Mediterranean, Youth and Music

Mª Elena Morató

Journalist and art critic

Music, as an immediate art, is what more clearly exemplifies the mobility and the changes of society in an environment where the artists are moved more by affinities and feeling than by theories. Thus, based on the premise that no type of physical or mental frontier can be imposed on musicians without curtailing their creativity, we will approach the issue of youth and music in the Mediterranean field referring to how the creative practice of music is socially adapted, at an everyday and political level, and how this reaches consumers.

New Spaces, New Frontiers

In recent times, the progress of politics has had a notorious influence on the development and evolution of art, which has ceased to be an activity of the private field to become one of the decisive actors for the development of society. Since that far off 1982, when Melina Mercuri in the Greek island of Hydra called for greater cultural cooperation between Mediterranean countries, the rise of the European Union and the parallel intensification of North-South relations (despite the pitfalls which slow it down) have prompted theoretical scenarios for the accommodation and development of music as a cross-border art. It is enough to see the large number of meetings, awards, scholarships and programmes of all kinds, fostered by the most diverse entities and bodies, which have emerged in the countries of the Mediterranean sphere and which, along with the increasing proliferation of festivals, have allowed the intensification of cultural interaction at all levels, ranging from the field of study to promotion. The now quotidian term “Euro-Mediterranean”, along with the increasingly more present “Afro-Mediterranean”, reveal these new theoretical scenarios for these new social and political realities. The Mediterranean as a nexus of union is more than ever witnessing an exchange which is currently demanded and strengthened as a factor of shared growth in all sectors of our societies.

The Needs of Music. Promotion Policies and Shortcomings

New realities, which give a crucial role to the development of culture as a factor of growth and social stability, have seen how music gained a greater specific significance in all the activities that were sought to be fostered. Nevertheless, the promotion of music in the new geographical spaces as a part of this cultural exchange that was encouraged has continuously encountered a range of difficulties which impeded fluidity. The coinciding conclusions made in numerous seminars and meetings at the most diverse levels that have taken place in the last few years in the countries of the Mediterranean area (European Parliament ministerial meetings, at a political level; Forum Francophone des Affaires, at a financial level; or informal meetings in the framework of the holding of festivals, at an artistic level, to cite three examples) note that there are four fundamental points on which the world of music is focusing its current needs, bearing in mind that the objective set is to strengthen cultural diversity and guarantee its survival throughout the territory. These four objectives are artists’ mobility (to end the eternal visa problem); the enlargement and diversification of music industry (through the support, for instance, of micro editing); the involvement of a model of tourism as consumption of culture (which favours the local population and allows musicians to develop in their own country); and the creation of an effective network of information exchange which facilitates the joint procedures between the different agents of music promotion.

The meetings held, both institutional and private, systematically deal with the urgent need to establish and apply specific protocols to facilitate and ease the movement of artists between the countries which have an explicit desire to cooperate culturally. Despite the continuous recommendations and initiatives aimed at minimising the negative impact that the endless bureaucratic meanderings involve (which end up exhausting and aborting many enthusiastic and interesting proposals in the diverse fields) and despite the considerable efforts unleashed and the extensive funds invested in specific exchange and development programmes (European Union, UNESCO, Anna Lindh Foundation…) we see that, year after year, the demands continue to be the same, which makes it clear that the solutions envisaged have not been achieved.

Although in 2000 artists’ and professionals’ mobility was a priority in the Culture programme of the European Commission, for the period 2007-2013 it has become one of its specific objectives, with the necessary concurrency of already existing cultural structures (such as the World Music Expo WOMEX, to cite one). However, it is clear that the solutions cannot be effective if there is not first a declaration of tacit and unanimous commitment by the groups of artists through their representatives (arts advisory councils, corporate and creators’ associations, managing entities) as a basis on which the public authorities can depend for that desired mobility (which must be agreed) of artists, without which “cultural exchange and mutual understanding” will continue to be, with exceptions, a rocky road.

