Barcelona
15 - 17 June

Twenty-four editions in, Sónar is much more than an electronic music festival.

Instead it has become a platform for creativity across various disciplines, always with an eye closely trained on what’s happening in the margins of music, technology and digital culture.

In that spirit, it’s perhaps overdue that the festival has doubled down on showcasing the art of women and women-identified artists. From pioneers such as Björk – who opened the festival with a live conversation about music and technology and an epic four-hour DJ set – to newcomers such as Swedish-born Toxe. The latter squarely part of a new generation of DJs with zero qualms about sampling Britney Spears in a raucous set layered with tough beats and hardened sounds.

Another standout from day one came in the form of Destiny Frasqueri aka Princess Nokia. As if she were on the streets of her lifelong neighbourhood of Soundview in the Bronx, she abandoned the formalities of the stage to dive into the audience for a crowd surf.

Capturing a similar spirit was Alba Farelo, better known as Bad Gyal, who performed at an overflowing Sónar XS – a new stage offering a platform to vital, street-bred sounds and their digital mutations. Although she had a slightly shaky start and some sound problems, she soon lived up to the lofty, music press-bestowed moniker “the queen of Catalan rap”. Likewise, Jlin proved once again that her footwork deconstructions and unique sound is one of the most vital forces within club music in 2017.

But some of the finest moments from the 2017 edition were held back until the festival’s final stages. First up, the Brooklyn bass impresarios Jubilee and Star Eyes, their enjoyment during their closing SónarDome set was infectious as they worked through their interpretations of juke and Miami Bass. Special mention, too, to The Black Madonna who brought the curtain down on the huge SónarPub stage. As dawn edged closer, she was firmly in charge of a set that commanded we sing, dance and come together in true throwback style.

The overarching spirit of creative growth, of seeking out the new and recognising the old, is emblematic of Sónar’s ethos. Seemingly, the chief objective is to continue building on the blueprint set down at the festival’s first edition in 1994: showcase advanced music in the here and now – or music that was advanced at its time. The result is something truly special.

COMMENTS