Guest curators and first names revealed for Le Guess Who? 2021

There’s nearly a whole year to go until the 14th edition of Le Guess Who? but with the extraordinary curators and initial program that has been unveiled last week, there’s already good reasons to look forward to it.

Following the postponement of Le Guess Who? to next year, the Dutch historical city of Utrecht will hold its annual four-day musical extravaganza from 11-14th November 2021. The recently announced guest curators and first names on the line-up has instilled us with a sense of heightened expectation and anticipation.

Part of what makes Le Guess Who? transcend the confines of style is the diversity brought in by its guest curators. Next year, phenomenal alto saxophonist, composer, improviser and sound experimentalist Matana Roberts, Colombian civil engineer turned into sound artist and musician Lucrecia Dalt, exquisite Japanese minimalist composer, multi percussionist and theatre artist Midori Takada, songwriter, producer, and artist behind The Microphones and Mount Eerie Phil Elverum and underground rock veteran, visual artist and record label owner John Dwyer, will all help shape and enrich the festival with hand picked selections of their own favourite and like-minded artists, in addition to also performing themselves.

The first round of names for the general line-up has also been unveiled and it’s already boasting incredible and cutting-edge artists drawn from all corners of the musical spectrum and the globe, set to perform in a multitude of idyllic venues across Utrecht, from churches and art galleries to landmark theatres, warehouses and public squares. Le Guess Who?’s initial general lineup boasts the likes of Australian revered experimental jazz trio The Necks, who kicked off 2020 with their 21st album, Three; British experimental rock 7-piece Black Country, New Road, the Saharan guitar sounds of Etran de L’Aïr, based in the Northeast of Niger; and Model Home, the electronic and vocal duo of sonic engineer Pat Cain and MC NAPPYNAPPA. Also performing will be Amsterdam-based psychedelic dance band Conjunto Papa Upa; producer Pink Siifu, who has previously been featured on tracks with Swarvy, Devonwho, and MNDSGN; rotating South African improvisational avant-jazz collective SPAZA who have just released UPRIZE!, their second album soundtracking a documentary film about the 1976 Soweto uprising; the Ghanaian spiritual roots reggae of Y-Bayani & Baby Naa And The Band of Enlightenment, Reason & Love and Chicago based sound and visual artist Damon Locks and his 15-piece Black Monument Ensemble, whose music eschews classification and taps into jazz, gospel, spoken word, hip hop, R&B, blues and folk music influences. Amidst the new thrilling additions to Le Guess Who?’s line-up is Mazaher who are inspired by the Zar music of Egypt, a healing ritual of music and dance led by women, that is on the verge of extinction, and the Brazilian sounds of São Paulo singer and guitarist Sessa, known as the founder of psych-funk duo Garotas Suecas and regular collaborator of Yonatan Gat.

We’re ecstatic to see the addition of marvellous spoken word artist, bandleader, composer, saxophonist and activist Alabaster DePlume, who released the warm and beguiling To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 earlier this year. DePlume, who first performed at Le Guess Who? in 2018, returns as Artist in Residence.

With a bold program wholly embracing musical diversity, the daring and dazzling Le Guess Who? will deliver various sorts of beauty, discovery and joy. Full details of the line-up and 4-Day Passes can be found on leguesswho.com.

Le Guess Who? unveils new hybrid event ON/OFF

Following the postponement of Le Guess Who?’s 14th edition to 2021, the festival has reshaped itself within the current pandemic boundaries. The organizers unveiled last week a new hybrid event called ON/OFF, taking place from 13-15 November.

Next month, Le Guess Who?’s 14th edition would have taken place, and as we’ve personally experienced in the last 3 years, Utrecht would undoubtedly become the most wondrous place on earth. Every year, around 200 diverse and cutting-edge artists from across the globe, spanning genres and generations, grace one of the many stages in venues scattered throughout Utrecht, gifting audiences with mesmerizing experiences and unforgettable memories. The global pandemic has prevented the festival from happening in its regular format this year, but the organizers channelled their adventurous and bold musical and artistic vision into a new event called ON/OFF. A 2-part program, ON/OFF has a plethora of treats in store to be enjoyed both online and offline.

