After having announced Taylor Mcferrin as their first act for Malasimbo's 5th anniversary, the festival just announced their next two over the weekend. They will be hosting Ky-Mani Marley, one of Bob Marley's sons, to bring the traditional and original reggae vibe of the festival. In addition, Fred Wesley and The New JB's will also be performing, legends in their own right as James Brown's band during his heyday.
Following the second announcement we interviewed Malasimbo's co-founder and festival director Miro Grgic, who has been there since day one with a vision he continues to pursue, grow and widen. We gave him the 360 degree treatment of past, present and future, to understand everything that the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival is about and what it has in store for the crowds of its 5th anniversary this coming March 2015.
What would you say is the one defining characteristic of the Malasimbo music and arts festival that sets it apart from all other festivals? Sound Quality. Its the best i've heard in the outdoors. It's the right acoustics and space, with the right number of people that work in harmony with the right Sound System. It has the fundamental principles to deliver high impact and be very soothing to the ears, without causing any fatigue. There is plenty of head room and no stress in the signal chain. The hearing is the most responsive of all senses and takes in the most information, so if you nail that, you are already half way there. Paint it well, provide great food, the right touch of friendship and the smell of nature - Thats the winning combo that we refer to as our 4 pillars: Music, Arts, Environment and Indigenous Culture, in itself a defining characteristic of Malasimbo.
You have been organising this festival for five years now, what is your most treasured memory? Feb 16, 2011. Our first technical rehearsal. It was the first time we turned on the sound and lights and experienced the production in the Malasimbo Amphitheatre. We were a small group of family and friends celebrating Olivia’s birthday, and we knew in that moment that something big would grow out of this. As planned, Malasimbo turned out to be a catalyst for a boom in contemporary festival culture, leading to more funding for the creative industries, driving ideas, tourism and business into the Philippines.
As you have experience working at festivals abroad, tell us a bit about organising one in the Philippines, especially in a remote area like Puerto Galera? Many of the best festivals are remote and this is what makes them special. It filters out a great crowd who seek adventure and quality and generally love the outdoors. Philippines is a great climate for organising festivals. The outdoors are pristine and Filipinos love music and arts festivals. There is a big market for it now. When we started, getting funding for an international festival of our kind in Puerto Galera, was laughed at and deemed impossible by various know hows and marketing professionals. People thought we were crazy. Luckily the Local and National government thought more of it and became the first partners of the event. If it weren’t for the Philippine Department of Tourism and its support for the creative industry, i am not sure that we would have all this now. A multi million dollar industry employing musicians, producers, artists, dancers and various performers and creative people whilst bringing more tourism into the country. We are truly blessed to have a Tourism Campaign called “Its More Fun in the Philippines” that focuses on the promotion of having fun. No other country has that. It reflects the people and the culture and gives support to the arts which is the blood, creativity and inspiration for the rest of the economy. Overall there is a desire to level things up. More and more Entertainment precincts are being built in the Philippines demanding an even bigger production of creative content.
What advice would you give anyone who is organising a music festival? If you can afford it, “hire professionals”. A good friend once told me “Don’t give big jobs to small people” otherwise you can really upset the balance of what you are creating, especially if you are in the early stages of development and experiencing growing pains. We started as a tiny group of passionate individuals, every year our team has grown and we are slowly becoming professionals. The other thing is, understand the concept of Sound Quality. Its a music festival, how it sounds determines in many ways how it is.
What does Malasimbo have in-store for festival-goers this year? We just added a few more names to Taylor Mcferrin. I’ve been working on this years booking for years, so I am really looking forward to both Ky-Mani Marley and Fred Wesley. Both are perfect for Malasimbo, the best in Soul, Funk, Roots and Reggae. They both have great live shows. All the Marley brothers do a great job in making their dad proud. And to have James Brown’s legendary band leader Fred Wesley and the JB’s with us, I know its going to be special and I am very excited about that. I love the funk. These players have so much experience so I can’t wait to hear them live. I am going to focus more on the production. We will introduce some new elements and activities on the grounds to improve the things we set after this year. Every year we get a little better. We have a life long road ahead of us and we are in no rush.
Do you see Malasimbo expanding musically, a bit more outside the traditional musical vision of the festival to Electronic music perhaps? We are definitely going to stick with traditional, timeless and quality but also experiment with futuristic and entertaining stuff. We’ve always had some elements of Electronic Music and we are going to explore more of those ideas for the 2nd weekend.
How come the move to 2 weekends rather than focusing on one? What is the idea behind that? Its our 5th year anniversary special. We always wanted to do another activity on that site and so many ideas have driven us to this point. When you have such an amazing venue, its a pity thats its used only 1 weekend a year. Since the production is already there, its most efficient to do it around the same time. We want to incorporate more creatives ideas for an even larger arts community. The idea is a going to be fresh and something new. More info coming in January.
Give us the 5 strong points why people should fly from all over the world to come to Malasimbo? To experience Philippine Culture and Pristine Environment, to discover great music and arts, to hear great Sound Quality and to be inspired. Its an experience worth buying a ticket for as its something you will value for the rest of your life and be proud to have played a role in supporting it.
Which artist are you most looking forward to see play at the festival and why? Too many to mention, none of which we can afford, nor are we interested in spending so much money internationally. No point in that. If I could get anyone and price didn’t matter, I’d probably get Al Green.
Lastly, how do you see the music and festival scene evolving in Asia in the future? I think Festivals will start to take different shapes and forms. I think the music scene in Asia is evolving more then ever before. With so many festivals flooding the market, so many local acts get the opportunity to level up and showcase their talents. This will lead to more independent production, labels, collaboration and an overall investment into creative industries. All of this will lead to a greater creative outcome and feed itself to create even more opportunities.
Check out the after-movie from Malasimbo 2014 below and stay tuned to their Facebook page for upcoming announcements and ticket information.