CPH World Music Festival takes the stage

By Hannah Cross and Kristoffer Olesen

The Copenhagen World Music Festival has opened for another year. Showcasing bands from around the globe, the festival delivers a taste of music from every culture.


“I think it’s important that we have a broad selection of music festivals in the city,” says Copenhagen Mayor for Culture and Leisure, Carl Christian Ebbesen.

The festival was officially opened at Rådhuspladsen on Wednesday, with Ebbesen at the forefront.

“Festivals have the ability to bring us humans together around something we love,” he said, declaring the festival open for another year.


Exposure to diversity

Copenhagen swing band, Fitzroy, played first at the festival’s opening concert. Lead singer, Alex Stevns, also believes world music is vital, especially for less popular genres.

“Most people listen to pop, rock, and other Western genres,” he says, “Events like this are good, it’s a great mix.”

Fitzroy themselves are a mixture of New Orleans swing, Balkan style, and English folk, among other things. The band was inspired after Stevns saw Melbourne swing band Flap! at Femø Jazz Festival in 2012.

“I bought a banjo three days after seeing Flap!,” says Stevns. He says Fitzroy always try to take in everything they can from different styles and genres of music.

Fitzroy lead singer, Alex Stevns. Photo: Hannah Cross


Flap! band member Eamon McNelis had this to say about Fitzroy:

“Music flies around the world and bounces off different people. I’m truly delighted that a couple of people from the other side of the world found some inspiration in something we made.”


Global connections

It’s moments like these that make events such as the Copenhagen World Music Festival special, says festival manager, Annette Bellaoui.

“We give the audience the opportunity to have a unique cultural experience,” she says.

As a long term cultural investment into Copenhagen, Bellaoui says the festival is all about bringing people of many backgrounds together and facilitating cohesive communities.

“Through music, song, and dance, we aim to show how we are all connected and have been since time immemorial,” she says.

There is merit to Bellaoui’s statement, as McNelis points out that it is unlikely that Fitzroy would have ever heard any music from Flap! if it weren’t for Danish booking agent, Ulrik Hjort.

The Hoodangers, a precursor to Flap!, are an eclectic, genre diverse band that Hjort first saw at Femø Jazz Festival in 1997. A couple of years later, he saw them busking in the streets of Melbourne. Hjort brought The Hoodangers over to Denmark again and expanded their audience globally.

“They appealed to me in many ways – but mostly because of their original mix of punk and traditional jazz,” says Hjort.

Since their first meeting, Hjort has organised seven tours for The Hoodangers. Now he is the Nordic booking agent for Flap! and has organised two of their tours.

The Hoodangers at Femø Jazz Festival, 1997. Photo: Ulrik Hjort


It is evident that music has the power to connect those we are otherwise unlikely to see or hear. Bellaoui highlights that the Copenhagen World Music Festival is a stage for this.

“It gives minority populations an opportunity to present the culture of their birth,” she says.

Bellaoui believes that in this way, diverse music can make its way into and become part of mainstream society.

“The stage must reflect our society,” she says, “And we must be open to the world around us.”


Unity through experience

Each year, all continents of the world are represented at the festival, says Bellaoui. The theme for this year is “European Diversity,” so there is a special focus on the diversity of world music that lies within Europe itself.

Bands from all over Europe – and the world – will come to Copenhagen to showcase not only their cultures, but other influences of world music they have picked up along the way.

“Music is an international form of communication,” says Bellaoui, “You can listen to songs in languages you do not understand, but still get the emotion.”

Ebbesen agrees that Copenhagen World Music Festival is an opportunity for the city’s people to experience something different:

“No matter if the music is from Iceland, Israel or India – or Denmark or the North – it’s important that we share and enjoy quality from around the world.”

Fitzroy trumpet player, Asbjørn Storm Kamban. Photo: Hannah Cross