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.
We are opening Oslo World 2023 with a Sami celebration and end with fado's first lady Mariza. The week in between is filled with big and small, acoustic and electric, far and near, simple and demanding - something for everyone. If you don't quite know what you like, this is an opportunity to find some new favourites.
Oslo World 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.
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 this year's festival!