Here are the top global music bands from WOMEX 2022 A Mexican cumbia-punk band called Son Rompe Pera, a traditional singer from West Bengal named Rina Das Baul and a group from near Timbuktu called Al Bilali Soudan: three global acts on the rise.

Three global bands to look out for, courtesy of WOMEX

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Every fall, musicians, artists, managers, concert presenters and record labels from all over the world gather in Europe for a conference and festival called WOMEX. This year, WOMEX took place in Lisbon, Portugal, and NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas was there. Hey, Anastasia.


SHAPIRO: So this is aimed at industry professionals, not so much fans. Why is that?

TSIOULCAS: So WOMEX does sell tickets to people who just want to come hear some cool new music. But it's not a place for fans, necessarily. WOMEX is a gathering for industry professionals to find new talent. And it's become a very fundamental launching ground for global artists. It's a huge resource for the folks who book festivals and venues across our country. So, for example, DakhaBrakha from Ukraine - you might remember them - they went from WOMEX to booking a Tiny Desk Concert and then frequently touring the U.S. Just this year alone, they performed more than 60 dates across this country.


DAKHABRAKHA: (Singing in Ukrainian).

SHAPIRO: OK. So take us to Lisbon. You saw all these acts. Who jumped out at you?

TSIOULCAS: Well, I want to kick things off with an amazing band from Mexico. They're already booked to play New York's Global Fest in January, and then they'll be appearing at South by Southwest in March.


SON ROMPE PERA: (Singing in Spanish).

TSIOULCAS: This is a band from Mexico City called Son Rompe Pera. The group was founded by a set of three brothers, the Gamas. And they wanted to keep their family tradition of marimba playing alive. As kids, they'd play alongside their dad at local events. But they also played in punk bands as teenagers.


TSIOULCAS: And their music is pretty relaxed. You're not quite getting the full experience with just the audio. Their sound is really polished cumbia, but their look and their energy is very punk metal, lots of tattoos and hipster haircuts and jumping around onstage. And the WOMEX crowd went wild for them.

SHAPIRO: So kind of a new take on an old sound there. What else did you see?

TSIOULCAS: People at WOMEX this year came from 116 countries, and there's always something for everyone, from very contemporary performers, like the ones we just heard, to musicians who are truly dedicated to making sure tradition is observed. And one of the latter is a wonderful singer from India named Rina Das Baul.


RINA DAS BAUL: (Singing in non-English language).

TSIOULCAS: Rina Das Baul is a traditional vocalist from India, and she's from a small village in the state of West Bengal. She comes from a spiritual community called the Bauls, whose adherents are wandering mystics who sing praises to God. So she sings, accompanying herself on a one-stringed instrument with a drum actually attached to her hip that she plays at the same time. And her voice is just so pure and full of sunshine, I could have listened to her all night.

SHAPIRO: Wow. So dozens of showcases across more than 100 countries. I'm sure it's tough to pick standouts, but give us another one.

TSIOULCAS: So lots of people have gotten to know and love Tuareg music of the Sahara thanks to artists like the band Tinariwen and the guitarist and singer Bombino, among others. And that style of desert music has been popularized by the name desert blues.


AL BILALI SOUDAN: (Singing in non-English language).

TSIOULCAS: This group is similar. Their name is Al Bilali Soudan, which is also an ancient name for the city of Timbuktu in Mali. And they're similar to Tinariwen and Bombino groups like that who have made it really big here.


AL BILALI SOUDAN: (Singing in non-English language).

TSIOULCAS: And what I want you to hear is that percussion. It just hits me like a ton of bricks every time. It's a rhythm called to takamba. It's pounded out on calabashes like a heartbeat. The first time I heard that dance and that rhythm was also in Mali. And I have to say, none of the other Tuareg groups that have made it big internationally make that takamba sound so central as Al Bilali Soudan does. And it just makes me so happy every time I hear it. Al Bilali Soudan recently started touring the U.S., but I think their appearance at WOMEX is really what's going to kick them into drive in terms of U.S. touring.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas, just back from Lisbon. Thank you.

TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me.


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