Music is an embodiment of the philosophy of transcendentalism; cutting across national and regional boundaries, different forms of music appeal to different people in different ways. Although some forms are indigenous to specific cultures, these particularities never become an impediment and music can be, and is, enjoyed by people across cultural barricades. Be it rock, pop, jazz or opera, music does not have a language of its own; comprehension of lyrics is certainly not a pre-requisite for relishing music of any kind, thereby alleviating any linguistic obstacles. The all-surpassing quality of music makes possible communication at the realm of soul, thereby connecting individuals from disparate cultural, geographical and linguistic backgrounds. And it is this in the nature of music that encourages us to explore international music festivals, held in different parts of the world, celebrating diverse forms of music in various ways, at a distinct time of the year, and adding to the rich global heritage in the realm of art and culture. This article looks at five renowned international music festivals, one each from five of the seven continents on the globe.
Inaugurated in 1948, the Bath International Music Festival, takes place annually in late spring or early summer in the world heritage city of Bath, in South West England. This festival promises twelve musical days, offering a plethora of forms including orchestral, classical, jazz, folk and world. A much-awaited event in not only England, but all of Europe, the Bath Music Festival is renowned as a source of national pride and international glory that is also known for the diversity it brings forth for music lovers. Roping in the most renowned international musicians, this festival also serves as a big break for the emerging, struggling talent in this field. The heterogeneity of this fest is further catalysed by its inventive getting-together of professional artists on the one hand and students from different universities, schools and colleges on the other. It is this inclusivity of the Bath Music Festival that paints it in rich hues of trans-nationality. These artists render the festival even more enriching by their skilful inter-genre and inter-regional collaborations. One of the most interesting features of this festival is undoubtedly its exploration of the burning issues of our times through music and its healthy coalition with various departments of the social sector, including health, housing etc., and thereby facilitating art with a social objective. Penned for the programme announcement for the 67th Bath International Music Festival, held from 15th May, 2015-26th May, 2015, the following words aptly capture the essence of this festival, “12 glorious early summer days of wonderful music, performed by some of the world’s finest musicians in beautiful venues and unusual spaces against the backdrop of this world heritage city”.
Held for the first time in 2001, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is celebrated every year in April in Indio, California. With an exotic desert locale, this music Mecca presents an interesting amalgamation of genres with performances by the best of musicians from all over the world. Some of the performing artists include Radiohead, Coldplay, and Daft Punk while bands like New Order and The Stone Roses have left their mark too. The entertainment platter of this three-day event is not restricted to music, but also offers some of the best art collections from across the globe. The Coachellians (those attending the festival) enjoy the liberty of setting up tents at night which also allows them the added advantage of staying in vicinity of the festival grounds. The Coachella Stage and the Outdoor Theatre comprise the main stages whereas the Gobi Tent, the Mojave Tent and the Sahara Tent, are the various tents at the festival, each specializing in a particular genre. One of the special features of the fest is the Do Lab. Located in the centre of the festival grounds, this space is exclusively reserved for DJs, circus acts and acrobatics. The Coachella Festival has its way of contributing its bit to the cause of environmental protection too; this involves a system of rewards encouraging the attendees to reduce their carbon footprint through simple acts like car-pooling. The scenic beauty of desert sunsets renders the ambience even more exhilarating. Not surprisingly, time and again, The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has been judged by Pollstar as the “Festival of the Year”.
Starting in 1991, the Lollapalooza Music Festival was initially restricted to North America. It was only after two decades that the fest was extended to Latin America as well. Chile, Brazil and Argentina are the three countries of South America where Lollapalooza acquired a status of national and international repute. This multi-genre festival, presenting a diversity of forms ranging from alternative rock and punk rock to heavy metal also attracts visitors for its renowned dance and comedy performances. Providing a platform for the emerging talent, it also serves as a pro-active space for NGOs and visual artists. In Chile, the festival is rendered even more special by the country’s delicious cuisine, including mouth-watering seafood, its beautiful gardens, and to add to the pleasure, all with the great Andes in the backdrop. The Brazilian version of the Lollapalooza fest is celebrated in the city of Sao Paulo. Inhabiting populations of various nationalities, including Japanese, Italian, and Chinese, this city is considered a “melting pot” of diverse cultures. Its rich cultural heritage comprising art-houses, museums and theatres makes it a unique destination for the festival-goers. Buenos Aires, in the words of ‘Lonely Planet’ is, “alive and supremely confident…like Europe with a melancholic twist”, thereby making the Argentina chapter of Lollapalooza a major success. True to the meaning of the word ‘Lollapalooza’, this music festival is surely one of the most unusual, and extraordinary events of Latin America.
With the clarion call of “Bring Your Fire”, the Bushfire Music Festival takes place every year, in the summer months of May-June, in Swaziland, Africa. Celebrated in the backdrop of iconic mountain sunsets and pristine farmlands, this fest is a unique endeavour in that it forges a healthy coalition between art and social responsibility. It is as part of this vision that the proceeds and profits from the three-day event are donated to non-profit groups and community development projects. An NGO working for orphans, the Swazi NGO Young Heroes, is one of the main recipients of the charity. This festival is renowned for its various interactive spaces; the ‘Ekhaya’ Stage is a showcase of native Swazi talent whereas the ‘Barn’ is reserved for art exhibitions and round table discussions. The Handicraft Market is an important sphere for indigenous artisans selling antique, handcrafted products while the Art Round Table organises workshops for amateur artists. Its rich cultural catalogue, including music, theatre, dance, poetry and visual arts, enjoyed by a regionally diverse audience, fully justifies a journalist’s remark on the Bushfire Festival, according to whom, this fest serves “as a living, breathing, creative ecosystem”.
Every summer, towards the end of July, Japan gets ready for one of its most awaited cultural events, the Fuji Rock Festival. This annual fest, beginning on a Thursday and ending in the early hours of Monday morning, is celebrated in the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. Presenting genres as varied as folk music and punk rock, this fest is rich in diversity, with each stage marked by its own ethos. Bands such as Oasis, Coldplay, and The Cure are a hit with the Fuji Rock Festival. Apart from the various stages like the ‘White’ Stage and the ‘Red Marquee’, the fest is renowned for other specialities. The Dragondola Cable Car, offering a picturesque view of the festival, is but one of them. The others include the Cinema Fuji, a mini film fest within the music fest, and the Field of Heaven, a stage with candles and lighting effects creating a surreal ambience. Well-known for creative, fancy dressers, the festival’s emphasis on cleanliness and its child-friendly environ are also welcoming. Although the original location has been changed, this fest continues to derive its name from that of its first venue, the base of Mount Fujiyama.
Music provides a ready relief from the monotonous and the mundane, thereby alleviating the accumulated stress resulting from a busy, fast-paced life. The aforementioned are just some of the remarkable music fests to explore, but if music is for you a pill of revival and rejuvenation, there are options galore!