Home is where the art is: Malasimbo 2014

Malasimbo 2014 Crowd

“This is a milestone for me,” intimated Miro Grgic, all-around talented fella (he’s a sound engineer, musician, DJ, and producer all rolled into one) and of course, the co-founder and director of the music and arts explosion that is Malasimbo Festival.

Surveying the amphitheater filled with folks swaying and dancing about as well as taking into consideration the sheer intensity of performances past (read: Grammy-award winning Robert Glasper Experiment, Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez, and the legendary Roy Ayers who practically killed it onstage), one can’t help but agree that the 2014 Malasimbo Festival was quite a brainchild to behold.

Jose Gonzales Malasimbo 2014

Robert Glasper Experiment Malasimbo 2014

Jordan Rakei Malasimbo 2014

For one, you have international acts playing barefoot onstage and roaming the festival grounds trying their first kesong puti. Another fortunate glance and you’ll find Aussie artist Jordan Rakei adorably taking snapshots of fellow headliners while they perform or perhaps DJ Badkiss herself spending time offstage with her lovely little familia. It’s these indelible moments that make Malasimbo an otherworldly occurrence—the artists are casual, personal, unassuming, and all endearingly eager to immerse themselves in the weekend festivities. It’s as if the mountains have successfully dispelled the myths and despite the stellar performances, you encounter artists so personable they could have easily passed off as one’s childhood friends.

Aside from the welcoming proximity, you find a glorious mix of performances to keep you on your toes: one minute you’re enchanted with Gonzalez’s bare vocals and the next you’re dancing like a madman to Casey Benjamin singing a cover of ‘Lovely Day’. Heralding a return to the more soulful side of things, you also have an icon in the form of Ayers schooling you on what a perfect marriage of jazz and funk sounds (and feels) like with ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’ among his other hits.

Roy Ayers Malasimbo 2014

Overall it seems the weekend came and with it a number of talents also proudly homegrown: from Similar Objects who did a mighty fine job kicking things off that Saturday afternoon to June Marieezy charming the crowd with ‘Summertime’ to an ever-missed Mishka Adams who left the local scene a few years back to pursue studies in London. The homecoming provided that extra warmth to an already very personal festival—tugging at one’s heartstrings and convincing you that home is definitely where the art is.

Similar Objects Malasimbo 2014

June Marieezy Malasimbo 2014

Mishka Adams Malasimbo 2014

Speaking of art, trekking down the entrance you’ll encounter installations worth a host of superlatives: there is Troy Silvestre’s homage to the festival itself playing with the Malasimbo logo, Dondi Katigbak’s metal masterpiece ‘Iron Horse’, Agnes Arellano’s haunting yet beautiful ceramic white sculptures planted on the hill, Wawi Navarroza and Ling Quisumbing Ramilo’s peculiar ‘Everywhere There You Are’ taking advantage of the mountain breeze, a twiggy piece by Niccolo Jose of a man reaching up, and Malasimbo festival co-founder Olivia d’Aboville’s little daffodil-like orbs of light created using recycled bottles.

Malasimbo 2014 Installations

Perhaps more than a festival, at the risk of sounding far too cliché, what makes Malasimbo stand out is that it resembles an intimate gathering of artists and friends more than it being a concert attended by strangers. Add to that, a collective pursuit to keep the home fires burning what with the festival’s efforts to embrace its roots: nestled a little farther down the mountain was the Mangyan village with little stores that championed pieces created by the tribes themselves and of course, Sunday’s festivities featured a vibrant performance littered with candles by a group of kids from a town called Baco.

Malasimbo 2014 Crowd

Osunlade Malasimbo 2014

What served as one of the highlights of the whole festival was ironically one that wasn’t at all planned—while LA native DJ Osunlade was on stage, what started as a group of friends dancing together suddenly erupted into a spontaneous flash mob that grew to include almost half of the whole amphitheatre. A surreal surprise afforded by the kind of atmosphere one can only find in the seemingly magical mountain of Malasimbo.

Charmed, we’re sure. Make sure not to miss out on next year’s festival of art and music.

Written by Meg Manzano
Photos by Carla Barretto

Carla Barretto is a busy bee that eats, sleeps, and breathes concerts. When she’s not shooting shows, she’s planning them herself! Her production and multimedia backgrounds blend into this peculiar mademoiselle with a love for live music.

Follow Carla Barretto on Twitter @heycarlaaa

Meg Manzano is a writer/stylist in pursuit of a life of deadlines and by-lines. She lives under Southern skies.

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