The way festivals interact with history and identity doesn’t have to be obvious or unequivocal. The organisers of the Jewish Culture Festival reach back for centuries-old traditions of the former Jewish quarter (and, before then, separate city) of Kazimierz, and cast a look at the tragic events of the Second World War. Widely regarded as an important platform for discussing the difficult past, the festival intertwines myriad forms of expression and showcases contemporary Jewish artists from all over the globe. It serves as a reflection of the achievements of the Jewish diaspora scattered the world over by presenting them in the context of cultural phenomena. The programme features cantors singing at synagogues, workshops, lectures and discussions, and culminates with the ecstatic concert “Shalom on Szeroka Street”, bringing together thousands of Cracovians and visitors to dance to contemporary rhythms from all over the globe. The festival is a perfect example of looking towards the future while remaining rooted in tradition; although the event doesn’t shy away from nostalgia, it has been enjoying immense popularity over the years and continues to attract fresh audiences with its clever combination of artistic events with remembrance.
Another important venue for world music is the Wolnica Square – coincidentally the home of the Ethnographic Museum. It hosts the main concerts of the EthnoKrakow/Crossroads festival, founded as part of the Kraków European City of Culture 2000 programme. The event originally focused on the musical culture of the Carpathian region, but it has since expanded to cover folk music from all over the globe, reflecting the widespread trend of blurring borders in the 21st century. This refreshed formula creates new communities of musicians and listeners, introduces audiences to new music and bolsters Kraków’s image as an open, multicultural city. During the festival, Kraków resounds with music from as far afield as the Middle and Far East, Latin America, the Balkans, Africa, Yemen, Senegal, Mexico… And of course it features fine interpretations of more local Slavic folklore.