From May 8 to 10 this year, Bilbao (Basque Country – Spain) hosted the first Exib Music event. Exib Music is a new European market created with the objective of being a meeting point for professionals and artists from Latin America who seek access to the European music industry, and vice versa.
The program of this first edition featured a hundred musicians in over twenty concerts (showcases), and several round tables, conferences, and a trade show. The site chosen by the organization to celebrate Exib Music was within the premises of “La Alhóndiga”, a former wine warehouse converted into an impressive commercial cultural and entertainment complex located in the center of the capital, designed by Frenchman Philippe Starck, inaugurated in May 2010.
Bilbao is the Basque Country’s largest city and is the capital of the province of Vizcaya, one of the most important and wealthy Spanish industrial areas. It has a population of about 349,350 inhabitants and is a city that in recent years has experienced a great aesthetic and urban change, with large architectural and landscape works, where its new symbol and pinnacle is the spectacular Guggenheim Museum.
The Exib MUSIC opening ceremony was held on May 7 in the afternoon at the Auditorium located on the ground floor of ” La Alhóndiga ” where a show created especially for this opening featured vocalist Silvia Iriondo from Argentina, the duo Oreka TX (Basque chalaparta players), Basque trio Kalankan, and contemporary Basque dance company Dantza Kukai. Since the program indicated that this show was “a meeting of cooperation between cultures”, they got it totally right, because the Iberoamerican-Basque conjunction was carried with elegance and sensitivity, with a vibrant and full rate of pure energy that knew how to transmit and enthuse the audience. Superb.
The overall majority of the main showcases were located on a makeshift stage in the great “hall” of “La Alhóndiga”, close to the main entrance. During these three days the free admission access invited the general public (over 6000, according to the organization) to a very direct approach, to contemplate the various performers who appeared at this venue. There were a few other showcases, nearly all small format, called Exib Music Off, which were distributed throughout different areas of the city.
We’ll go on to talk about what happened on the first day. The highlight on Thursday May 8 was the formidable concert performed by Colombian singer Marta Gomez, whose interpretive charm was able to convey her well-crafted songs, fusing them with tenderness and strength. Definitely the best concert I saw at this showcase. Other concerts worth mentioning include Argentine group Tonolec and Chilean singer Paula Herrera. Tonolec is a band that fuses electronic music with traditional songs, particularly the Toba songs from an indigenous culture in northern Argentina. Chilean singer Paula Herrera’s soft and appealing voice, offered her best repertory. Other concerts held that night included Venezuelan singer Betsayda Machado and Panamanian singer-songwriter Camilo Navarro, better known by his stage name Cienfue.
Of all the artistic activity on Friday, May 21, we’ll highlight the Portuguese singer-songwriter Sofia Ribeiro, whose clear and elegant voice told us the joys and sorrows in the different songs she performed. Another notable performer was Basque act Xarnege, a contemporary folk group with a repertoire of popular music of Gascony (southwest France) and the Basque Country, characterized by a vibrant performance. We cannot forget another highlight, the orchestral Cuban Sound Project, led by its charismatic leader, maestro Demetrio Muñiz. Other artists who we got see were Venezuelan singer Jose Alejandro Delgado, Argentine group Hierbacana, and Cuban singer Eme Alfonso.
As far as Saturday concerts, we were pleasantly surprised by the performance by Basque accordionist Xabi Aburruzaga specializing in “trikitixa” (accordion), an artist who was preceded by very good press, and whom we found fully convincing. Another artist that augurs a promising future is the young Canary Islander singer-songwriter from Tenerife, Marta Solis, who offered a concert with a bold and modern approach of songwriting, merging and manipulating her voice with a “harmonizer” or “loop station”, developing nice atmospheres. An interesting proposal that we believe is still in a period of evolution, with vast possibilities which she must investigate further. At the end of her performance I talked to Marta, and dared to describe her with the nickname “the Canary Islands’ Enya” because of her similarity in some parts of her song to the ethereal sound of Enya, the famous Irish singer.
Mexican group MonoBlanco offered an interesting concert because of its cultural contrast, as well as the Basque duo of “improvisers” Igor Elortza and Miren Amuriza. There were also discrete performances by Andalusian artist Amparo Sanchez and Aragonese singer Carmen Paris.
The conferences, workshops, presentations and panel discussions were very successful and followed with great interest. The high spot was the conference / meeting with professionals presented by Mr. Gabriel Abaroa (President of the Latin Grammys). Of all the roundtables we highlight the “Projection of Latin American Music in the European Agora”, coordinated by Berlin journalist Johannes Theurer (Head of the World Music Charts Europe and the “World Music” Workshop of the European Broadcasting Union – EBU.
Nor can we forget the nice gesture that the organizers had to invite all the delegates who wanted to visit the Guggenheim Museum with the opportunity to see a retrospective of the works of Japan’s Yoko Ono, and part of the great work by Brazilian artist, Ernesto Neto, among others exposed.
As a final balance of Exib MUSIC I’ll transcribe the statements of its General Manager, Adriana Pedret: “I’m proud to share the results of the first edition of Exib Music – Expo Iberoamericana Music, Bilbao 2014 and in line with our goals for the second edition in May 2015. Three intense days with the forum, live concerts, events and Off [performances] have brought together professionals from throughout the world around Latin American music, with the aim of adding options for dissemination, distribution and projection. Bilbao’s public was an active part of this musical celebration, which turned this professional platform into a true cultural celebration, laden with social meaning, diversity and with a special emphasis on identity. Now after this first 2014 edition, Exib Music begins its journey in the consolidation of an annual event that contributes qualitative interaction and cooperation between Latin America and the world, from Bilbao, and with music as a framework.”
Now for the founders of Exib Music, Adriana Pedret and María Hormaetxea, have the most difficult job. First, draw conclusions from this first edition to improve the next one. Second, publicize the event with more momentum, and finally take care of the original philosophy and continuity because from the beginning the idea was always good. They have going for them this first step, and above all, a nice, quiet city like Bilbao, worth discovering. Moving forward.