Three global bands to watch out for, courtesy of WOMEX

Every autumn, musicians, artist managers, concert promoters and record companies from all over the world meet somewhere in Europe for a conference and festival called WOMEX. This year’s event took place in Lisbon, Portugal – and here are some top picks for emerging artists performing showcases at WOMEX 2022.

The first thing to know about WOMEX (aka Worldwide Music Expo) is that while the organizers sell some tickets to the general public, it’s primarily aimed at music industry professionals to find new talent – and basically a launch pad for the world is artists. It’s also an especially important resource for people booking music festivals and venues across the United States. For example, Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha left WOMEX to book a tiny desk concert and frequent US tours

Son Rompe Pera

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

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

The 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 loved them.

Rina Das Baul

This is an example of a band bringing modern energy to old music. But at WOMEX there is always something for everyone. Attendees came from 116 countries, with more than 60 musical performances on tap. That means there’s always something for everyone – from very contemporary performers to musicians committed to making sure traditions are respected. One of the latter is a wonderful 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 followers are wandering mystics who praise God. She sings to herself on a single-stringed instrument and a drum strapped to her waist – and her voice is pure and full of sunshine.

Al Bilali Sudan

Another highlight was a band from Mali called Al Bilali Sudan. Many people have come to know and love the Tuareg music of the Sahara – the so-called “Desert Blues” – through 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 its nickname with an old name for the city of Timbuktu.

What is striking and different about Al Bilali Soudan’s music is their percussion, which just hits like a ton of bricks. It’s a rhythm called takambapounded on gourds like a heartbeat.

The first time I heard Takamba was in Mali in 2003, which coincidentally was also the first time I heard Tinariwen live – but none of the other Tuareg groups that have achieved great international fame makes Takamba so central to them their sound like Al Bilali Soudan. Simply put, it’s a style I always really enjoy listening to. In the weeks leading up to WOMEX, Al Bilali Soudan had his first US tour, but no doubt the band’s performance in Portugal will expand their international reach.

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