The BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music 2006
When WOMEX delegates were first asked to nominate artists for the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, back in 2001, there was some puzzlement - and probably not a little scepticism.
Incredibly enough, what we now call the Planet Awards have reached their fifth birthday and have quickly become established as the premiere event for world music and one of the highlights of the music year.
It was an idea that had germinated in the mind of fRoots editor Ian Anderson, who had already been running a critics’ album poll in the magazine for some years. But, as he said, “I felt it was a shame that the success of the poll didn't really go any further than our pages. It had struck me for a while, that World Music was one of the few markets that didn't have an industry awards. When I then felt the positive effects the Radio 2 Folk Awards had had on the folk scene, a light bulb switched on. I thought, why not propose a World Music Award to Radio 3?'”
After several weeks of refining an initial proposal in consultation with other authorities of the World Music scene, he sent the draft to the head of Radio 3, Roger Wright, who received it with enthusiasm. Besides Ian Anderson, a group of like-minded people – including Songlines editor Simon Broughton, Mark Ellingham of the Rough Guides series, the organisers of the World Music trade fair WOMEX and event producers Serious – were brought in to advise on the event and have remained the Awards partners ever since.
Five years is a long time in world music and it is interesting now to look back at the first Awards show, which took place in the continued glow of the Buena Vista success - Cachaito Lopez was one winner - and in the throes of a renewed interest in Balkan music - Taraf de Haidouks was another. Crossover maverick Manu Chao also won that year.
In the years since winners have ranged from veterans like Orchestra Baobab, Khaled and Ibrahim Ferrer to emerging acts like Warsaw Village Band, DJ Dolores and Lhasa.
More traditional genres have not been neglected, with winners including Djemilady Tounkara, Chango Spasiuk, Kaushiki Chakrabarty, and the Ensemble Kaboul.
The awards have also picked up many of the artists who have enjoyed crossover success in the wider music market - such as Gotan Project, Rokia Traore, Tinariwen and Mariza. And it was Mariza who summed up the effect of the Awards at 2005's Poll Winners Concert at the Sage Gateshead, when she handed over the Planet Award to Lhasa. "I hope this award changes your life," she said, "as it changed mine".
Those words sum up very simply what everyone involved in the Awards are striving for - to make a difference.
There's still a long way to go before world music receives the recognition it deserves. But the continued success of the Awards for World Music, and your support and interest, will help in that endevour.