Development of New Markets

In this broad scenario of intertwining spaces, musicians, especially the young, seek to find their place. Musicians, we must not forget, are representatives of a large part of society, with which they share concerns and desires, so that any action promoting an exchange or joint work by musicians from different nationalities is in fact putting into contact the societies that they represent. This is the view of those supporting determined music programmes or meetings, some of them as part of projects of a broader scope specifically addressed to the young, such as Youth in Action of the European Commission or the Biennial Association of Young Creators of Europe and the Mediterranean. The institutions and bodies offer many possibilities to learn and develop music activities (mainly in the European sphere) to which students from other nationalities can get access through the exchange and cooperation programmes.

Along with the training and research channels, which would correspond to the theoretical section of music development, in the section of the practice of the profession special emphasis should placed on the festivals,1 because their impact is the most immediate and they bring together both musicians and audience. There are many and they have very diverse formats: the travelling Seven Suns Seven Moons Festival (the result of a cultural network promoted by thirty cities from nine Mediterranean countries); the specific recognition and influence of a group in the Gnawa Festival in Essouauira; or the aim to become a springboard for the new urban trends and styles of the young of L’Boulevard in Casablanca. Others offer contact with the most emblematic artists of each country, such as Pirineos Sur in Huesca, or are an extension of the Centro FLOG Tradizioni Popolari, a popular traditions documentation centre, as in the case of Musica dei Popoli Festival in Florence. All of them in some way favour the public projection of the young, because they usually mean a first backing for the groups and performers beginning their career.

Festivals, moreover, are an open exchange forum both at a theoretical and practical level. Many of the stylistic evolutions and innovative trends which can be observed within the music panorama in all types of styles have their background in occasional meetings held under the auspices of these festivals. Moreover, their local effect, culturally and economically speaking, is so important that their proliferation has been nothing less than spectacular, above all in the Afro-Mediterranean area.

In the early years of this decade in the European scene we witnessed the birth of a new type of festival: the Ramadan Nights. Originating from France and presented as a secular approach to Muslim culture, it is not only conceived as a herald for the promotion of music from these countries but also of other aspects of their culture, through gastronomy fairs and diverse workshops. The particularity of this festival, held in many French cities and, in Spain, in Madrid and Barcelona, is that along with being for the local audience an exceptional opportunity to get closer to these performers, it also seeks to include the immigrated populations in a joint festive celebration… with a great response by the different communities.

Having reached this point, we must insist on the importance for the musicians of achieving a minimum freedom of movement allowing them, on the one hand, to develop their professional career and, on the other, to work in favourable conditions with a minimum of opportunities to make possible their survival so that they are not necessarily obliged to leave their environment. The problem of the emigration of music talents to the major European centres could be minimised with more temporary mobility (study or exchange stays) and occasional mobility (participation in concerts), as the artists themselves recognise.

In the early years of this decade in the European scene we witnessed the birth of a new type of festival: the Ramadan Nights

On numerous occasions it has been pointed out that the role of the cultural industry is gradually appearing as a factor of social development and of reduction of poverty in emerging countries with shortcomings in other sectors, and festivals very clearly contribute to this. It is not necessary to emphasise the importance of the mass media and of some enthusiastic professionals2 in this complex net of knowledge and promotion. Because it is not only the sporadic resonance that their coverage provides but the wide range of possibilities that having direct access to a potentially wide audience, being on the agenda of festival organisers and getting access to radio and television programmes have for a young musician, which will finally result in performances, contracts and, possibly, the holding of internationally promoted events.

If music, as a leisure and consumer activity, has been identified as one of the main factors of social integration for youth, in the case of the emerging music phenomenon in the Mediterranean area the young can become, as creators, the driving force of a new evolution towards integration and coexistence of the old societies. The challenge lies in knowing how to open channels for them to pursue this goal.


[1] We point out, among the many existing, the European Forum of World Wide Music Festival ( or Mediterrània FM (

[2] In this respect, we point out the promotion work carried out in Barcelona by Mingus B. Formentor as organiser of,, and