What was your favourite dance floor moment of 2018?
I'd have to say Sho Madjozi's set with DJ Lag at Unsound Krakow this year. Sho Madjozi is a rapper from South Africa, and although she's a rising star there, this was her first show in Europe. They started performing to a more or less empty room, but within minutes it was packed and people were going nuts. Combined with DJ Lag and Sho Madjozi's two dancers from Limpopo, the show was a blazing, joyful combination of rap, gqom and dance where all rules were broken. Dark and rough at times, Lag also managed to slip Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" into the show, and it worked! I've rarely felt such energy in a room—punk levels that, honestly, make most contemporary dance sets feel bland.
I also need to mention the Unsound show featuring Rabit with House Of Kenzo and visual artist Sam Rolfes. Was it a dance floor moment? I don't know—it wasn't in the club, but a theatre—but it was great, a radical collision of experimental and deconstructed club music, ballroom, voguing and video art that ruptured all notions of what an audiovisual show can be.
What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
Making a music festival relevant and unique—both the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world to do. Easy because lots of festivals don't take programming risks. Difficult because there are so many festivals, especially in Europe. It really does feel like we've reached saturation point. Now we also have global corporations starting their own festivals rather than helping fund those that exist, their previous model. The question is, how to remain relevant in such a world? The answer is obvious: take even more risks. But it's not always clear what those risks should be, especially when navigating your way through an ever-increasing avalanche of music.
What was your greatest musical discovery of 2018?
In 2017 we brought Nyege Nyege affiliate Otim Alpha to Europe for the first time. His show was amazing and we developed a friendship with Arlen Dilsizian and Derek Debru from Nyege Nyege, who came with him. Ever since then, I'd been determined to travel to the festival, which I did this year. Experiencing Nyege Nyege Festival firsthand was like nothing else. I already knew many of the artists and had continued following the scene from afar, but to actually be at the festival in Uganda was incredibly inspiring, both in terms of the music—from traditional East African music to current electronic forms—but also the atmosphere. I think Nyege Nyege are doing vital work in terms of the festival, their labels and the residency in Kampala. They're supporting great artists such as Slikback, Kampire, Bamba Pana & Makaveli and MCZO & Duke, building transnational collaborations, and generally have a long-term vision. Where that will lead is one of the most interesting musical questions at the moment.
A second, very different, ongoing discovery is The Caretaker's Everywhere At The End of Time, which in these attention-deficit times is something of a miracle, a six-album series across three years involving almost ten hours of music, documenting in musical form the idea of a descent into dementia. Perhaps the project's scale explains why it's largely overlooked by the music media—a mistake, since it's also what makes it very special. Like previous Caretaker albums, the looping, haunting music in the first releases sounds deceptively simple, yet it's anything but, and where the series leads is surprising, harrowing, yet beautiful. That Leyland Kirby, the man behind V/Vm, ended up making such music is remarkable, but on the other hand it somehow makes sense. I look forward to the last part coming out at the start of next year, to find out how he concludes the project.
There were other discoveries, of course, too many to fit into the space I have. 2018 was a fascinating year for music, where one felt more than ever that it's artists who've been at the edges, both in geographical and socio-cultural terms, that are disrupting things, doing something different.
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