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Oslo World - 30 years of music and activism!

In 2023, Oslo World will be held for the 30th time. That is worthy of a celebration!

This year we're kicking off the festival with a concert by the Brazilian icon Caetano Veloso a few weeks prior to the main event - and in week 44 we're filling the whole city with music. When we chose a theme for this year, we wanted to say something about the intention behind the festival over the past three decades. We landed on 30 years of music and activism. The last few years have been some of Oslo World's very best, with new meetings between music from all over the world and a growing city - that makes it even more relevant to look back at the beginning, and the intention behind the festival.

Our festival has its origins in a project called “Klangrikt Fellesskap”, initiated by Rikskonsertene (Concerts Norway), where schoolchildren got to experience culture from different parts of the world. A research project compared groups that had participated with school children who had not been able to see concerts, and found that it yielded results in the form of more positive attitudes towards immigrants and a strengthened feeling of cultural identity and security among kids with immigrant background. The results encouraged the Minister of Culture at that time, Åse Kleveland, to earmark funds so that the project could continue. This is how the festival Verden i Norden came to be. In 2002 it changed its name to Oslo World Music Festival, and in 2017, the name was shortened to Oslo World.

A lot has changed since 1994. The festival created an opportunity to invite musicians of worldwide renown to Norway in a time before the internet accelerated musical globalization. Knowledge of music from all over the world has increased drastically in Norway since then. The amount of concerts from different parts of the world has skyrocketed, and the number of musicians with immigrant backgrounds working in Norway has grown. The fight against intolerance in our society is not a one-way street - we are constantly reminded of that. But the perspectives on our multicultural society have matured and become more diverse. It's easy to look back at the early nineties, and the blue-eyed multicultural optimism behind the founding of this festival, and smile.

But that can be said about almost anything from 1994 today. The most striking thing is how well the basic idea behind this festival works, even today. How aptly it still responds to challenges facing us here and now. Norway in 1994 was on the periphery for musicians from all over the world. We did not necessarily have a natural place in touring schedules. It looks quite different today, but without the continued work from several actors, including Oslo World and our festival network, we are still a small country, easily ignored. The idea of ​​bringing cultural expressions from all over the world to Oslo to create increased understanding and tolerance has produced a festival where confrontations are made possible. Where artists and activists are invited to Oslo to show how the field of culture is a place where new battles are being fought, constantly.

The goal that music and culture from all over the world should be available to the Norwegian concert audience has allowed us to present expressions that are becoming increasingly central to the contemporary musical world - from pop and club music to various forms of experimentation and preservation of traditions. A festival with a multicultural starting point probably seemed a little unusual in Norway 30 years ago - today the globalization of artists and genres is a matter of course for more and more festivals.

The principle of cultural accessibility has also created a 30-year-long tempestuous love affair with the city of Oslo - through the growth of clubs, new concert scenes and a nightlife boom, through deep crises and new revivals. The city in which we make the festival is still undergoing drastic changes. Over the years, we have tried to highlight different places in the alternative culture, phenomenons in danger of being forgotten or squeezed. We have invited activists from the rest of the world who ask pointed questions about who the modern city should be for.

But the most important point, and the greatest privilege, is that Oslo World has been allowed to reflect the city's varied population. New clubs, new musical niches, more and more people who have found us over the years and made Oslo World their festival. Through their participation, commitment and ownership, they have pushed us in new directions. There isn’t one easily definable Oslo World audience today - during the festival week, all kinds of people meet. People from various backgrounds, generations, with different musical preferences and bedtimes, who all have their own Oslo World. Would this have been possible without the musical optimism and without the strong belief in a shared public responsibility for culture, on which the festival is built? We don't think so - and it bears reminding, and new discussions, in a worrying year when participation in cultural events is falling in Norway. But above all, it deserves a proper celebration.

We’re looking forward to it!

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