LGW ON will offer a rich variety of programming initiatives through a freely accessible online TV channel, broadcasting 13-15 November via leguesswho.com. Matana Roberts, John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees), Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie), Lucrecia Dalt and The Bug, who have all performed in past editions, will co-curate LGW ON, hand-picking their favourite videos, films and documentaries for the channel. LGW ON will also be streaming for the first time live recordings of unique performances by Mary Margaret O’Hara, Sons of Kemet XL and Circuit des Yeux Ensemble, as well as live sessions with Dutch artists, Zoom interviews, a documentary about Le Guess Who? and highlights from last year’s edition. An alternative way to continue being a vital avenue of cultural discovery, LGW ON will present ‘Reports from Other Continents’, a specially commissioned program where people from all over the world will share video reports introducing audiences to the art, culture and music of their homelands. ‘Reports from Other Continents’ will feature video reports from countries like Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, India, Iraq, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey, and Venezuela.

LGW OFF will take place on 14 and 15 November in both new and familiar venues throughout Utrecht, presenting a 100% Dutch program, featuring over 50 artists “with a strong urge to innovate”. The full program is yet to be announced and tickets for each show will be available then.

Whilst we’re obviously extremely sad not to be heading to Utrecht next month for a weekend of discoveries and delights, we are also very excited with the online extravanga Le Guess Who? has cooked up for us. We’re sure we won’t be alone devouring it from the comfort of our homes.

To get you in the mood, here’s the trailer for Le Guess Who? presents ON/OFF.

Listen to the full performance of Oiseaux-Tempête & Friends at Le Guess Who? 2019

Photo: Tim van Veen

One of the many extraordinary performances that swept us away at Le Guess Who? last year was that of French outfit Oiseaux-Tempête, playing on Friday November 8th at TivoliVredenburg’s Ronda. Two years on from their first foray into the festival, the duo of multi-instrumentalists Frédéric D. Oberland and Stéphane Pigneul returned to Utrecht with a new album under their belts, Somewhere From Invisible, and an expanded line-up featuring the musicians involved in the album, including longtime collaborators Jean-Michel Pirès (Bruit Noir), Mondkopf and G.W.Sok (The Ex), as well as special guests Jessica Moss (Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band) on electric violin and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh of Jerusalem in My Heart on buzuk and modular synths. Mighty and majestic, powerful and gripping, they stood at a crossroads of light and darkness, deftly traversing a sonic terrain that stands as a powerful testament to the range of emotion they can grasp. Drawing from their improvisational energy and disparate genres from post-rock and free-jazz to Arabic music and electronica, they find compelling beauty underneath the places of turmoil in which their music is anchored. For those unable to experience this poignant and intense performance, or eager to relive it, Le Guess Who? has unveiled the full audio recordings of the Oiseaux-Tempête & Friends’ performance at the festival, recorded and mixed by Marc Broer and Philip ten Brink. Immerse yourself in it.

Le Guess Who? unveils concert film of Efterklang, featuring three songs off Altid Sammen

Efterklang never cease to surprise and enthral us and they did exactly that last year when they released their stunning album Altid Sammen. Last November at Le Guess Who?, they offered one of the most wonderful and heartwarming performances of the festival on its opening night. Curated by Iris van Herpen and Salvador Breed, the trio, playing as a seven-piece band, enveloped the audience with songs from Altid Sammen, along with a few older tunes. Now, Le Guess Who? has unveiled a concert film of Efterklang performing three songs from the album at the festival, ‘Supertanker’, ‘Verden Forsvinder’, and ‘Vi er uendelig’. The film was directed by Nick Helderman and recorded and mixed by Marc Broer. Watch it below.

Efterklang are heading back on the road for a European and North American tour kicking off on January 31st in Aalborg, Denmark. Check all their stops on their website.

The 14th edition of Le Guess Who? takes place 12-15 November throughout Utrecht and festival passes are now available on leguesswho.com, where you can also find more info.

