Review: Field Day Festival (London, 13th – 14th June 2016)


…and it inevitably rained. Like every Field Day worthy of its name, the 2016 edition of the East London Festival poured rain on its audience. But it looked like only few of the attendees cared about showers, mud and slush. Actually, why would you care about the weather when you have the chance to enjoy some excellent gigs? You just have to wear your shiniest wellies and stomp as if nothing’s happening. That’s how the two day-event on the (muddy) grass of Victoria Park became the nth remarkable music celebration branded Field Day.

From 11.30am on Saturday with the first DJ-sets, until the closing performance of PJ Harvey on Sunday evening, Field Day offered a weekend brimming with impressive acts and eclectic sounds. This year’s edition was indeed one of the most heterogeneous of the Festival: the nine stages welcomed and presented not just top-notch indie-rock, -electro and -pop acts, but also an assorted and first-class selection of world music and world music-inspired artists.

As a matter of fact, the Field Day mentality is changing, or it’d be better to say, diversifying. The organisers have always had a wide-ranging cultural perspective, but this year, it went above and beyond. While on one stage there were “well-worn” and prodigally celebrated names like London grime prophet Skepta and James Blake, with his soulful electro-songwriting, on the next stage there were little known music outsiders, coming from faraway traditions, longing to expose them and spread their grooves among the London audience.

A clear example of the latter was Paradise Bangkok International Molam Band. The ensemble was an almost unheard-of name to the majority of the audience, but the musicians were able to catch the attention of every passer-by and exhort them to move hips, knees and legs. Their overjoyed Northern-Thai style straight from the 1960s and 1970s worked as a catalyst for every new-sound seeker. In addition, the vintage sound of the phin guitar, funky bass lines and upbeat rhythm put a smile on everyone’s face.

The same happened with Ata Kak one hour later. The Ghanaian MC, who was the first artist produced by Awesome Tapes from Africa back in 2003, brought his puzzling West African-dance on the Moth Club stage and attracted a wide audience thanks to the hype surrounding his name. What’s more, he didn’t let down anyone. He spurred the crowd to dance with his sui generis electronic vibe, blending together highlife, shangaan, dancehall and ‘80s disco references which fully honoured his reputation.

On Sunday afternoon, the rain didn’t miss the chance to enjoy Kimmo Pohjonen’s show and his ability to bring the accordion articulately to the extreme. In fact, rainfall pelted down throughout the performance of the Finnish musician. However, the accordionist, who was supported by his two daughters (Inka and Saana), didn’t spare himself for a single second, displaying all the tricks of the trade, prolonging in overflowing solos and wowing the audience.

Kimmo only failed to bring the sun over Victoria Park, but that task was fulfilled by Mbongwana Star few hours later. The Kinshasa ensemble (founded by former Staff Benda-Bilili members) revealed to the crowd packing the Verity tent its sunny attitude and warm Central African electro-rumba. Needless to say, the musicians required few entrancing beats to excite a well-disposed audience. Then again, with the help of the sun, everything becomes easier.


photo © Carolina Faruolo & Linn Koch Emmery

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