Human rights organisation wins World Music Prize

November 2003 -

This year the WOMEX Award goes to Freemuse, an organisation that monitors the freedom of expression in the domain of music. The only and thus the most important prize for world music was awarded on 26 October in the Spanish city of Seville, during the WOMEX festival.

Freemuse, set up by the Swedish musicologist Krister Malm and the Danish journalist Ole Reitov, has been fighting against music censorship since 1998. Reports about countries, such as Nigeria, and a database on the Internet are its most important weapons. Moreover, Freemuse attempts to draw international attention to individual cases such as the release of the Cuban musician Gorki Carrasco, who was arrested under suspicious circumstances in April during a rock festival in Pinar Del Rio for selling drugs and was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison.

This was the fifth time that the WOMEX Award has been awarded for 'outstanding contribution to the international development of world music'. Previous prize winners have included Juan de Marcos and Nick Gold for the Buena Vista Social Club from Cuba (1999), the South African band Mahotella Queens (2000), the Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (2001) and Jivan Gasparyan (2002) from Armenia.

The WOMEX festival is held annually; the venue alternates between the organisation's home base in Essen, Germany, and a guest country. About 2000 representatives from more than 80 countries attended the festivities in Seville, visiting the stands of musicians, record companies and promotors. Even though doing business was the primary objective of all the parties involved, the festival also offered lectures and discussions about musicological and political-cultural subjects. Moreover, 33 new bands and musicians performed for the music industry and the public of Seville.