Le Guess Who? 2019 Recap: The Wildest Sonic Adventure

Earlier this month, the sonic adventure that is Le Guess Who? turned the quaint and historic city of Utrecht into the most wonderful place to be on earth. Bringing together over 200 artists, spanning genres and generations from across the globe, the organisers proved once more that when it comes to music festivals, Le Guess Who? stands on its own.
With so many bands we already loved lined up to play, as well as new discoveries that turned into favourites, every moment was treasured and our highlights included Joseph Shabason, Miranda Cuckson, LEYA, Efterklang, Idris Ackmoor & the Pyramids, Isokratisses, and Xylouris White, amongst many others.

For our third consecutive outing, and perhaps more than ever, Le Guess Who? clearly showed how its selection is guided by an uncompromising boldness and an unmatched musical vision. On top of an already magnificently diverse programme, Patrick Higgins, Fatoumata Diawara, Jenny Hval, The Bug, Moon Duo, and Iris van Herpen & Salvador Breed brought another dimension to the festival as guest curators, inviting their own favourite and like-minded artists.

Things started incredibly well with adventurous violinist Miranda Cuckson gifting us our first show on Thursday evening at Hertz, one of five purpose-built music halls in the giant futuristic complex TivoliVredenburg. She captivated a cheering audience with her effortless and dexterous virtuosity, performing classical works from contemporary artists that she introduced between pieces, including Reiko Füting, Aida Shirazi and Richard Barrett. After performing ’Argot’, which means slang, a piece by Franco Donatoni, Miranda referred to languages morphing constantly because of the way we speak to each other. Funnily enough, we’d been thinking since the start of her set that it was as if her violin spoke many different languages.

Miranda Cuckson

Miranda was invited by forward-thinking composer, guitarist, and producer Patrick Higgins, who also brought to the festival a slew of sublime artists we didn’t know before but for whom we fell head over heals instantly. Patrick himself performed with two of his own projects on the opening and closing night of the festival. At the former he unveiled for the very first time his new project with Chilean producer Nicolas Jaar, AEAEA. The two artists melded instrumental performance and digital acrobatics, resampling each other, much like a spontaneous conversation, reaching beautiful moments of both synchronicity and dissonance, back and forth.
Then on Sunday, and also in Tivoli’s monumental concert hall Grote Zaal, Higgins presented the European premiere of Dossier X, an immersive audio-visual collaboration with installation artist Matthew Schreiber and choreographer Monica Mirabile of FlucT. A tantalizing mix of contemporary dance and music, Dossier X saw four performers move on stage under a laser installation, whilst in the corner Higgins provided the musical magic on guitar and electronics.

Amongst the highlights of Patrick Higgins’ curation, in itself the perfect selection to entice festival wanderers into the realms of modern classical music, was Vicky Chow’s performance on Thursday at Hertz. The Canadian born, New York based pianist, who also tickles the keys for Bang On A Can All-Stars, impressed us with pieces from Fjóla Evans, Adam Basanta, and David Brynjar Franzson. With enormous technicality and sensibility, Chow’s fingers floated through the keys, whilst constantly shifting vibrating devices on the strings of her grand piano, creating a poignant and beguiling ambience. On the same bill, yet with a radically different approach, came Lightning Bolt, to cap off our Friday night like a volcanic eruption. At a time “too late for you kids” as they put it, the bass and drums duo might have been closer to tear down Tivoli’s Ronda than any other band before. With drummer Brian Chippendale wearing a fearsome Mexican wrestling mask, they provided a blast of energy, intensity and noise, not least characterized by volume.
Early on the next day, we found ourselves deeply immersed in the sound of LEYA, the experimental violin and harp duo made up of Marilou Donovan and Adam Markiewicz. Their intriguing and celestial songs, made all the more haunting by Adam’s operatic vocals, merged antiquity with modernity, and as they say themselves, they “aim to deconstruct the traditional connotation of the harp and violin by… altering their sound through unorthodox tunings, extended techniques, amplification, and effects”.

Dossier X

We continued navigating the seas of harp bliss with LA-based experimental composer and harpist Mary Lattimore. Performing at EKKO, one of the many venues scattered throughout Utrecht, her solo performance included works from her latest record Hundreds of Days. Confident and radiant on her instrument, which she explores using effects and improvisation, her performance was gentle and ethereal, atmospheric and pulsating.

