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A reflection on what role a music festival should play nowadays shot in Utrecht, Netherlands during Le Guess Who?
We’ve been thinking about going to Le Guess Who? festival since 2017. After a year of traveling all around Europe with We are Europe trying to get to know some of the main stakeholders of contemporary culture and turn that search into the New Activists of European Culture series, we finally made it to Utrecht to attend Le Guess Who? at the end of 2018. Besides filming the festival and interviewing artists and the festival founder, we also wanted to explore other formats, therefore, we took photographer Miguel Refresco with us to document it all in pictures.
foto by Alvaro Campos
Representing the Underrepresented was shot in November 2018 during the 12th edition of Le Guess Who? which aims to highlight music that crosses borders all over the planet. “Who is a headliner? Everyone has his personal headliner and I think that’s what music should be”, says Bob Van Heur, co-founder of the festival. And that makes us reflect on what role a music festival should play nowadays. It should be a place for discovery where viewers can expand their horizons and their vision of the world, a counter-current stance to a panorama increasingly dominated by algorithms and information bubbles that are centered in individual interests.
Representing the Underrepresented
People trust us and they trust the festival. People know that at Le Guess Who? festival they hear music that they never have heard about. They buy a ticket for an adventure. We love to present all these sounds which are really underrepresented on TV, on radio, but also in theatres and venues.
- Johan Gijsen, co-founder and general director of Le Guess Who?.
The festival gives musicians the opportunity to curate other artists and it made sense to us to portrait it on this film, so, we provided a platform for artists and organizers to discuss music, the festival and also social matters. In fact, our goal was to go beyond musical representation, so, we tried to approach social matters such as the multiculturality of Utrecht in the Lombok district. Rinkie Vreeke, coordinator of Satellite Projects, told us about Lombok festival and its relation with the district and the Le Guess Who?. Lombok festival is hosted and organized by and with residents. It takes place in several outdoor and indoor locations in Lombok’s neighbourhood with free entry, and it shares some of the musical line-up with Le Guess Who? mixed up with local talents.
As Barry Spooren, marketeer and assistant programmer explains, nowadays marketing a festival is becoming more about marketing the artists. “Telling the artists’ stories and introducing them to the audience, that’s why I think people should buy a ticket.” - he says. Artists always have something to say, not only through their music but also through their path. Vashti Bunyan thought she had no place in the music industry, after releasing her debut album Just Another Diamond Day in 1970 with no success. Only 20 years later was she (re)discovered. Maybe if there were people as Devendra Banhart, the musician who curated her for the festival, back then, her story could have been different, she says. Artist JPEGMAFIA has an interesting story too. He developed his interest in music while in the military, and it was after serving in the Iraq war that he was able to conquer his space and have a name on the music scene.
This film gives a voice to ten different people who take part in the music industry from different paths, sharing the same interest in music. With music as a starting point, we intended to listen to these artists, curators and organizers in order to understand their view and their willingness to change the monocultural Europe and US-focused perspective that seems to dominate our current times. As Jacco Gardner says, music should be experienced as something that could be from anywhere, and so, Representing the Underrepresented goes after the festival's ideas to expand those perspectives and show that the world is a place way bigger than we sometimes realize. As Bob Van Heur points out, we are more than 7 billion people in the world, why are we all listening to the same music?