Impressions of Babel Méd Music 2012

The eighth edition of Babel Méd Music – Forum des Musiques du Monde took place March 29-31, 2012, in the French city of Marseilles. The event has become the second largest European world music congress after WOMEX.

This year, amidst a deep crisis in the music industry, Babel managed to stay afloat and increased the audience to 15.000 concertgoers. The trade fair included 163 booths (71 more than last year). As far as registered professionals, the event attracted 2.500 people, the same amount as last year.

The Forum was held at the same venue as previous years, the Dock-du-Suds. This industrial warehouse remodeled for other uses is located near the new port, in an area of modern buildings and hotels, where you can breathe the great urban transformation that the city has experienced in the past years. A great challenge for Marseilles, which was selected European Cultural Capital for 2013.

During this edition, the concerts took place in three stages. The largest one, “Salle des Sucres”, showcased the large format acts. In the same building, next to the projection hall, restaurant, bars and VIP areas, they had the “Cabaret” space, which presented the most intimate and acoustic music concerts. A third stage, “Chapiteau”, was located in a huge tent outdoors, next to a smaller tent where debates and conferences were held.

This year, the conferences and round tables, eighteen in total, generated a lot of expectation, as in previous years, thanks to the topics chosen and the quality of the speakers selected. The debates about the future of specialized world music media and the various world music conferences throughout the planet were certainly interesting.

Of the 30 concerts programmed during the showcase, I’ll mention the most outstanding. I was impressed by young Tunisian singer-songwriter Emel Mathlouthi. Other highlights include the Provencal/Turkish/Iranian project created by charismatic Marseilles-based singer Sam Karpienia; Sicilian singer-songwriter Matilde Politi; elegant Bosnian vocalist Amira Medunjanin, accompanied by Serbian jazz fusion pianist Bojan Zulfikarpasic; and the surprising new music ensemble, Mi Nor Syndicate, a Marseilles group specialized in classical music Armenian traditional sounds, formed by five musicians of Armenian ancestry, two French musicians and a Cuban.

I should not fail to mention other memorable concerts. First, the duo formed by Iranian musician Kayhan Kalhor accompanied by Turkish instrumentalist Erdal Erzincan. Also Angolan singer-songwriter Bonga and Tcheka from Cape Verde.

There were many other artists featured, including young Portuguese singer Carla Pires, the Cobla Catalana dels Sons Essencials, Spanish vocalist Rocío Márquez, the British band Yiddish Twist Orchestra, Israeli singer Dudu Tassa, Brazilian vocalist Flavia Coelho, and Tajik trio Abduvali Abdurashidov & Badakhshan.

The program this year was quite good. Organizers gave relevance to artists who had recent albums out, and also presented the new generation of musicians who live in the Provence region.

I can confirm that the key of the success of the 8th edition of Babel Méd Music lies in the timing of the conference. Organizers wisely scheduled the event halfway between WOMEX, which is held in October and before the beginning of the festival season which starts in June.

The final press conference featured the festival’s executive director, Mr. Bernard Aubert, and the artistic director, Mr. Sami Sadak. “I’m very satisfied with this edition, one in which we have presented more artistic quality and where we have showcased various new musical proposals from different parts of the Mediterranean,” summarized Sadak.

Looking forward to next year’s edition of the Forum, which will coincide with the European Cultural Capital in 2013, Bernard Aubert stated: “Next year, Babel Med shall take advantage of this great European encounter that will take place in Marseilles, expanding and introducing in its program more musical genres such as jazz, and other modern musics, to help with the international projection of all the artists in our region.”

Author: Albert Reguant

Albert Reguant is a Catalan journalist, born in Barcelona. He is a member of the workshops of folk music and world music of the European Broadcasting Union (UER/EBU) as well as well as a member of the “World Music Charts Europe”. He has a radio show called Les Rutes del So at Ona Sants Montjuïc de Barcelona.


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