Music has played a central and prominent role in Expos since the very first editions that took place in the 19th century. Driven by technological and social advancements, Expos have always had a strong musical element, putting the spotlight on new instruments, genres and musicians, and holding memorable performances. From Belioz’s concert at Expo 1855 Paris to Edgar Varèse’s Poème électronique at Expo 1958 Brussels and the Scorpions’ Moment of Glory concert at Expo 2000 Hannover, music beats through the heart of all World Expos.
Like the logo and mascots, the official song(s) of an Expo is a key part of its story and its public image, serving as an auditory identifier and as a lasting reminder of the Expo experience. Upon hearing the song of a past World Expo, anyone who had the chance to visit is surely brought back to their own unique Expo experience.
It is therefore an exciting moment that with less than 10 days until it opens to the public, Expo 2020 Dubai has released its Expo song ‘This is our time’:
The cheerful melody, sung in both Arabic and English, reflects the diversity of Dubai and Expo 2020, featuring UAE artist and Expo 2020 Ambassador Hussain Al Jassmi, Lebanese-American singer-songwriter Mayssa Karaa and the 21-year-old Emirati singer-songwriter Almas. To mark this special moment, the BIE takes a look back at some of the most catchy and memorable songs – official or not - associated with recent World Expos.
“The strength of a smile” is the English translation of this powerful song written by Andrea Morricone for Expo 2015 Milan. The Expo’s opening ceremony was marked by a moving rendition of “La forza del sorriso” by legendary Italian singer Andrea Bocelli.
As the largest and most visited World Expo ever organised, it is unsurprising that Expo 2010 Shanghai had not one but several ‘official’ songs, including a promotional song, a song for volunteers, and a song for Chinese culture. Perhaps the most celebrated, however, was the theme song “City” interpreted by Hong Kong superstar and Expo Ambassador Jackie Chan.
Written and composed by Yoshiki, “I’ll be your love” was the official promotional song of Expo 2005 Aichi. The gentle ballad, interpreted by Japanese-American singer Dahlia, chimes with Expo 2005’s “Nature’s Wisdom” theme.
Legendary German electronic group Kraftwerk were tasked with creating the official jingle of Expo 2000 Hannover, and ended up creating a full 3’35” song based on the Expo theme “Man – Nature – Technology” that reached the charts in many European countries.
Between the multitude of opera performances, evening shows on the Lake of Spain and rock concerts, music took the centre stage at Expo 1992 Seville, which even had a dedicated anthem composed by Manuel Castillo. The powerful “Bienvenidos a Sevilla” song, performed by Seville-based Fabrica de Sueños, perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Spain welcoming the world for the World Expo.
Written by Osakan poet Yoko Shimada, the popular theme song of Expo 1970 Osaka was selected following a public contest that gathered over 13,000 entries. Named “Sekai no Kuni kara Konnichiwa” (“Hello from all over the world”) the joyful song, featuring singing children, is an ode to a future of peace and harmony.
The official song of Expo 1967 Montreal was selected from over 2,500 proposals submitted as part of a contest, with the winning piece “Un jour, un jour” written by 25-year-old Stéphane Venne. The hit song was recorded by his friend Donald Lautrec, as well as by popular singer Michèle Richard, while an English version “Hey Friend, Say Friend” was also produced.
While the Organisers of Expo 1962 Seattle did not sanction any official song, a series of promotional songs were released in the run-up to the Century 21 Exposition. Of these, it was Joy and the Boys’ catchy ‘Meet me in Seattle (At the Big World’s Fair)’ that was undoubtedly the most popular, played regularly on the Expo site and regularly credited as the ‘approved’ Expo song.
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, Specialised Expos, Horticultural Expos and the Triennale di Milano.