We’ve loved Efterklang for a long time already so it was a joyous and warm affair to see them perform their recent album Altid Sammen, along with a few older tunes to a rammed Grote Zaal on Thursday. The trio, playing with their 7-piece band, kept the smiling audience involved and immersed, even leading us into a moving sing along to one of their new songs, in Danish. Afterwards, the public was reassured by singer Casper Clausen that they had been singing “nice things”. Their show rounded off beautifully with ‘The Ghost’, an enveloping track from Piramida, their gorgeous 2012 album.
Friday was also off to a triumphant start with Oiseaux-Tempete, who performed one of our favourite sets of LGW? 2017, back then in a much smaller venue. Two years on, they were even more powerful and impressive, performing with guests who collaborated on the new album, including G.W. Sok, Mondkopf and Jean-Michel Pirès, as well as Jessica Moss on violin and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh on electric buzuk and modular system.

Joseph Shabason

The show by legendary cosmic afro jazz mavericks Idris Ackmoor & the Pyramids was another highlight. Their intergalactic odyssey started on a high with an ecstatic arrival through the audience to the stage, with Ackmoor blowing a didgeridoo looking instrument. The room quickly turned into a feel-good dancing shindig as they kicked off with ‘We Be All Africans’, and drew from all of their catalogue, including several new songs from their upcoming album Shaman. Accompanied on stage by Dr Margaux Simmons on flute, Sandra Poindexter on violin and vocals, Bobby Cobb on guitar, Gary Brown on bass and George Hearst on drums and percussion, Ackmoor guided and gave his accompanists room to shine and explore on their own, delivering a set filled to the brim with grooves and sparkle.
One of the performances we most eagerly anticipated was that of Joseph Shabason, following the release of two magnificent solo albums, Aytche and Anne (one of our 15 Album Picks of 2018). Joined on stage by Kieran Adams on drums, percussion and samples, the composer and multi-instrumentalist enveloped the entire audience, starting with what felt like a heavenly wonder in nature, backed by recordings of birdsong. In the packed confines of Theatre Kikker, Shabason lit up the stage with his gentle and stunning electronically-tinged jazz and ambient music, with twinkling interplays of sax, percussions, keys and electronics. Supplementing the show with insightful stories, he played tracks from both albums, including his collaboration with Gigi Manson and a track from Golden Lovers, the documentary he scored recently about a queer wrestling love story.

This year saw the unveiling of Hidden Musics, a new ambitious program in collaboration with renowned producer, activist and author Ian Brennan, and musician, record producer and founder of Glitterbeat Records, Chris Eckman. Perfectly tailored for LGW?, Hidden Musics aimed to pay special attention to rarely heard musical traditions and artists from secluded regions of the world. In Jacobikerk, Christopher C King played a serie of 78 rpm recordings from the 1920s and 1930s, as an introduction to Isokratisses, the mesmerizing Greek female vocal ensemble from the Epirus region. In his introduction, King explained they are not a professional band, they sing to help pass the day and cheer up whilst carrying ancient stories from generation to generation.

Ami Dang

On Saturday evening we made our way to a packed Janskerk to see Rajasthani folk legend Lakha Khan. Playing the sindhi sarangi, a traditional 27-string instrument from India and accompanied by his son Dane Khan on the dholak, a double headed Indian folk drum, the audience completely fell under his spell. Also part of Hidden Musics, each song was introduced by Ankur Malhotra, co-founder of Amarrass Records. He explained how Khan’s sole purpose in life is to play music and carry forward the centuries-old musical tradition of Rajasthani and Multani folk and Sufi music. Singing in several languages and dialects, including Hindi, Marwari, Sindhi, Punjabi and Multani, Khan’s performance earned him a well deserved standing ovation.

Later that day, in the same gorgeous church, extraordinary vocalist, sitarist and electronic artist Ami Dang filled the air with her enchanting sitar playing and transcending vocals. Blending classical Indian music with electronics, Ami performed songs from her recent album, Parted Plains, and other older ones.

