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WOMEX announces new Artist and Professional Excellence Award recipients

WOMEX, the Worldwide Music Expo, had added two new recipients to its prestigious awards, Mónika Lakatos and L’Atelier des Artistes en Exil

WOMEX, the Worldwide Music Expo, had added two new recipients to its prestigious awards, Mónika Lakatos and L’Atelier des Artistes en Exil.

Mónika Lakatos is one of the last 30,000 Olah Romani people in Hungary still speaking their language. She has been singing the songs of her community in the north east of the country for as long as she can remember and is passionate about showing her culture to the world.

Since winning the Hungarian television talent show Ki Mit Tud in 1996, she has been the nation’s leading exponent of the hallgató and pergető songs of her heritage.

The WOMEX Artist Award she has been given is to recognise the achievements of an artist or group who excel in their musical craft, embody artistic distinction, dynamism and creativity, use their music as a medium for positive change and offer a unique and committed vision.

Mónika Lakatos exemplifies this in her commitment to the Olah people and their music and for her work to take the heritage of female Romani singing to the world stage.

On receiving the award, she said, ‘It is an enormous joy to know that WOMEX thought of me, of us, because this award represents all of us. Our work is a joint work! People do not see how much work goes behind what we do and how many people are working on this cause. This award is ours, including my husband Mazsi and all of the bands and the community – together!’

The WOMEX Professional Excellence Award was created to honour an individual, group or organisation in music. The awardees may be chosen for their musical excellence, cultural significance, advocacy and activism, lifetime achievement or commercial success.

France’s L’Atelier des Artistes en Exil or Agency of Artists in Exile (aa-e) was created to give the space, equipment and support to help refugee musicians use the skills they brought with them to find professional outlets for their talents. As the organisation’s mission statement says, ‘Being a refugee is not a profession’.

WOMEX decided to offer L’Atelier des Artistes en Exil the award in honour of the organisation’s role in giving refugee artists the chance to reaffirm their humanity in their own way and their own words.

Based in the heart of Paris, the organisation has supported over 200 exiled artists from Syria, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kazakhstan among others. It helps them in many ways, including with CVs and funding applications, training courses, workspace and meetings with industry professionals. The artists’ output spans music, comedy, storytelling, graphic and performance arts, film, dance, theatre and literature, all exploring the realities of life in exile.

As the L’Atelier’s Director, Judith Depaule said, ‘It is important for aa-e to gain recognition beyond French borders, especially for exiled artists who suffer mobility problems. The WOMEX 20 Award will benefit members of aa-e in their restructuring by offering them new professional opportunities.’

WOMEX was supposed to have convened for its 26th conference in Budapest this October and one of its highlights was to include performances by the award winners. Sadly, the pandemic has made this impossible and so WOMEX has gone digital for this year.

More details about the award winners and on-line performances can be found on the WOMEX website, which is now open for registrations: www.womex.com.