Festival Phenomenon Fading?


The stability of a music festival is never certain, at least not when looking at the fluctuant nature of Sweden’s musical festivities during the last years. Profet’s Ronni Arturo compares the Swedish festivals to the ever inspiring, empowering and redefining force of Brooklyn’s AFROPUNK.

The concept of a music festival has changed and evolved from its original, simple idea. Like all ideas, this one has been reformed by innovators thinking of new and exciting ways to stage a festival. Instead of only having the standardized grand outdoor music fests, today we can choose from a massive variety. For starters, festivals today tend to target themselves toward a specific audience by specializing in one particular genre. Classic Rock festivals, heavy Synth festivals, experimental Jazz festivals and trippy Psych festivals are, to only name a few, happenings where fans can meet like-minded and escape from the existence of other music than the one they love. Other promoters have taken different paths to make their fest as unique as possible, resulting in interesting inner-city multi festivals like South By Southwest, where Austin is completely flooded by performing musicians during one week.
        In the midst of the always growing popularity and evolution of festivals, Sweden keeps on losing some of the most popular ones. Beloved festivals like the classic Hultsfred and the fairly new Peace & Love both have struggled with keeping their heads above water, perhaps because of the increase in competition that offers almost the same thing as these giants. Bråvalla festival in Norrköping announced that they will not appear next year, since cases of rape and abuse shadowed this year’s rendition. Stockholm Music & Arts, the combined culture happening arranged at Stockholm’s museum of contemporary art, is downscaling from last year’s full-on schedule to only three separate performances this year. Up-and-coming electronic festival Into The Factory has been stopped by the police, who points out the risk of visitors overdosing(!) and falling off buildings in the industrial area where the event was going to take place.

These examples of festivals going bankrupt, being held back by the long arm of the law or temporarily retiring because of horrible incidents make me wonder if the festival phenomenon is fading. But then, on the other hand, how could the interest for musical festivities possibly be diminishing, when it is obviously still the most usual summer past time among the young and painfully hip? Whenever spring draws its last breath and gives way to the early days of summer, one question is on every cocky cool kid’s lips: Which festivals are you going to this year? It is a mystery to me, how something can be so widespread and yet able to close down due to bad business. I have two potential answers to this mystery, the first being the market being filled far beyond its limits. There are simply too many options for a confused festival-goer to choose from. The second probable answer is related to the first one, and it’s a result of the confusion. I believe that an ambivalent individual with no mind of his or her own instinctively chooses to go to the festival that is most talked about. The hippest one, to be frank. The torch of hipness moves from one place to another like the Olympic flame, and the place it leaves has to face the harsh reality of seeing another location receive it. This may involve having to down-size or cancel events that depend on the approval of hip people to survive.
        When some festivals are down-sizing, some are growing. New Yorkian AFROPUNK started in Brooklyn and has now spread over the globe, all the way to London, Atlanta, Paris and Joburg (Johannesburg). Last year, I wrote a short article about AFROPUNK for Profet, proclaiming the undeniable importance of the festival, now and always. As I wrote back then, it is saddening that a message of the equal significance of all human lives still needs to be preached today. It is tragic that something that by this point in our history should be perfectly clear to one and all, still requires repeated explanation. Sure, it’s sad. Sure, it shouldn’t have to be necessary to demonstrate for the mattering of black lives. But it is. That’s why I want to write about AFROPUNK a second time, one year later, this time in English rather than Swedish. The message of equality through happiness and music that this festival is spreading all over our green earth needs to be encouraged, and applauded.

Inspire. Empower. Redefine. Those are the three words that AFROPUNK and the organization behind it, The AFROPUNK Global Initiative, go by. To me that means focusing more on the positive side of change, instead of keeping one’s mind trapped in the negative aspects of what you want to leave behind. Too often we are stuck in old habits, constantly talking about what should be done, while never actually doing anything about it. Old habits die hard, and they condemn us to bitterness and misery. Thinking about what we really can do, and doing it with a smile, makes the struggle easier and more powerful. Doing it with music is a pure pleasure. This is why I risk repeating my one year old article (the ultimate sin for a writer) because what I wrote last year is still important today. I repeat myself to celebrate the positive force of multi-culture in music and arts, purveyed by AFROPUNK all over the world. I repeat myself to support AFROPUNK, a bright light in the myriad of festivals either fading or growing.

29 Juli 2017