For their first live show in Holland, 10-piece Japanese combo Minyo Crusaders brought a party to the Grote Zaal with their blend of traditional Japanese folk songs (minyō) with Latin, African and Caribbean rhythms. “You like to dance to cumbia?” they asked, before infusing the space with their joyous and infectious grooves, showing the ease with which music can overcome grammatical shortcomings.

Minyo Crusaders

What followed was an unexpected gem of a gig. High up in Tivoli’s Cloud 9, Xylouris White proved to be a pairing from heaven, and one we hadn’t yet given the attention we should have. Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White, exhibited huge technical mastery with immense sensibility. The two performed an exhilarating set side by side on stage, with new songs on offer from The Sisypheans, the album they’d just released the day before.

The most compelling, powerful and heartfelt show for us came from Oslo-based improv-band DNA? AND?, self-described as a “collective with alternating members and an abundance of chromosomes”. Five young people with Down Syndrome and four professional musicians created music unconstrained by conventional technique, moving freely on stage, singing, playing and shuffling instruments.

Melbourne band Tropical Fuck Storm were the perfect choice to cap off the festival, with a mighty and blistering show, blending everything from post punk and rock to psychedelia and pop. With beautiful and addictive vocals delivered by guitarist Gareth Liddiard, guitarist/keys Erica Dunn and bassist Fiona Kitschin, the quartet also displayed their raw and intense energy, owing to the pounding drumming of Lauren Hammel.

Tropical Fuck Storm

Le Guess Who? has a tremendous sense of endless adventure and as it came to an end, we simply wished it would carry on all year long. With countless artists performing across several venues simultaneously, there were so many performances that we wish we could’ve seen but all of the enriching and memorable performances we caught will reverberate forever.
So Le Guess Who? 2020 is already in our calendars, and we’re looking forward to it. The 14th edition will take place between 12th and 15th November 2020 and early-bird 4-Day Festival Passes are available until Saturday November 30th through leguesswho.com, so get on it!

 

Le Guess Who?’s Who 2019: HHY & The Macumbas

There’s only three days to go before Le Guess Who? takes over Utrecht. With over 150 artists set to perform, how do we make sense of such a monumental line-up? We made a list of the artists we’re most excited to see and asked them for their recommendations.

HHY & The Macumbas

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Performing Saturday 9th November at EKKO

Photo: Mariana Vasconcelos

Spearheaded by multidisciplinary artist Jonathan Uliel Saldanha, Porto based ensemble HHY & The Macumbas have been forging a distinctive and transcendent sound over the last decade. Featuring a shifting cast of musicians on percussions, brass and horns, they operate as a rhythm lab, exploring and developing syncretic languages and bridging cultures and genres as diverse as dub, free jazz, Indian classical music and fanfare. Famed for the tribal and exhilarating energy of their shows, impressively live dubbed by Saldanha, we can’t wait to see them perform at Le Guess Who?. And today Saldanha tells us which other artists he is looking forward to seeing.

“Choosing only 3 names to listen in a festival like Le Guess Who? is a hard task, there are allot of amazing artists… But because limit is a tool to organize time I would say that I would try to see:”

Ustad Saami

Performing Saturday 9th November at Jacobikerk

“Ustad Saami because I’m a massive fan of the music forms coming from India and Pakistan, I was even a tabla player during my teenage years, so having the opportunity to see an Ustad like Saami perform is overwhelming. ”

 

Jah Shaka Sound System

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Performing Saturday 9th November at TivoliVredenburg, curated by The Bug

Jah Shaka is one of my first obsessions in dub sound systems so its a dream to be able to listen to the original pressure from a master. “



Amnesia Scanner

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Performing Saturday 9th November at TivoliVredenburg, curated by Iris van Herpen & Salvador Breed

“Amnesia Scanner are producing very curious sounds and visual ideas, definitely something to keep following.”

 

Le Guess Who? will take place 7-10 November. For the full line-up, tickets and more info visit leguesswho.com. And take a look at other artists we’re excited about picking their own Le Guess Who?’s Who.