After hosting a debut show in Hong Kong in 2017, Sónar — the leading, innovative and experimental electronic music festival — is set to return the metropolitan and vibrant city of Hong Kong on 17 March. In celebration of Sónar’s 25 anniversary, this festival will literally bring us an “out-of-the-world” artistic and scientific experiment, sending music to outer space in search of extraterrestrial intelligence.
Justin Sweeting, Music Director of Sónar, shared with BOOM the behind of the scenes of Sónar, clearing the questions many of us have in mind — how was Sónar born, what follows after the ‘space’ music mission, and what fans can prepare before this upcoming superhouse.
Last year was Sónar’s debut show in Hong Kong. How do you feel about the Hong Kong music scene?
We’re in developing stages and what’s so exciting is there are more artists doing interesting things across the spectrum of genres than there has ever been.
How difficult is it to run an event like this in Hong Kong?
There are challenges with whatever you do in life. We’re well experienced in terms of the operational aspects of putting on festivals, and we have a great team behind this as well as the support from Barcelona. So that side of things feels strong. I’d say a greater challenge here in HK is simply that festivals like this aren’t sewn into the fabric of culture yet, so letting people know what Sónar is all about and why it’s different to other festivals, alongside getting potential festival goers to commit (and commit early) is always a focus.
What’s the concept and message behind Sónar that you want to educate?
Sónar is the link between creativity and technology, uniting established artists with emerging talent and always on the cutting edge of the electronic music landscape. It is the meeting place for creative people from various communities and we really hope people do come out and experience all the inspirational and incredible electronic music there is to discover, along with all the culturally significant and hands on elements of the +D programme. We want people to experience for themselves how accessible this music is and how involved they can be at whatever their interest level is.
It offers opportunities for creative communities to meet, interact and exchange ideas while showcasing cutting-edge immersive experiences. It offers unique opportunity for festivalgoers to experience the entire lifecycle of the creative process in an accessible way. From discovering new products at the prototype stage to attending master classes by artists and creative luminaries to enjoying breath-taking live performances, Sónar showcases all the links in the creative chain.
Sending music to outer-space is definitely a pioneer. How did the idea come up and what can fans expect after the musical message is sent out?
A typically brilliant and innovative idea from the team in Barcelona , this is the Sónar Calling project which marks Sónar’s 25th anniversary celebration. The exoplanet chosen is one which meets the necessary conditions to house life and extra-terrestrial intelligence, so in terms of what to expect, that’s all part of the experiment as no one really knows. Though sending a quarter century of radical electronic music for another planet’s forms to receive, decode and potentially respond, certainly makes for a fascinating science experiment!
The number of outdoor music festival is rapidly increasing. Do you see it as an opportunity or a threat?
We see it as a positive. Not only does it help grow the market for outdoor events, though it also helps give our own events context and comparison. Which we feel is a great thing!
How does Sónar stand out from other music festivals? How does it compare with Clockenflap?
Sónar’s positioning is at the very cutting edge of electronic music festivals, and covers a far broader spectrum of music and experiences than the other electronic festivals in town. Clockenflap’s music policy is broader overall and the brand is also inherently more silly. Though there are certain similarities with Clockenflap in terms of both featuring emerging talent alongside established acts, and of course the commitment to the ‘arts’ side of the festival means there is a lot of common ground between us. These similarities are really what drew us together and has made the working relationship so smooth. We have aligned vision, and a very similar style and work ethos. If you love Clockenflap, you’ll love Sónar and vice versa.
The line-up announced earlier includes quite a lot of local names like Sunsiaré and Fotan Laiki. Why was such a decision made?
We’re proud that Hong Kong is Sónar’s only instance in Asia presently, and it’s important to us that we represent local talent within that so it is authentically anchored in the city. This is how we push momentum continually forwards for the artists and it only makes perfect sense to do all we can to help local artists.
How has Sónar evolved since its establishment 25 years ago?
It has evolved to being firmly established as the world’s leading and most respected electronic music festival there is.
What do you expect from the visitors or government?
We expect they’ll have a truly wonderful, fun-filled time!
Anything our readers need to prepare before the festival hits?
Come early to make the most of all that is on offer. Beyond the performances, be sure to check out the +D programme which has so much to offer on so many different fronts, and is so accessible to all. These opportunities are so rare in Hong Kong and before you know it, will be gone again, so seize the chance whilst it’s here!
Sónar 2018 Hong Kong
Hong Kong Science Park, Shatin, Hong Kong