TIGHT FESTIVALS TO GO
From the picturesque winery and the coast of the Nile River to the Gothic Kutná Hora and the former slaughterhouse. We’ve decided to share some lesser known, but not less attractive festivals of the season. They take place in the most unexpected spots and gather the most exciting musicians while being away from festival hysteria and offering a refreshing alternative to uniform line-ups.
A small boutique festival which gathers 500 people annually takes place in the Spanish province of Malaga in the picturesque winery "Descalzos Viejos" in Ronda. For two days, the 15th-century monastery of UNESCO heritage turns into an art-space thanks to Moody Collective and Morning Fever labels people, who co-organize the festival.
The central concept of the event is the interaction of music, visual art and architecture. This year’s art director of the festival is an artist and designer Luca Lozano who is best known for his audio and visual works at Klasse Recordings, ZODIAC44, and Grafiti Tapes. In addition to the incredible visuals and amazing landscapes of an ancient monastery, the festival attracts attention with the unique line-up, which consists of more than 30 names every year. Here you will hear everything from jazz to afrobeat, bossanova, funk, hip-hop, disco, house and quite a bit of techno.
The UVA festival is a worthy alternative to the two neighboring Spanish festivals with their huge mobs and similar line-ups.
Positive Education Festival is organized by a team from Saint-Etienne, which is a 3 hours drive from Paris. During six years of fruitful work, its creators managed to host a large number of events, including two festivals and have built a reasonably strong music community around the project.
This year the festival moved outside Saint-Etienne and will take place in Paris. The two-day program includes 28 acts that could be loosely tagged as kraut-rock, which the organizers focused on this year. If you are a fan of cold wave, synth wave, and EBM scenes, you definitely need to visit Positive Education Festival.
Amsterdam is one of the most iconic spots on the map of club and festival tourism. For instance, the Dekmantel festival is among the most well-known events over here. But there is also a more intimate, more “chamber”, but equally attractive one called Strange Sounds From Beyond.
SSFB is a platform that works closely with people behind The Rest is Noise, Red Light Radio and Rush Hour. It has its own online magazine about music, a radio show, educational programs on the Dutch underground scene and has been organizing the festival for three years straight, seeking to blur the genre boundaries and presenting its idea of good music.
The fact that the organizers have excellent taste and the ability to find a perfect balance in their music program is evident from a multi-genre line-up, which includes 47 live performances and DJ sets, covering jazz, electronics, disco, electro, and a variety of African music. It will also feature a concert of a jazz singer Lettа Mbulu, whose performance is quite a unique event today. Choosing favorites among all the declared artists has turned out to be impossible for us. No doubts, Strange Sounds From Beyond is a must-visit festival.
Creepy Teepy is, perhaps, the most non-standard festival from our selection. It takes place in the Gothic town of Kutná Hora in the Czech Republic, which is famous for its creepy sights, as the Church of All Saints with the Ossuary. The aesthetics of the festival, like the city itself, is following the similar style. It is entirely DIY and is supported by the music community without the participation of sponsors.
The organizers of the festival set a clear goal - the destruction of any musical and ideological boundaries. They gather like-minded artists and visitors who are interested in contemporary trends in music and art and follow the same social settings as the organizers - openness, tolerance and the clear rules: "No to racism, sexism, homophobia, nationalism, and violence.” Even though these rules are obvious to everyone, the festival team argues that they should be spoken out loud in Central Europe, because racism and prejudice are the “norm” here.
Similar to the anarcho-punk approach, there is no backstage for the artists at the festival; everyone is equal, and they are one big family. There is no difference whether it is the Czech no-name punk band, Yves Tumor or musicians of the Posh Isolation label. Coming to the festival, be ready for any music, because the line up is indeed without borders: the minimalist composer Lubomyr Melnyk, the queer duo from South Africa FAKA, Varg with his FLORA project, the representatives of PAN Records, Beirut post-punk Kid Fourteen and many more.
Braille Satellite is another festival to which you can attach a DIY tag with no doubts. The event, organized by two friends, Matas Aerobika and Oscar Olias, exists outside the mainstream festival context. They seek no financial support from sponsors and run solely on the donations and help from friends.
With Braille Satellite, Matas and Oscar promote a specific niche of forgotten and underrated avant-garde musicians, mostly representatives of the underground cassette scene. As the founders explain, the cassette culture is of particular interest to them, because it has never been commercially oriented. Artists who produce music on tapes do not strive to sell it. They create unique works in their bedrooms and distribute the recordings in a narrow circle of their acquaintances, not counting on a wide range of listeners. Matas and Oscar joined forces to create the Braille Satellite platform, which brought together all the most exciting artists, giving them the opportunity to express themselves.
This year the festival is held from 21 to 23 July in the picturesque area of Mushroom Manor Park, about 80 kilometers from the city of Vilnius. For their second event, Braille Satellite team prepared a program of 47 live performances and 28 DJ sets from representatives of the most non-trivial musical directions: from avant-garde rock, post-punk and noise to free jazz, rap and psychedelic folk.
The Nyege Nyege festival is part of an art conglomerate based in Kampala. It includes residences for artists, a recording studio, an agency for managing artists and the label - Nyege Nyege Tapes. The idea is to create a cross-cultural platform that unites musicians and artists from all over the world. Today, it has grown into a huge four-day event on the banks of the Nile.
This year, the line-up consists of 300 names from more than 30 countries. Despite the massive number of artists announced, together they form a distinctive and diverse palette of genres and styles with an emphasis on local musical heritage. As the curators, Nyege Nyege said earlier, this time they paid particular attention to the music of South Africa and Tanzania. The South African scene will be presented by rapper Sho Madjozi, Rude Boyz, Phatstoki, and Sleeping Buddah, while Tanzanian by Sisso, Jagwa Music, and multi-instrumentalist Msafiri Zawose among the others.
In fact, the festival program is far from being limited to local talents. Walking through the territory of the festival, you can accidentally stumble upon a concert of an American hip-hop artist, find yourself listening to a Japanese experimental musician's performance, while ending the day with a DJ set from JASSS or Errorsmith.
Every September, over the past three years the small Belgian town of Eipen turns into a meeting point for the leading giants of the music industry. Here, journalists, labels honchos, diggers, producers, and promoters gather. They stay in the city for three days to visit one of its main attractions - the Meakusma festival.
The history of Meakusma began with small parties and concerts organized by a company of students in the capital of Belgium and its environs. Guided by the collective passion for music, they’ve created the self-titled label and then transformed the general fascination into a three-day festival. Today, the program consists of chamber gigs, parties, lectures, film screenings and discussions stretched throughout the Eipen and its central location - the cultural center of Alter Schlachthof, a former slaughterhouse.
Among the most exciting initiatives of last year’s edition were experimental concerts in the Protestant Church of Friedenskirche, a lecture by musician and music critic David Toop, as well as an improvised musical flea market from A-musik with a selection of experimental releases and second-hand collection of funk, jazz, and kraut-rock. The upcoming Meakusma promises to be no less appealing. As part of the festival, a former member of Cabaret Voltaire and Hafler Trio Chris Watson will record music at the High Fens natural reserve. Lena Willikens will present her curatorial project - a stage with Japanese musicians, while the concert venue and publishing house Les Ateliers Claus will build a space of ten thousand recycled plastic bottles, which will hold discussions and concerts.
photos: by Caroline Lessire