Sónar 2016 kicks off in the Barcelona sunshine

Sónar Festival began its 23rd edition on Thursday with its first daytime sessions, welcoming the acts The Black Madonna, Kenny Dope (formerly Masters at Work), Mad Professor, sharing the stage with The Spanish Dub Invasion, British MC Lady Leshurr, and a classical piano recital by James Rhodes to the Barcelona sun. This total of 130 eclectic acts are being hosted at the Montjuic fairgrounds, where thousands of participants attended, and will presumably attend again on Friday and Saturday, where the night-time performances will be held at the Gran Via Exhibition Centre. Additionally, Sónar+D also kicked off on Thursday, serving as the intellectual and collaborative sister event to Sónar, holding conferences and activities revolving around the “future of culture, arts and technology”, according to curator, José Luis de Vicente.

Danish dj Kasper Marott during his performance at Sónar 2016 (by ACN)
Danish dj Kasper Marott during his performance at Sónar 2016 (by ACN) / ACN


June 17, 2016 09:45 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The 23rd edition of the Sónar Festival started on Thursday with its first daytime sessions, which saw the shining acts of The Black Madonna, Kenny Dope (formerly Masters at Work), Mad Professor, sharing the stage with The Spanish Dub Invasion, British MC Lady Leshurr, and a classical piano recital by James Rhodes, proving that, once again, Sonar brings to Barcelona musical eclecticism and legendary acts. Set at the Montjuic fairgrounds, the Sonar daytime enclosure has returned, attracting thousands of participants, some even arriving in the early hours of the afternoon. This ritual will also be repeated Friday and Saturday, on the two days when the night programming takes place as well, at the Gran Via Exhibition Centre. Specifically, 130 performances are scheduled for Sonar 2016, largely taking place in broad daylight, during the three days of sessions and concerts held (for the fourth year) in various pavilions of the Montjuïc fairgrounds and the Plaza del Universo. Sónar+D also opened its doors on Thursday, adding a professional, cultural, and collaborative element to Sónar, in which several conferences and activities will be held on “the future of culture, arts and technology”, according to curator, José Luis de Vicente.

Starting at one o’clock, the first artists of the festival began to appear on the four stages of the event. Some of the earlier performances emphasised the alliance between the three Spanish leaders of reggae and dubstep (Sr.Wilson, Lasa and George Palmer) with a special guest: British musician Mad Professor, pioneer of roots and dub. Together, they attacked the huge stage that Sonar has dubbed ‘The Spanish Village Dub Invasion’.

This show is proof that Sonar isn’t restrictive in terms of music and doesn’t adhere strictly to electronic music. In this respect, the best example is James Rhodes, the British classical pianist who also offered a recital on Thursday (in the auditorium of the Conference Centre), drawing a large audience. Rhodes also enlivened the concert with personal reflections and contextualisation of the pieces he plays, some which have already expressed in his book “Instrumental. Memories of music, medicine and madness”, a bestseller.

Among the artists who don’t make strictly electronic music, the young, fiery force of British MC Lady Leshurr also stood out today. Despite her youth, Leshurr has millions of views of her Youtube videos.

While the music is quite varied, it is clear that dance music still reigns supreme, and much of the audience at Sonar come for this, to dance from day into the night. This was the general mood as the public eagerly awaited the performance by The Black Madonna, the American DJ and producer that has shaken the Chicago scene both for her new style and for her commitment to underground, feminism and queer affiliation.

The DJ sessions have been taking place in the afternoon on the three main stages, with performances by the Ecuadorian Nicola Cruz, the French Acid Arab (electronic with Arabic undertones) and the hypnotic Sevdaliza. On the Village stage, the last acts of the day were Canadian Bob Moses and the closing number of the infamous Kenny Dope, former member of the popular Masters at Work. On the two other stages, Tuff City Kids and David August closed the night.

A double inaugural concert

 The official opening of Sónar returned to the Barcelona Auditorium, after three years, with the performance ‘Become Ocean’, by composer John Luther Adams. The piece won a Grammy in 2016 and a Pulitzer Prize in 2014, and was interpreted by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and Catalonia National Orchestra (OBC), directed by Brad Lubman.

‘Become Ocean’ is 42-minute experience of music inspired by the Pacific Ocean that wants to warn about the destruction of natural areas, and stress the importance of the sea as a source of life.

Moreover, pre-festival nights (on Friday and Saturday) will be held at the Gran Via Exhibition Centre, with a concert from the one and only British DJ Fatboy Slim. This is the unofficial opening of the festival, organised in collaboration with Estrella Damm; in recent years, the event showcased The Chemical Brothers, Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk.

Sónar+D, the “future of culture, arts, and technology”

Sónar+D (Sonar’s parallel sister event of conferences on the relationship between music and technology) also began on Thursday, an event in which approximately 5,000 professionals will participate and share their knowledge.

The professional event runs until Saturday, and has as its three main elements exhibition, reflection and business opportunities, all with the goal of moving forward technological innovations in the creative industries. The International Conference of Digital Culture and Creative Technologies will hold debates during Sónar+D, professional workshops, work sessions and contact between creators, investors and businesses.

Brian Eno himself, veteran musician and producer, spoke to a full house at the inauguration of the event at the Palau de Congressos in Barcelona, under the title “Why We Play”, exalting community above the individual. Many other activists and musicians are scheduled to speak at Sónar+D, including artists who will also perform at the Sonar festival itself.

Additionally, the professional conference showcases 150 activities that aim to build relationships between the creative community and universities, scientific research centres and companies, such as one where potential candidates are put in direct contact with businesses. Also featured will be a predictive musical algorithm “experiment”, designed to allow the user to select the perfect song for the perfect moment, provided by Domestic Data Streamers.

Sónar+D is an event that is defined, according to its curator, José Luis de Vicente, as a place to gather people who are “interested in the future of culture, arts and technology, and how to use them to inspire new generations”. He concludes that “above all, however, what we need are new ideas and communities. Therefore, the next three days are about communities and ideas on how to strengthen them and help them to impact the world”.