Every year, the About.com Readers' Choice Awards showcase the best products, people, organizations, and services in multiple categories, from technology to hobbies to parenting to religion. The readers of About.com make the nominations; each About.com Guide chooses the finalists (up to five in each category) from among the nominees; and the readers and others vote to choose one of the finalists as the best in the category for that year.
2012 was the inaugural year for World Music at About.com's participation in these awards. For the first time, world music fans (that means you!) were able to nominate and vote for their favorite artists and industry leaders in a variety of categories. Voting was open until March 21, and finalists were announced on March 30 (see below for their names).
It should be noted that for the purposes of these awards, our definition of world music is a pretty non-specific one. Basically, we're looking at traditional genres of music from anywhere in the world (including the United States), and contemporary music from any non-Mainstream American culture that contains any elements of the traditional musics of that culture. Vague enough for you? I hope so -- we're painting with broad brushes here, so don't worry too much about keeping things inside the lines.
And now, for this year's categories!
This award is one of two band/artist categories for this year. The Torchbearer Award is an award for an artist or group who is doing important and wonderful work by adding their own artistry to a traditional genre of music, and who is thus keeping a cultural flame alive.
This award is the second of our two artist's awards, intended for a band or artist who is breaking new territory in the realm of world music. That could mean an artist combining ancient instruments with modern recording techniques, a band who fuses multiple genres of ethnic music into something completely new, a pair of artists who've made a cross-cultural CD together, or any number of other things. The key is that they're doing something new and exciting, with a (broadly-defined, of course) world music basis.
This is the first of three "places to see music" categories, and it should be pretty straightforward: there are a huge number of clubs and listening venues around the world that focus on various types of global music. Some are major-player nightclubs in big international cities, who have a regular and engaged audience who can't wait to see which bands will be added to the schedule next. Some are standout listening rooms who bring international music to small towns in North America, offering a welcome dash of multiculturalism to their communities. Still others are, of course, small pubs and bars in regions with vibrant traditional local music, and may even simply specialize in jams and sessions, rather than paid on-stage performers. All are adding great things to the fabric of live music in this world by providing a real place for it to thrive.
This category specifically focuses on seasonal events who include world and traditional roots music as a substantial part of their programming: outdoor concert series big and small, ticketed global music-focused subscription series at indoor concert halls, season-long multi-venue series of concerts, or other similar events. Nominees can be located anywhere in the world, of course!
Festivals are probably the most popular way of seeing live world music, and attending a music festival with a great artistic director or curatorial team is a truly wonderful experience. Nominees in this category should provide continuous (or nearly continuous) programming that involves multiple artists (at least four) for a length of time stretching anywhere from one day to two weeks (longer events should be entered in the "Best Concert Series" category). Festivals in this category can be big or small, focused on a specific genre of world music or having a broad range of artists with a substantial number of world music artists included. They can be indoors or outdoors and take place anywhere on the planet, and they should be good fun based not only on their musical merits, but for all the other things that make festivals great, as well -- nice people, a nice atmosphere, good sound, etc.
And now we enter the realm of recorded music. World music radio shows exist in all sorts of forms: there are great syndicated shows that play all over the world, micro-local programs that specialize in single genres, and even web radio shows that people can listen to from anywhere. Which is your favorite to listen to?
Let's face it: most of us would not have been exposed to most of the world music we've heard if it wasn't for some intrepid A&R folks at world music record labels, who've done the hard (though surely exciting) job of traveling the world and finding great new music to release. Nominees in this category can specialize in new music, compilations, or archival reissues, and can work either in printed media (CDs), digital media (MP3s), or both.
In this digital age, a lot of us learn about new music (or our old favorites, for that matter) from the web. There are thousands upon thousands of websites about world music, from huge broad-spectrum sites that cover all of world music to tiny niche sites that cover every aspect of a little-known genre, artist, or instrument. Which site do you find yourself visiting again and again?