Marseille briefly becomes world music central at the end of this month when the fourth annual Babel Med World Music Forum kicks off.

The event, which runs from March 27-29, attracts between 1,500-2,000 music industry professionals for a daytime trade fair and conference program, combined with evening showcases featuring 30 acts.

"As the shape of the music industry changes, Babel Med has evolved into an important A&R source for live industry professionals," says a spokesman. "Year on year we are seeing ever more festival programmers, agents and bookers."

This year the event also plays host to the annual general meetings of the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals, the Association of African Music Labels & Producers and the Organisation International de la Francophonie.

"World music has proved to be more resilient than most genres to the industry downturn," the spokesman added. "That's partly down to its appeal to a demographic that still buys music, and partly because the scene was always as much about the live experience as sound-carrier sales."

Babel Med is now solidly positioned as a cultural link between Europe and Africa with South American labels and artists also starting to get involved. Live highlights include Lebanese jazz trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and flamenco pianist Diego Amador. Amador, possibly the only artist to play classic Bulerias and Fandangos on a piano, has previously collaborated with Chick Corea, Pata Negra and legendary guitarist Tomatito.