My first full day at The World Music Expo (WOMEX) is complete. Toward the end the day I met two fascinating and dynamic female musicians. Both are attending (not performing in any of the showcases at WOMEX), but their stories and music deserve greater attention here and abroad. And I also found it interesting how they offer different views of what it’s like being a musician in Denmark.
Gudrun Holck is a Danish-born singer and performer. She grew up learning traditional, Nordic songs, but by 2005 she was in Lagos, Nigeria learning Afro Beat from the master himself Fela Kuti. Once she came back to Denmark, she combined her two musical loves, but she says, the mood in the country had changed. Holck remembers a Danish society in the 1980s that was open-minded, but in recent years she finds them to be less tolerant. As an example she cites the infamous Danish cartoon of Muhammad that appeared in a local newspaper six years ago. Holck says since that incident she sometimes feels ashamed to be Danish.
Fatma Zidan (Photo: April Peavey
Fatma Zidan gives a very different perspective. She was born in Saudi Arabia to Egyptian parents. She grew up in Cairo. For three years now, she’s been living in Copenhagen with her Danish husband. Zidan told me how the people of Denmark have been so welcoming since she moved here. She admits she’s done her part to assimilate (learning to speak Danish fluently for one), but she emphasizes she continues to sing her songs in Arabic. She says her music has been embraced here. In fact, Zidan’s last two albums have won Danish Music Awards.
Despite their differing views about living and working in Denmark, both Fatma Zidan and Gudrun Holck share optimism for the future. Fatma Zidan’s hope lies with the people of Egypt. Next year, Egyptians will vote for a new president and with it, hopefully there will come stability and opportunity for the Egyptian people.
Gudrun Holck is optimistic about the recent changes she’s seen in the Danish government. Earlier this month, citizens elected not only the first woman as prime minister, but a Social Democrat as well. Holck hopes this is just a start and that more change will come.