Ben Mandelson’s speech on Balkan Music

During WOMEX 22 in Lisbon we’ve had the honour to receive as many as 200 supporters of MOST Music at a dedicated reception. Apart from seeing friends and raising our glasses to the success of Balkan music at this year’s WOMEX, the goal of our reception was to gather the people we thought would be interested in next year’s great event, the BALKAN:MOST Festival, Showcase and Conference organised in cooperation with WOMEX. We were very happy to have Ben Mandelson, co-founder of the world music expo give a heart-warming welcome speech. As Ben touched on the beauty and unique position of Balkan world music, we wanted to share his words with a wide audience online. Please read Ben Mandelson’s unedited welcome speech below.

Welcome dear friends, partners,  Ladies & Gentlemen,

It gives me great personal pleasure to welcome you here today to this reception, and to WOMEX itself, on behalf of the WOMEX team and Piranha Arts, as we are partner members of the MOST Music Project, and we are your hosts here at WOMEX 2022 in beautiful Lisbon. Thanks for being here.

We find it particularly heart-warming to see all of us here together in person, embracing old friends, making new friends, and finding new partners, and exchanging creative ideas and forging new collaborations inspired by the framework of the MOST Project.

This collective and collaborative framework is especially important, as we find ourselves today in …well, ‘very special times’. Times that are full of geopolitical, economic or simply practical challenges, especially for artists and those in the creative community, looking for ways to develop, present, represent and find new audiences and new appreciation abroad.

We strongly support the high degree of diversity – that essential vitamin – that comes from your different backgrounds, with the power to build bridges, and to promote cultural exchange – and with the power to amaze.

Balkan musics have always been a vital ingredient in the great world music mix, and  Balkan and S.E.E. (South Eastern Europe) region artists have always been a feature of WOMEX, ever since our first edition in 1994 (that is 28 years ago!). (So it has taken 28 years to write this speech).

And, by the way, our Artist Award this year goes to the great Ivo Papazov, from Bulgaria…

It’s a strong and creative area (we know, but just saying) with many many kinds of musics, traditions, diversity of cultures – ‘much more than brass bands’ (although we do love them, of course). I have been involved personally with Balkan Musics for many years – as a playing musician, and also as a record producer;  and one of Piranha Records’ commitments has always been to Balkan and S.E.E music in our portfolio of world music releases.

So it is natural for us at Piranha Arts and WOMEX to support a project that values Balkan Music (Balkan Musics – Musics – always remembering the plurality of cultures).

And MOST is a fantastic initiative – one of the strongest right now – in terms of performance, training, presence, mentoring, artist development… raising the pride and the profile of Balkan music creativity and enterprise. And enhancing the legacy.

That’s why it is important and meaningful for us to be the cooperating partner in the BALKAN:MOST Showcase Festival and Conference that will be happening in September 2023, in Veszprem, Hungary. And why it’s important and meaningful for you to support it as well…  

Please enjoy your time here at WOMEX; and see you at the stage of the fine MOST artists: Corina Sirghi Si Taraful Jean Americanu (Romania), Perija (North Macedonia) and Oratnitza (Bulgaria) tonight at the OffWOMEX stage, in Parque Mayer (starting 9 pm).

Thank you!”

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