World Music Festival promotes diversity in Copenhagen

The fifth annual Copenhagen World Music Festival took place on Wednesday as organisers expect around 25.000 attendees to participate in the six-days event. The festival will host artistic performances in several parts of the city until next Monday.

By Ida Maria Westermann and Gene Lin

copenhagen world music festival

Band of African drummer at the Copenhagen World Music Festival. Photo: Gene Lin.

Scores of citizens gather at City Hall Square of Copenhagen as songs and drums from distant lands echoes across the city centre. The smell of kebab and falafel drifts from the food trucks to the stage where children dances to music by Israeli duo Tal y Tali.

Israel is one of the Middle Eastern countries represented in this year’s Copenhagen World Music Festival. The theme for this year is “Good vibes from the Middle East” which is reflected in the range of artists ranging all the way from Syria and Kenya to Latvia and Sweden.

“I was sick to my stomach of only hearing about death, violence and terrorism in the Middle East. I know from personal experience that there are a lot of great musicians in this region, so why not use this stage to try and show the positives sides of this region?” says founder and coordinator of the festival Annette Bellaoui.

A festival of diversity

According to the City of Copenhagen there has been a 35 percent increase in non-western immigrants moving to the Danish capital since 2005. More than 58.000 non-western immigrants lived in Copenhagen in 2015.

With a mission of promoting diversity and openness in Copenhagen, the festival aims to unite these different cultures in the city through music.

“We try to create a more friendly atmosphere. Not by pressuring people into being friends but by making them share a music experience. That works like an extended hand of friendship,” Annette Bellaoui says and adds:

“With this festival we want to show the world that Copenhagen and Denmark are not as bad as we are sometimes made out to be in the media. Copenhagen is a great city.”

A broad audience

A band of African drummers are marching to the rhythm of their instruments. Commuters, who are passing through the square, stops to observe the performance as they head towards the Central Station from Main Street. In the crowd a man is doing a Middle Eastern dance while a woman in traditional Kenyan clothing claps to the beat of the music as the sun is setting.

In the audience also stands Karen Mukupa and Nyota Ndogo. The two are renowned World Music artists based respectively in Denmark and Kenya and frequent visitors of the festival over the years.   

“With the festival being held here in the City Hall Square, I hope it attracts a lot of people. Especially Danes, so it is not only Israelis or people from Japan listening to music from their own culture, but also Danes broadening their cultural understanding,” says Karen Mukupa.

city hall square, copenhagen, world music festival

City Hall Square, Copenhagen. Photo: Gene Lin.

Nyota Ndogo will be performing at the Copenhagen World Music Festival for the second time this year. The African artist has performed in Dubai, Germany and South Africa and won several awards during her career that has lasted more than a decade.  

“For me it is also important to see my people. The first time I performed in Copenhagen World Music Festival, the Kenyans were not here. I would be more happy if I can find Kenyan people here this year to feel more at home and to hear more people speak Swahili,” adds Nyota Ndoga.

The annual Copenhagen World Music Festival began in 2011 and will be showcasing artists from over 25 countries this year. The festival will last from September 7th to September 12th.

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