos: Cheikh Lô receives the WOMEX 15 Artist Award, by Jacob Crawfurd; Calypso Rose, by Richard Holder.