WOMEX and Visa for Music 2023: a spotlight for Swiss music

Pro Helvetia Cairo, Music
group of people in front of the swiss music stand
WOMEX 23 © Eric Van Nieuwland

In autumn 2023, Pro Helvetia took part in two important international music events: WOMEX (Worldwide Music expo) in La Coruña (Spain) and Visa for Music in Rabat (Morocco). Both are major stages for international professional encounters, showcase performances, conferences and networking events. Here’s a brief looking back.

WOMEX : the world’s largest and most important fair dedicated to global music

The 29th edition of WOMEX was held in A Coruña (northwestern Spain) from 25 to 29 October. It was attended by 2,750 professionals from around the world specialising in global music.

Since 2006, FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia have jointly boosted the visibility of the Swiss music scene during this event, in particular via the collective SWISS MUSIC booth and by supporting the selected artists for showcase performances.

Official selection: DJ Pekodjinn from Geneva at Club Summit

02h29 : DJ Pö from the Nyege Nyege collective has just finished his set in front of a packed audience. The switch on stage takes less than 30 seconds. Pekodjinn arrives, takes over the turntables and the show proceeds seamlessly. His manager and his agent meanwhile do their part, working the crowd and building contacts with other professionals. Pekodjinn was selected for a showcase performance in the Club Summit category, and was given one hour’s time to capture people’s attention.

Artist Pekodjinn in front of the Swiss Music stand
Pekodjinn © SWISS MUSIC
Pekodjinn mixing during his showcase
Showcase Pekodjinn © SWISS MUSIC

WOMEX 20 Top Labels 2023: Bongo Joe Records

Since 2019 WOMEX has also put the spotlight on music recording, particularly by independent labels that discover and promote fresh artists from around the world. Together with World Music Charts Europe and Transglobal World Music Chart, a list of the 20 best labels of the year is established annually. The label Bongo Joe Records from Geneva was among the 2023 selection, and two of its representatives were present in A Coruña.

Presence at the fair: the SWISS MUSIC booth

This year, 42 cultural practitioners from Switzerland travelled to Spain to attend WOMEX, a record number! Artists, agents, programme managers and institutional representatives benefited from the SWISS MUSIC booth, coordinated by Marcel Kaufmann from FONDATION SUISA.

The booth is a rallying point for music professionals from Switzerland, an ideal place for encounters and discussions.

It also serves as a window to the Swiss musical landscape. The booth’s hosts provide information and present Swiss music production, especially via the Global & Folk playlist.

Hosts in discussion at the stand
Discussions at the Swiss Music stand
© Eric Van Nieuwland

Visa for Music: showcase festival and international fair dedicated to the music scenes of Africa and the Middle East

Participation at certain international music fairs is organised by Pro Helvetia in close collaboration with FONDATION SUISA under the joint label SWISS MUSIC, for instance at jazzahead! or WOMEX. In other cases, the presence of Swiss representatives is organised together with Pro Helvetia’s liaison offices abroad. This applies to Visa for Music, where Pro Helvetia Cairo helped prepare the ground.  

From 22 to 25 November, the tenth edition of Visa for Music was held in the Moroccan capital Rabat. The Lausanne-based group El Mizan was chosen for a showcase and a Swiss delegation was on site for four days of music, encounters and exchange.

El Mizan presented its latest album “Harba” at an official showcase

The Renaissance cinema in the heart of Rabat had its red seats removed and was transformed into a club for the duration of the Visa for Music festival. For three nights, groups from all over the world followed one another on stage. On 23 November shortly before 8 pm, it was the turn of El Mizan. The formation from the French-speaking part of Switzerland presented its maghrock interspersed with jazz and chaabi sounds in front of an audience of specialists and the local public, who came in large numbers and were visibly won over by the music and stage presence of this group.

El Mizan on stage

Swiss delegation

In addition to the performance by El Mizan, Pro Helvetia and Visa for Music jointly enabled a delegation of five music professionals from Switzerland to experience the event on site and participate in a variety of activities including conferences, speed-meetings with the artists, showcases and networking events.

It was an ideal opportunity to discover the African and Middle Eastern music market, to forge and reinforce contacts from these regions, and to spend some time with peers from Switzerland. The delegates were also invited to a lunch organised by the Swiss Ambassador in Rabat, together with some renowned guests including the director of Visa for Music.

The Swiss delegation
The Swiss delegation, the band El Mizan, Staff from Pro Helvetia & the Embassy and international guests at a lunch organised by the Swiss Embassy in Rabat and Visa for Music.

A presence on the international scene is essential for the development of a professional artistic career.

In order to broaden their scope and establish an international network, Pro Helvetia offers Swiss musicians, labels, associations and organising institutions the opportunity to present themselves at recognised fairs and showcase festivals abroad.