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A people friendly festival

Music festivals, whether small, medium or large, go through three phases. The first, heroic, in which they carve their own space, intercept the audience and gradually impose an aesthetic; the second where they consolidate, perhaps daring to do something more but always with attention to the public they could cultivate and the third, those of decadence, in which they stop festivals and become events. The audience is growing dramatically, the billboards are becoming more and more confusing and generalist and sponsors are demanding more and more space.

It is rare that a festival manages to survive the third stage and return. At least the big sound Primavera in Barcelona tried after the 2016 edition (the one in which Radiohead practically cannibalized the rest of the bill); he never tried Coachella in Indio, California, from 2006 onwards (the year Madonna played at the same time as tools – I was there and it was a surreal action) became a headless hydra, playground party for sponsors and background parties to less and less imaginative influence. Coachella 2006 was a prophetic parable about the dangers of growth at all costs, just in the year that Facebook perfected its advertising model and prepared to become a giant devouring the network as we know it.

Variety and fun

The Seventh Edition VIVA! (Valle d’Itria International Music Festival), held in Locorotondo and around from August 2 to 6, allowed us to attend a small-medium festival in a delighted balance between the first and second phases. A people-friendly festival where the organizers and artistic direction seem to have focused not only on the audience, but also on all the variables that make a positive event an opportunity for fun and relaxation on the one hand, but also for cultural diversity and research on the other they

The program of this edition of VIVA! it manages to be varied, sometimes even popular, without ever being generalist. The alternation, too often left to chance between traditional live shows and DJ series, is clearly studied and pressed here: often the boundaries that divide the two types of action are happily confused, as in the case of the memorable series by Detroit DJ and producer Moodymann on August 4.

Bonobos at the festival Viva!

(Francis Hope)

Even gender equality in billboards, a sore point in most Italian festivals, here seems to have finally been addressed as an artistic possibility rather than a puzzle to be solved. The pianist and producer Maria Chiara Argirò, frontwoman of the Swedish synth pop group Little Dragon, the Canadian producer Jayda G, the action of rnb Liv.e and the variety of sounds and experiences, they are certainly not pink quotes but they are the backbone . in the bulletin board. We are not yet fifty-fifty in some European festivals but for Italy it is already a remarkable result.

Gender equality in festivals, we all finally understand it, is not just a matter of emptiness political correctness: it also has a beneficial effect on the public which will be more varied, more mixed, more friendly. It may seem strange, but seeing groups of girls under the stage at an Italian festival dancing among each other without fear of being annoyed or pushed is still something fairly new.

In the here and now without a smartphone

Features two main concerts in VIVA! this, that of the Canadian Caribou (Daniel Snaith) and that of the British Bonobo (Simon Green), is the organic mix between electronics and live instruments. The two performances, one day apart from each other, seemed to mirror each other: more racy and club-like Caribou (with almost rave moments) and more varied and melodic Bobobo. Both, in different ways, show how captivating but also elegant dance music accompanied by analog instruments can be. Bonobo in particular, reinforced by a solid horn section, an exceptional drummer and a singer (Nicole Miglis), proved to be not only an excellent band leader, but also a skilled improviser.

In the Caribou and Bonobo set the boundaries between dance and song, between electronic and jazz, between dancing and listening there is delighted melting. The proof that what we witnessed was something “real” and organic happening in the here and now is the relative rarity of cell phones raised: it was too nice to follow the looks that Green, from his position dj-producer, exchange with the. musician, these “signals” big group he would throw on percussion, bass, guitar and horn. Too positive to leave it in a smartphone screen.

If Caribou and Bonobo hybridize acoustic and electronic, digital and analog, British Cymande, the historic group of psychedelic funk of the seventies that miraculously reformed in 2014, brought on August 4 the roots of the freedom we have today to mix styles and techniques. Cymande (“pigeon” in Creole), all of descent from different countries in the English-speaking Caribbean, was a pioneer who incorporated elements of rock, reggae, calypso and jazz in three albums released between 1971 and 1974. was short but their eclecticism continued to flow, like a karst river, throughout the eighties and eighties: Cymande became a cult object for the British Rare groove blasters and an inexhaustible source of samples for the forefathers of ‘hip hop’ like Kool Herc and. Grandmaster Flash and for more eclectic, Afrocentric and intellectual children like De La Soul or the French MC Solaar.


Cymande, now in his seventies (two of the original members died in 2020), takes the stage at VIVA! with the authority of the founding fathers and the freshness of a newly rediscovered band. The joy they have in playing together is contagious. Behind them roll historical images of their career: photos of the first group, the concert at the Apollo Theater in Harlem (they were the first Englishmen to play in the temple of African-American music) and then the singles: sacred fetish for collectors and Rare. groove lovers.

Long funk workouts with a psychedelic tail, soulful ballads, forays into gospel and reggae follow each other in a series that resembles a celebration of music without borders. When Ray King, Cymande’s singer, invites us to replay “Music is the message and the message is music” with him, it seems like a mass, a ceremony, a manifestation of this almost religious afflatus that runs at its best the dance music has developed over the last fifty years. All under a big moon and a clear sky that once, in the stormy night between Friday and Saturday, brought us back to a summer that we will remember for its climatic changes and extreme weather events.

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