Behind the Scenes with Hafez of Culture Clash Festival: Let the world gather

Feeling some Mosaic Music Festival withdrawals since its last closing act at the Esplanade? No fret, another music festival swings round the corner just one week after – Culture Clash Festival, the local revival and revamp of WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) last staged seven long years ago!

Culture Clash Festival, let the world gather

Setting the stage alive with an international line-up of five ‘live’ acts and six DJ acts representing a global mix of progressive organic music (hear their preview mixtapes on Facebook), to putting up a cosy cluster of art installations, performances and workshops by the Kilowatt crew, to having a 20-metre swimming pool as centerpiece to beat the heat and chill out in – Culture Clash Festival reflects the spirit of WOMAD and promises to be one refreshing evening.

Culture Clash Festival: Blitz & Squash Brass Band

Hailing from Japan, Blitz and Squash Brass Band will be playing at Culture Clash Festival

We go behind the scenes with festival organiser, Hafez, to find out more about his thoughts on music in Singapore, the length and breadth of organising a festival like this and what’s keeping him on his tippy toes as this Saturday approaches!

Since WOMAD last happened seven years ago, how has Singapore’s music festival landscape changed?

It’s definitely grown a lot. More festivals. More promoters.  More niche festivals. More affiliated festivals. There are progressive festivals that feature really current music and also festivals that capture a certain sound of a certain era.  Too many to keep up with!

What inspired you to revive the world music festival (or WOMAD)?

First of all, insanity. I mean, long-time promoters will tell you that never do a festival unless you have a good concept and good support. Secondly, we thought the idea would be cool and most importantly, the more people we spoke to about it, the more positive responses we received. And finally, there has been great support from friends, artists, musicians, DJs, the creative team, fellow promoters, venues and suppliers so far. The “Do” column just started filling up faster than the “Don’t”.

Do you think an event like Culture Clash Festival would have been well received in the 90s or is Singapore better positioned for an event like this now?

Most of us on the team were too young in the 90’s to be going for festivals, legally at least. It was the 2000’s that we remembered most about the world music festival.  One fond memory I have was coiling microphone cables after the end of Zap Mama’s set in 2004 and still buzzing from the energy of the crowd. And I was a stagehand.

I think bands and DJs never stopped playing music that could fit into a world music festival. Whether it’s funk, soul, afro, batucada, reggae, latin, rock, jazz or any combination of those; people will always be playing those sounds. I mean, me using those terms doesn’t even give justice to the diversity of the music. These sounds have deep roots in a long history of music and human culture that, despite musical trends, never disappear from iTunes playlist or record collections. And it really helps that the music can make people dance. I love dancing. And any music that makes people dance.

And yes, it does feel that Singapore is in a good position now for such a festival. For most of the past 4-5 years, there’s been a crazily enthusiastic scene of fans and countless number of hardworking promoters who keep pushing their sound the best they can, always trying to rock a dancefloor. It just felt like the right time to let the world gather.

What are the top three challenges of staging music festivals in Singapore these days and what’s your take or advice on overcoming them?

Other than the default challenge of money, maybe other more interesting stuff. The next top three would be;
1. Putting together a well-balanced team.
2. Balancing different interests.
3. Turning people down. (You know who you are. Sorry guys! ☹)

Overcoming them? A big, white wall above the computer helps, lots of space for post-it notes. Being focused on the vision helps too. And lastly, mainly when turning people down, it helps to be honest with them about the reasons. And over-explain. Always over-explain.

Kudos on bringing such a diverse group of musicians and DJs together, with four local live acts to boot – which bands or DJ mixtapes have been playing on your playlist most?

Thank you so much! Well there are 8 mixes up on the mixcloud as of today, so there’s a lot of music to get through. I’ve been listening to the mixes at the same time as when the acts will be playing during the festival, just to get a sense of how it would go down. Let’s just say I’ve been dancing alone in the room way too much. Definitely excited for this Sat.

If you were to describe each of the five ‘live’ acts in one word, what would it be?

Wow… this is tougher than an English summary test! I’m gonna cheat and go with one sentence each .

Instigator Afrobeat Orchestra – like the first shot of tequila on a night out. And watch out for the pipes on that new singer!

The Voodoo Sound – the closest I’ve heard to a wall of sound. Massive.

The Mighty Mighty – still the toughest funk band in Singapore.

The Good Life Project – so smooth and so soulful. They can start making good records anyday.

Blitz & Squash Brass Band – New Orleans Brass Band music from Osaka. Need I say more?

Lastly, could we chance a sneak peak into the sort of art installations and performances that’s been put together by the Kilowatt crew?

Partnering Kilowatt crew very closely on this is Clashes. Let’s just say, I would love to have it on my living room wall.

Culture Clash Festival: The Good Life Project

The Good Life Project, one of the local ‘live’ acts playing this Saturday at Culture Clash Festival

Let the world gather, get tickets to Culture Clash Festival here.
Sat 22 March / 5pm – 3am / $48, kids under 12 go for free!

Image credit: Culture Clash Festival, Blitz and Squash Brass Band, The Good Life Project

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Claire Ding

Claire Ding is the Community Manager at ticketing platform Peatix in Singapore. She runs a community event for organisers, Backstage Pass , where organisers connect with others and learn tips on event management. Quite the thrill-seeker, Claire’s gone skydiving, bungee jumping, and enjoys anything that puts her on edge (quite literally), it’s no wonder she’s in the business of events with never a dull moment!