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Barrio Afrika - Shambala Festival

Commission (2015)

In 2015 I was invited to be part of the crew for Shambala Festival’s new venue and stage “Barrio Afrika”. As the name suggests, it is a stage that will showcase music from the “black Atlantic”, exploring the cultural exchanges in the region. Speaking to the main organizer we agreed that for the project to be relevant, it had to play music that was contemporary and that challenged the ideas set out by the category of “world music”, that is, music that represents certain regions of the world because of misled concepts such as “authenticity” or “traditionality”.

I was asked to think of ways in which we could animate the stage with visuals and projections that would illustrate this idea of moving away from the typical way for seeing non-western music: something colourful, tropical and futuristic. I wanted to recreate some of the energy and atmosphere that I had seen in videos and photographs of the Tropical Bass scene online. I was particularly interested in the contrast between futuristic-looking visuals with traditional sounding music or with Latin American folk elements. Above all, I wanted to make sure that the visuals contributed to a multi-sensory experience that had not been experienced at the festival before.

My approach to this was to create a series of animated clips depicting African and Latin American fabrics in digital form, as if they were made out of neon lights. I would also include some of my other visuals captured during recent trips to Mexico. My main concern was to have as much projection space as possible, but since this was the first time the venue would be setup, we didn’t have much information about what dimensions I could work with. The venue presented some challenges as it didn’t have a very high ceiling and the projector might therefore be blocked by people’s heads. 

I attached simple white canvas screens to the frame of the stage in the form of a goal post or arch. This allowed me to have a whole row of animated space above the performers and two columns on the sides. Due to time constraints and the limited throw of one of the projectors I was not able to synch both projectors properly. I therefore had to abandon the idea of one large image being projected over the whole stage. Instead, using Resolume’s projection mapping tools, I created repeated instances of the same compositions and layered them all around the stage. This worked quite well in the end, giving the whole setup, an intricate and colourful look.

Since each repeated instance was relatively small in comparison to the overall image, doing live effects on the visuals proved pointless, as the changes in the detail were not very noticeable. Tiling, geometry and dot screen effects were the most useful in this context but nevertheless, I opted for programming the visuals so that there would be a great variety, but so that the images wouldn’t loose impact with too many effects going on. I finally added some audio responsive effects to give some variation to the images that was relevant to the music played.

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