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Festival city on top of music world

Arts

A SMALL city at the bottom of the globe once renowned for its churches and conservative culture is perhaps the last place on earth you would expect to find a thriving world music scene.

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Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, has recently been named a World Music City alongside Seville, Glasgow and Hannover and will this weekend host its 20th WOMADelaide Festival. 

Adelaide joins cities from 32 countries in the Creative Cities Network, including Seville, Bogotá, Hamamatsu, Glasgow, Mannheim, Brazzaville, Bologna, Ghent and Hannover as designated UNESCO Cities of Music.

Active participation in Creative Cities Network will commence this month when WOMADelaide hosts Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda from fellow City of Music Bogotá.  In addition, the Adelaide Guitar Festival is developing exchange programs for musicians in partnership with Seville.

Adelaide is renowned as a festival city and has several major arts events in February and March including the Adelaide Festival, Fringe, WOMADelaide and Adelaide Writers Week.

WOMADelaide, a celebration of global music arts and dance, will run from March 11-14 and is expected to attract a crowd to rival last year’s record attendance of more than 90,000 across the four days.

It will feature artists from more than 30 nations performing across seven stages in Botanic Park.

Festival Director Ian Scobie said there had been a positive response to this year’s program, which featured De La Soul, Angelique Kidjo, St Germain and the Violent Femmes.

“When it began (in 1992) it was seen very much as an ethno-musicalogical oddity and a world music festival but if you look at the project over the years it’s had everyone from Midnight Oil to the Violent Femmes,” Scobie said.

“It’s introduced musical styles that were never, in the early days, presented or seen in this country.

“It’s that openness for people to experience something different, something that is culturally challenging and that very much is a legacy of the Adelaide Festival of a number of years.”

Scobie said Adelaide’s relatively small size made it an ideal festival city.

“Most great festival cities tend to be in smaller places that have a relatively cohesive geographic and cultural centre like Edinburgh and Avignon.

“If you’re staging a festival in Sydney or Melbourne, the combination of their physical geography and significant scale means that it’s very hard to have a major impact.”

Adelaide’s active festival and arts scene led it to being the only Australian city named on The New York Times list of 52 places to go in 2015.

The city’s successful UNESCO submission was spearheaded by the Adelaide Festival Centre and the State Government.

Adelaide Festival Centre Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director Douglas Gautier said the UNESCO success was recognition the city “punches above its weight and has made real contributions in the music arena at either ends of the spectrum and all points in between”.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us and it gets us into a club and a platform that otherwise we just couldn’t hope to be in and there’s no question UNESCO has that kind of reach and clout,” he said.

“This city is very good at arts and entertainment – it’s a creative city.”

Music SA General Manager Lisa Bishop said Adelaide, which has a population of about 1.3 million, had great music diversity and world class educational institutions such as The Elder Conservatorium of Music.

“You’ve got everything from the ASO (Adelaide Symphony Orchestra) and the State Opera through to contemporary musicians who have made it on the world stage like Sia or the Hilltop Hoods,” she said.

Bishop said the UNESCO recognition gave Adelaide “access to an international network that we would not otherwise have access”.

 “That can lead to artistic collaborations, artist in residence exchanges and music business exchanges,” she said.

“I think that there are opportunities particularly in the Asia Pacific area for Adelaide to collaborate with the other music cities in Japan, Korea and India.

“People and organisations will start to use the music city label more in their promotions and so the public generally will start to be more aware and appreciative and will hopefully value music as a creative industry in South Australia.“

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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