The association Musiques du Monde’s mission is to support and to facilitate the activities of all persons involved in the field of traditional music : musicians, researchers in ethnomusicology, collectors of music from around the world, recording companies, organizers of concerts and festivals and the music-loving public alike. “Allowing” is the keyword for the association : allowing peoples and communities to inventory a part of their musical tradition and to make a cultural statement ; allowing professional collectors of this music to do their work under normal conditions and to be legally recognized ; allowing recording companies throughout the world to have a reserve of unreleased recordings ; allowing cultural engineers to have access to necessary information for the organization of performances of traditional musicians ; and lastly, allowing the public, whenever it wishes, to request the release of a large number of recordings of original music which is endangered, is little known or is merely at a given level in its development.
The Need for Collections
of the music in the world today is at risk of being forgotten,
due to the disappearance of traditional performers, since
new generations do not always wish to perpetuate previous
forms. Yet other music that benefits from local recording
methods in its own country has difficulty making it past
its borders, because it does not coincide with Western forms
or because it is considered insignificant or hard to commercialize.
In either case, these traditions remain inaccessible to the world’s music-loving audience. In the first case, without a systematic program of collection, only the recordings made by the most commercially popular performers in the country will remain, while all former versions will disappear. In the second case, without field work to record the music in its original context, the music will never make it to us, or will only appear in arranged forms considered more enticing by the record industry.
It is well known that all traditional music evolves along with its environment ; within this essential and unpredictable process, older forms pass into oblivion or are adapted to correspond to modern repertories. Although we must accept the fact that certain music from past centuries has indeed disappeared, we no longer have an excuse today, with the diverse means at our disposal to put the planet’s musical heritage on a lasting support at an affordable price.
For certain musical traditions, older recordings exist, but their sound quality renders them fairly inaccessible to today’s audience. In almost every case, it is vital to return on site to renew this sound quality, update and re-evaluate it, discover new performers, and take an imprint of the latest developments, in the spirit of pioneers such as Moses Asch, Alan Lomax and Harry Smith in the United States, and Vicente T. Mendoza and Raùl Hellmer in Mexico. Without the considerable work of these precursors, what would exist of the musical memory of North America ? Making collections of contemporary musical heritage must be considered a duty towards our future generations.
Musiques du Monde’s objective is thus to intervene quickly on site ; it aims towards the preservation of cultural diversity while encouraging the publication, distribution and promotion of musical recordings, most of which are as yet unreleased.
Serving World Cultures
For the communities involved, the arrival of a foreigner who wishes to record their musical heritage may be perceived in various ways. The primary work of a collector is to explain his or her methods, then come to an agreement on achieving his or her goals. In many cases, the musicians or the community as a whole see the benefits of distribution beyond regional or national borders as a form of recognition, to which is traditionally added a payment of fees and a working agreement in case the music is to be published. Moreover, the work of collecting, in and of itself, may lead certain populations to reconsider their cultural heritage with more appreciation. Lastly, works such as the “Articles of the Project Concerning a Declaration of Cultural Rights” , published by UNESCO, points out that the recognition of a cultural community by the rest of the world depends on its making “declaratory acts” ; in this context, the affirmation of a musical heritage (via the publication of a phonogram), which is a determining factor in the cultural identity of a community or a people, must be incorporated into one of these acts.
Clearly, in numerous regions the money received is an unhoped-for
resource (entire families sometimes depend on a recording
artist), but the needs at the community level may be quite
different. Thus, Musiques du Monde wishes to promote a concept
adapted to local realities, a concept we call “fair
collections”, since it includes certain aspects of
fair trade. In putting together collections, the collector
pays musicians at the time and the place of the recording
sessions, and then arranges for them to receive an appropriate
amount once the recording has been sold to a record label ;
this exchange happens within the narrow economical context
in which few funds are in circulation. Fair collections
can take into account the exact needs of groups or communities
and can finance certain projects for local development (especially
those related with the collection and the transmission of
cultural heritage), with the participation of partners from
the world of culture or trade. These contributions do not
exclude payments made to musicians. We will strive at each
time to maximize the proportion paid to performers, once
all collection costs have been deducted.
The names or logos of contributing partners who have helped finance the collections will be printed on the CD or CDs (depending on the recording company’s own policies). Communities could, if they wish, be remunerated via a special release, in agreement with the recording company.
Setting off to record the elements of musical heritage without the support of an institution is an unforgettable but risky adventure. They may go into debt to complete their project, for which the final product may never find a distributor or may only find one much later. It is thus a question of freeing the collector from the obligation of immediate sales and of releasing him or her from the constraints of profitability.
In the system implemented by Musiques du Monde, a collection project submitted by an active member and selected by MM may be financed in various ways, depending whether the member is already a salaried employee or is freelance and makes a living from this activity.
The expenses for a salaried member at the time a project is submitted, will be paid until he or she returns from the collection process.
A freelance member will have his or expenses reimbursed and will receive a salary until her or she has returned from collecting.
No matter what his or her status may be, if a collector must be accompanied by an assistant to complete the project, this assistant will, like the collector, have his or her expenses paid and/or receive a salary until returning from the collection project.
