All text and pictures by Henrik Gustafsson, except where noted.
Henrik “DJ Finnjävel” Gustafsson looking for blogging inspiration in Roskilde
Morjens and greetings from the annual Roskilde Festival in Denmark!
The first Roskilde Festival took place in 1971, in June-July 2016 the Wrong Rock Show’s and Finland’s DJ Finnjävel visited the festival for the 19th time. You might already have heard my musical report from Roskilde, broadcast on Bush Radio 11 July 2016 – if not, look for it on https://www.mixcloud.com/wrongrockshow/
where all the Wrong Rock Shows are stored. Here on the Bush Blog, I will have a look at some other aspects of the festival and also briefly comment on the music.
The 2016 Roskilde Festival started with four warm-up days (25-28 June) of performances on three stages for the happy campers in the audience, followed by the four main days (29 June – 2 July) when the inner festival area with its six stages is opened. I only went for the main days, which meant I missed the only Finnish act in the line-up: the guitar-less garage trio Have You Ever Seen the Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? – by now well-known to all you Wrong Rock Show listeners…
Have You Ever Seen the Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? Photographer: Heidi Kero
The warm-up days give up-and-coming Nordic artists a chance to try their wings in front of a relatively large crowd. At a press conference, Head of Programme Anders Wahrén pointed out that there might be even 50,000 people arriving at the festival before the main days, some of these only setting up their tents, but an audience of 1,000 or 5,000 people is still much more than these bands can expect at their club shows back home. “And they couldn’t compete with Neil Young during the main days, anyway.”
Head of Programme Anders Wahrén and spokeswoman Christina Bilde.
Unfortunately, no South African musicians were booked for this year’s festival. Previously, for instance Lucky Dube (2002), Tumi and the Volume (2008), Shangaan Electro (2011), Spoek Mathambo (2012) and Die Antwoord (2010 and on the Orange main stage 2015) have had the honour of playing Roskilde.
The proud Danish owner of this shirt had actually bought it in South Africa.
However, there is much more than just music (by a mere 183 artists from more than 30 countries in 2016…) going on during the festival, and on Sunday 26 June, the South African performance artist Athi-Patra Ruga performed Decimation, a new chapter of his ongoing saga The Future White Women of Azania. Decimation took place as a procession from the Museum of Contemporary Art to the Roskilde Festival grounds, with Ruga himself and maybe 20 invited drag performers dressed in balloon costumes parading and encouraging the spectators to join the show.
A DIY instrument workshop at the festival.
Running between stages, I bumped into Rancho Aparte from Colombia, playing an impromptu off-venue show.
Africa Express, the Damon Albarn-spearheaded cross-cultural collaboration between African and western musicians, has been closely linked to the Roskilde Festival for a couple of years now. In 2015, the festival ended with a five-hour African Express show, involving more than 100 artists. Also last year, the Roskilde Festival Charity Society donated 1 million DKK to Africa Express for the support of education and cultural projects related to African music.
This year, Africa Express opened Roskilde’s huge Orange stage on Wednesday 29 June when the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians + Damon Albarn + Guests wowed the audience for two hours. Back in 2010, Albarn (whose father was a professor of Arab studies and Islamic art, by the way) and his band Gorillaz were accompanied by the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians on a world tour taking them to both Roskilde and Damascus, making them the first major Western band to play in Syria. Sadly, as civil war broke out in 2011, they’re still also the last international act to have played in Syria.
It must have been a logistical nightmare getting visas and work permits for about 30 orchestra members and 20 choir members, now spread all over Syria, Europe and the US, some of them having fled the war without passports. Still, the orchestra managed to offer us a positive celebration of the musical culture of Syria, and I’m sure most of the people in the audience were not that familiar with traditional or contemporary Syrian and Arabic music before the concert.
The guests brought their own flavours to the show, and at least yours truly had never before encountered “the Queen of Arab Hip-Hop” Malikah (Lebanon/France) or Eslam Jawaad (Lebanon/Syria), the first Arabic hip-hop artist to record tracks in classical Arabic. Other star guests, such as Bassekou Kouyaté (Mali) and Seckou Keita (Senegal), were familiar even to me.
Duelling banjos? Nope, Bassekou Kouyaté on ngoni (2 strings) and Seckou Keita on kora (22 strings) jamming with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians.
Julia Holter (USA) joined the Syrians and Seckou Keita on stage for her 2015 single Feel You. She also sang Paul McCartney’s 1968 Beatles song Blackbird as a duet with Damon Albarn.
Not just bomp bah-bomp and rama-lama ding-dong
In a world seemingly going crazier every day, many artists probably have a lot on their minds but at least in Roskilde they mostly let their music do the talking. Maybe subtle hints are more effective than onstage rants, anyway. Even the glorious PJ Harvey, whose brand new The Hope Six Demolition Project album has very politically charged lyrics, didn’t really say a word in-between songs before presenting her band.
Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Lee Segarra (of Puerto Rican descent) nailed it on stage: “Fuck Donald Trump” – with two flags hanging behind her back: the flag of Puerto Rico and a rainbow one representing peace. Photographer: Laura E. Partain
Gaye Su Akyol from Turkey was sad and angry because of the terrorist attack “by ISIS shit” on the Istanbul airport a couple of days earlier. A couple of weeks later there was a military coup attempt in Turkey. Hope you are ok, Gaye Su.
Calypso Rose, born in 1940 on the Caribbean island of Tobago. Before playing her new song I Am African, she told us it’s an homage to her great-grandmother, who was brought there from Guinea as a slave. Photo credit: Roskilde Festival
Tal National put on a great show and taught me a thing or two about the peoples of Niger (all six band members belong to different ethnic groups).
Charity, volunteering and equality? Yes, man!
The Roskilde Festival has been 100% non-profit since 1972 and is organised with the purpose of generating funds to donate to humanitarian and cultural initiatives. The Roskilde Festival Charity Society is not allowed to use the profit for forthcoming festivals. This year, the festival was sold out well in advance: 80,000 full tickets and 5,000 one-day tickets for each of the four main days. The profit is expected to be roughly 17 million DKK (or 2.3 million EUR), and it will be donated in full to charity. Festival goers can suggest charitable projects to receive a part of this profit, the nomination deadline is 21 August 2016.
There are only about 60 salaried employees who are paid for their festival work, while some 32,000 volunteers help creating one of the biggest temporary cities in the world with more than 130,000 citizens. Approximately 10,000 volunteers do their work directly for Roskilde Festival Charity Society, while the remaining 22,000 volunteers are attached to the unions and organisations (and there are more than 200 of these) that do trade and service tasks at the festival.
Apart from the music fans and the volunteers, the Roskilde Festival also attracts hundreds of bottle and can and refund collectors, many of these originating from Africa or the Roma community, also including refugees and asylum seekers. With approximately one million litres of beer being served at the festival, not to mention other beverages, in refundable bioplastic mugs (turned into biogas after the festival), there is a lot of money literally being tossed on the ground. The people cleaning up the messy party aren’t, however, always treated as equals by the average beer-drinking festival goer.
This year, the Danish artist group Superflex built VIP lounges, Flagship Shelters/Bottle Collectors VIP, in the festival’s Art Zone for the refund collectors. The architecture of the lounges was inspired by some of the most exclusive fashion stores’ headquarters in Tokyo.
One of the VIP lounges for the refund collectors, with some bloody barbarian pissing on it.
More than 1.5 kilometres of fences and facades are decorated by international artists in the festival’s Graffiti Zone.
The beautifully designed, intimate indoor Gloria stage (with a capacity of roughly 1,000) is situated by the Art and Graffiti Zones. Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld were among this year’s performers.
The festival’s standpoint theme as graffiti.
One of Roskilde Festival’s goals is to change and improve the world and the future, hoping the young festival goers will return home with new ideas. From 2016 to 2018, the festival will focus on equality. This year’s standpoint theme was Equality 2016: Stand up for your rights, concentrating on political equality and human rights.
When the first campers arrived in Roskilde, they saw signs stating that the festival would “collect and indefinitely store all text and phone conversations (received or sent) while on festival grounds” and that “all internet activity will be monitored”. Furthermore: “we reserve the right to share this data with our partners”.
This pissed people off, until it was revealed that it was actually a prank by the activist art group The Yes Men. On Tuesday 28 June, The Yes Men interviewed American whistleblower Edward Snowden live via satellite from his exile in Moscow. The conversation with Snowden about digital surveillance was shown on a big screen in the festival’s camping area.
A sustainable food festival
At a press conference, the festival’s official spokeswoman Christina Bilde talked about Roskilde’s two-legged sustainability strategy 2016-2019, built on environmental impact and social impact. Bilde herself called the strategy “utopian”, but it is something the festival is striving for. The goal is to create a carbon-neutral festival with a 100% fossil-free energy supply and where all waste is a resource. Both festival participants and partners ought to make choices having a positive social impact with respect for human rights and human resources.
The food served at the festival is a big piece of Roskilde’s sustainability jigsaw puzzle. In fact, no less than 40% of the festival’s CO2 footprint comes from the meat eaten there. However, all food stalls are required to have at least one vegetarian dish on the menu – that shouldn’t be too hard, one thinks, but keep in mind that Denmark is found among the Top 15 countries on worldwide annual meat consumption per capita listings.
As a vegetarian myself, more than once I have had to reassure the food vendor that I really do want a seitan hot dog and not one made from dead animals. Still, things may not turn out as expected. At previous festivals, I have for instance ordered a veggie pizza, only to find it covered by a ton of ham. This year, a hummus sandwich I bought was in fact stuffed with tuna spread. On the other hand, I also enjoyed delicious surprises such as Ugandan vegan chapatis this year.
Furthermore, in 2016 Roskilde required that all food stands must use at least 75% organic ingredients (50% last year), and the organic goal will be even more ambitious in 2017: 90%. 2016 was also the third year in a row that left-over food (more than 50 tons of it) was turned into meals for “socially marginalised people”. Truly a great way to make the excellent Roskilde Festival even more sustainable.