The massive discovery festival, dedicated to strange and hidden music, will rock the historic center of Utrecht from November 10 to 13. PAM will be there. Leading up to our onsite coverage, here’s a small highlight of the key projects of this 2022 edition.
Impractical sites, testy sound, and high carbon events sold under the veil of greenwashing without shame…Hidden behind the European mega-festivals is often a hard liberal economy of musical events. The purity of the festival experience is slowly being washed away in favor of scripted spectacles that neglect sound, space, encounters and dance. With cultural events now in the ranks of major industry, there are a few counter examples keeping the flame and sound alive. Le Guess Who? is one of those festivals in the first rank, holding its own as an independent and honest musical experience.
Artist collectives in charge of programming
For fifteen editions, the festival has taken over the city of Utrecht with a program that is out of bounds, of high quality, accompanied by carefully tuned sound equipment – an attraction in and of itself. For four days, the best of the regional scenes converge in the heart of a small Dutch town. A large part of the programming is entrusted to the artists themselves: this year, for example, Animal Collective invites Habibi Funk and the American rap trio – Horrorcore tendency – Clipping invites the Kenyan ambient producer KMRU, as well as the experimental IDM composer Nkisi.
Coco María, the turbulent Mexican globe-trotter – now based in the Netherlands – will present her best artistic recommendations for the dancefloor and the London collective CURL will bring in the New York rapper and activist Moor Mother, half of the duo 700 Bliss alongside Dj Haram. Eminent leader of the excellent Timedance house, the producer Batu summons Bambounou, spearhead of the Parisian technoid avant-garde.
Ugandan and Congolese flags proudly raised
In total, almost 200 concerts, lectures and screenings will rock the historic heart of the old Dutch city. Pan African Music will pay special attention to our Ugandan comrades from Nyege Nyege, who are coming to Utrecht again with African High Tempo: a capsule consisting of sets by Dj Diaki, Dj Munchi, Judgitzu as well as Travella, spearhead of the new Singeli generation, expected on Saturday November 12th with a frantic and incendiary set. The godfather of acholitronix – improbable telescoping between traditional Acholi sounds and electronic beats, Otim Alpha will also be present on Sunday, November 13th on the Tivoli stage.
The standards of the Kinshasa scene will also be proudly displayed on the boards of Le Guess Who? with the raw collective KOKOKO! on Saturday at Tivoli a new version of the eco-afrofuturist Fulu Miziki pack from Kinshasa (of which some members of KOKOKO! are also defectors), will fire with their unique sound material. A material made of recycled computers, old flip-flops transformed into drumsticks and drum kits made of jerry cans. Fans of rumba, soukous with a frenzied BPM and metal pipes: do not abstain.
“Hidden music” at the heart of the Dutch event
Finally, Pan African Music will be paying close attention to the home-concepts of Le Guess Who? Called Hidden Musics, this collection of hand-crafted concerts had booked – among others – the zãr ceremony last year, with the priestesses of the Cairo ensemble Mazaher. And it is probably here, in these very precious “hidden musics”, that the heart of the Dutch event is fully expressed: the festival thus invites on stage ensembles, artists or groups whose musical paradigm, often threatened, rare or very little represented, tends to fade away. One thinks for example of the Sudanese artist Noori and his Dorpa band, who play a sound between ethiojazz and Tuareg blues, played on a unique instrument, which combines the neck of a guitar with an old kissar (traditional Sudanese instrument with four strings). Discovered on TikTok by the digger Vik Sohonie, head of Ostinato Records, the musicians from Port Sudan have released six tracks on the New York label in the form of Beja Power!
We also throw ourselves into the creations of the rai diva Cheikha Rabia and dancer Esraa Warda, the concert of the Egyptian Nancy Mounir and of course the brotherhood of The Masters Musicians of Jajouka, led by the Moroccan Bachir Attar, who distills a trance music that has fascinated Brian Jones, Patti Smith, Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth and even William Burroughs, who called the Rifian combo “a rock band of 4,000 years old.” We’ll be back with more about the fifteenth edition of the event, which will be held from Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 November 2022 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.