By Dani Ribas
I have just returned from yet another festival: CoMA – Music and Arts Conference, which was held between August 1st and 4th 2019 in Brasilia. It’s the third edition of the event, and it’s gorgeous to see how it’s grown in size, importance and maturity.
The format this year was: Conference on days 1 and 2 (held at the Complexo Cultural Brasil 21) and Festival on days 3 and 4 (which took place in the space that’s home to the Gramadão da Funarte, Planetário and Clube do Choro).
I’m not going to review the 45 concerts spread throughout five stages in the two days of the Festival. For that purpose, I recommend that you read Tenho Mais Discos Que Amigos! (Portuguese only), which does a very nice coverage of the performances and showcases. Instead, I’m going to write about the various topics and trends that surfaced in discussions during the Conference, and also about something else I’ve noticed in all festivals that I have attended lately.
The program of the Conference, which also included band pitches and showcases, was carefully selected in order to address emerging themes. Highlights: “Simplifying Copyright”, with Guta Braga (in a time when legislation is still grappling with the changes brought forward by the digital era); “Anelis Assumpção and Consuelo: career, creation and bewitching”, conducted by Micaela Neiva (CoMA), in a non-conventional take about female representation in music; “Content in the Post-Like Age”, with Ekena, Carol Navarro (Supervão) and Mariana Stabile (Sharp), a very clever idea of the convention curators addressing the implication of the very recent change on Instagram, where the number of likes is no longer visible to everyone; “Conversation with the Band Tuyo”, by Tony Aiex (TMDQA!), who excellent analysis extracted - on a light, intelligent and funny note - important points about artistic relevance in a moment everyone is fighting for the public’s attention. As an analyst, I had many insights by watching these roundtable discussions.
I also contributed towards the Conference, except that this time I was talking about a research piece specific to DATA SIM. In the roundtable “Analytics: data for building a future for music”, alongside Karla Megda (Sympla) and Luisa Martins (T4F), I spoke about the current moment we live. On one hand, we have an excessive amount of information in a society increasingly controlled by Big Data, on the other hand, it looks like we don’t have the data that we need in order to build a strategy in the music market. And everyone seems to be crazy about data that magically “solve” the artist’s digital strategy. Between the might of Big Data and the data fetishization, it’s far more important how you look at the number than the numbers per se. By reflecting about musical cities based on a study by Chartmetric, I demonstrated that it’s data interpretation that generate professionals insights, not the data itself. And that human studies and qualitative research and as or even more important for data analysis than economic metrics.
In addition to the highlights above, I wish to discuss something debated in two roundtables, and which I have noticed in the various festivals that I have attended. The opening of the Conference “Beyond Music: the Age of Experiences Takes Over the Festivals (with Franklin Costa and Carol Soares)” and the roundtable “It’s not a Festival: a Burming Man story (with Daniel Strickland)” touched on festivals offering experience, not merely a music offering. The two roundtables touched on many important points for event marketing. For me, as an analyst, this is not sufficient in order to explain the type of experience that the festivals provide, and the proliferation of festivals across the globe.
A festival is by excellence a moment in which music offerings are made in a friendly party environment. But that isn’t enough in order to explain what takes place in such condensed and extraordinary experience. A festival is the moment when the curators introduce the new, where emerging music propositions start their cycle and become established beyond stages and night clubs. It’s a special moment of communication with the public. That’s where the surprising novelty is experienced in a shared manner. It’s an experience of which you become part and which transforms memory - and we know that musical memory is a key element of our lives. Who hasn’t remembered something dormant in your memory after listening to a song? “A dream dreamt together is reality”. These are moments that cannot be relived, just remembered - and music is the conductor wire for this memory. Music experienced at festivals provide density, intensity, volume, flavour and fragrance to music.
In the previous post, about the Marte Festival in Ouro Preto I said that festivals are events where music flows in a collective and shared fashion, making new meanings (formulated collectively based on individual artistic expressions) become incorporated into the culture that we share with our contemporaries. This long sentence, typical of a sociologist, could be summarized by an artist losing neither its complexity nor its density: “I am because we are”. I heard this phrase during the Tuyo concert at CoMa, either from Lio or Lay. It doesn’t matter. Moments are more special when they are shared, because they can be recalled by various minds and souls at the same time. That’s the strength of a festival. That’s what makes the bands relevant while they fight for attention.
Tuyo took part in the Conference and the concerts. And after the concert they gave a taster of their music in the karaoke area, in a sincere demonstration of how they understand the ever-growing needs of their public. During the closing chat at the Conference, Tony Aiex managed to extract a sentence from the band which for me makes a lot of sense when I interpret the contemporary cultural dynamics: “we share our vulnerabilities”. The songs by the young band remind us of our susceptibilities and frailties in a market defined by the “like” (or “post-likes”) by the apparent victors. The awareness of out frailties is important in order to remember that we need one another, especially in difficult moments such as the ones we are experiencing in Brazil right now. We can gain internal strength when we dine together, when we share moments and go to festivals. Hence the hits “Bolso Nada” (“Bolsonaro Nothing”, in free translation) and “Triste, Louca ou Má” (“Sad, Crazy or Evil”), and other songs by Francisco, El Hombre (who also delivered a memorable performance climbing down from the stage and inviting the public to sing along to the lyrics of “Bolso Nada”. The writing is on the wall: together we are stronger.
In a space such as this, made for sharing frailties and collectively built fortresses, there had to be a genuine concern with welcoming the different. CoMA Consciente (“Conscious CoMA”) was in charge of accessibility, and it included an ad hoc work team. There were ramps and elevated platforms for wheelchair revellers to watch the concert, as well as sign language in some concerts. That isn’t just marketing. This is the awareness that we are stronger together, presenting solutions to our vulnerabilities. It’s about caring for people, because that’s what matters. Festivals are made of people, so that they can co-exist and develop new senses for the collective life.
It’s great to see that festivals, despite the economic challenges caused by the cuts to culture funding, continue to grow and to reinvent themselves. It’s beautiful to see the public at CoMA soar to 25,000 festival-goers. This growth isn’t just due to marketing efforts. It’s also the testament that people must meet, live together, to develop their communal senses, particularly in a time when the internal freedoms (gender, sex, behavior, ideology, etc) are being estigmatized and criminalized.
But what’s the point at not being conventional and expressing our internal freedoms in spaces such as festivals? More than the mere expression of a restless personality, the objective is that all of us - both conventional and non-conventional - can let go of our internal freedoms in favor of our soul is asking. When they try to silence a restless soul or its non-conventional desires, in reality they wish to annihilate our possibility to enjoy freedom. Festivals are moments for exercising freedom in an authoritarian society, despite the non-conventional people. Life is the art of meeting, and festivals enable the magic to happen.