Serving Recording Labels of Traditional Music
For recording companies, everyone agrees that selling this type of music is not an easy endeavor. In Europe, the remarkable work of certain recording labels, which benefit from State subsidies, has permitted some of the most impressive collections to be put together. However, smaller, private labels continue to release, with more or less commercial success, recordings that are equally accomplished, along with international variety and World Music products for which the demand is greater and which allow traditional music to figure in the catalogs. Over all, the demand for traditional music is too weak to motivate so many collection initiatives, in as much as the collector is not assured that he or she will be able to sell the recorded product. In fact, even if this product finds a buyer, the sales may not cover the total cost of the collection and the payment to musicians.
Clearly, the preservation of endangered, little-known or marginal music should not depend on the good will of recording labels for whom the need for economic survival comes first and foremost. Freeing collectors from the obligation of immediate sales is a means of putting together a reserve of quality recordings from which the recording labels may draw as they like. We will contact these companies before each collection to test their possible interest and to obtain, if possible, a commitment to purchase. Even if they do not have the financial means for this type of undertaking, most of these recording companies are a priori interested in acquiring the product.
Under the right conditions, the release of one or two compact disks will follow the field work and cover a part of the costs incurred. We will thus do everything possible to increase the number of commercial releases by contacting record companies of any nationality that may be interested.
Serving the Public
As we have already pointed out, making a collection of contemporary musical heritage should be considered a duty towards future generations ; each of our projects will thus be implemented keeping in mind that the project also constitutes a small step towards achieving this goal. Globally, we will do our utmost to facilitate the meeting between the public and these endangered or little-known musical traditions. Since music maintains links with all aspects of culture as well as with the other arts, it will be essential to take into account all media that render the context in which it is produced more sensitive. Thus, each mission could lead to the establishment of a veritable gateway between, on the one side, a people, a group, or individual musicians, and on the other, an audience that is increasingly attentive and open to surprise.
Who today knows what tomorrow’s music lover will ask for ? Who knows if the market for traditional music is not going to expand suddenly, forcing recording labels to meet increasingly exacting and informed demand ? No one does.
A Structure in Agreement with All Its Contributors
These numerous observations and various field-work experiences have permitted to identify this void that we propose to fill. In response to these considerations, the association Musiques de Monde is an essential element : an entity entirely devoted to traditional music and performers, which encourages the activities of all contributors in this domain, and for which the main focus is the collection, the promotion and the distribution of this music. Through its activities, it will help to :
- contribute to the preservation of cultural diversity,
- bring cultural recognition and support to certain isolated communities,
- inspire renewed interest in musical heritage throughout the world,
- encourage development in a sector currently dependent on good will,
- develop professions and inspire vocations,
- allow the constitution of a bank of original music, accessible to researchers and to specialized recording companies who wish to publish it, and
- offer a database to organizers of festivals and to cultural engineers.
Musiques du Monde thus proposes to back experienced fieldworkers, able to accomplish the collection of traditional music in the context in which it is produced.
All will be experienced sound engineers, capable of working within their accorded budgets.
These undertakings are less expensive when they are managed by professionals. The overall costs vary according to the constraints of geographical location, the equipment necessary, the presence of one or two people on site, the length of stay and the estimated quantity of musical heritage to be recorded. As a mere example, certain missions may be completed with as little as € 5000.
What do we need to do ? We need to buy airplane tickets, to pay for additional equipment when necessary, to finance missions of one or two people or to reimburse their expenses, to insure equipment, to pay musicians appropriately and to ensure that they receive their fair share if the recordings are published, and lastly, to support local development projects, should they exist, when working with communities.
Postproduction of the sound recordings will initially be done in France by professional sound volunteers who are members of the association.
As a non-profit organization with the status of association loi 1901 under French law, Musiques du Monde is eligible to receive subsidies from territorial collectivities, from the European Union and from other institutions, as well as funds from private organizations, companies and sponsors, as long as these contributions do not conflict with the general goals, ethics and statutes of the association. The association will also receive contributions from its members and benefactors, as well as profits stemming from commercial releases, and may have recourse to subscriptions.
As part of the process of making and publishing recordings, we also propose to combine our efforts with those of renowned cultural institutions such as La Maison des Cultures du Monde, La Cité de la Musique or Radio-France, with whom we wish to implement various forms of partnerships in order to allow musicians to come to the country, and to set up performances, radio broadcasts, exhibitions, the projection of documentaries, publications, ....
The founding members have put together eight compact disks, based on collections made in Mexico, in Honduras and in Cuba :
- Mexico, The Festival of San Miguel Tzinacapan. Ocora Radio France - 1996.
- Honduras, Garifuna Music, The Tradition of the Black Caribs. Inédit/Maison des Cultures du Monde - 2001.
- Honduras, Wabaruagun Ensemble, Songs of the Black Caribs. Ocora Radio France - 2002. This CD led to a production of Les Chemins de la Musique entitled “The Garifunas of Honduras”, broadcast from June 10 to 14, 2002, on the radio station France-Culture.
- Mexico, The Huasteca, Dances and Huapangos. Ocora Radio France - 2003. This CD led to a production of Les Chemins de la Musique entitled “The Huasteca, Heart of the Mexican son” (La Huasteca, au coeur du son mexicain) broadcast from September 15 to 19, 2003, on the radio station France-Culture.
- Mexico, sones huastecos, Los Caimanes de Tampico. AIMP/Ethnographic museum of Geneva - 2004.
- Mexico, The Son in the Huastec Region. Arion Music - 2005.
- Cuba, Punto and Trova of Sancti Spiritus, Ocora Radio France - 2008.