Diversity in dance music has never been a more pressing issue. Whether it is getting more women onto party line-ups or adding more people of colour, trans people or anyone else who isn’t a straight white male, everyone can do better.
One party hoping to change things for the good is Backyard Sessions XL. It is an event that plays out in Malmo, Sweden’s most diverse and multi-cultural city, from 26th to 27th August 2017. Boasting acts like Claptone, ANNA, Recondite, Sonja Moonear, Just Her and many more, it is a beacon of hope in the underground scene and here we speak to the promoters who make it happen about the whys and hows…
“It [Malmo] is the definition of a melting pot, with over 179 nations represented”
Introduce yourself and tell us how long you have been involved with music and how and where and when?
Backyard Sessions started off with four music enthusiasts/DJ’s meeting each other in Malmö in 2015. Jerome from Belgium just moved to Malmö and wanted to create a Deep House community in the city. Alex with Russian roots was running the HMWL record label in town and had the industry knowledge. Soon after Emilio, originally from California, got involved in the project offering his design skills and setting the whole visual profile for Backyard Sessions. Swedish Hannah who has been running trance(!) parties in town for over 10 years joined as head of Art, Decoration and coziness.
What is Malmo like as a city musically – what does it have going on?
In regards to electronic dance music Malmö has a nice and compact underground techno/house scene and on the other side a commercial club scene. These two worlds are typically quite polarizing but the last few years we are seeing them both move to the middle. The underground is embracing the consistency and production quality of the mainstream, while the mainstream is experimenting with more diverse musical talent and trying new concepts and ideas. There are few passionate players like Kontra Musik, Dirty Hands, Spazio, HMWL, HHAS, Malmørave, Big Slap and Oskrivet all working hard on evolving the local scene.
How does it compare with the rest of Sweden? Is it seen locally as a cool, ahead of the curve city?
We are biased of course but we think the city is a bit ahead. With Berlin 45 minutes away by plane and Copenhagen a 20 minute train ride away, we end up being influenced heavily by these 2 cities. In the techno world, Kontra Musik is an excellent representative of the Malmö techno sound. It’s also why we have a little love affair with Germany’s capital. 😉
When you compare Malmö to Stockholm, you really get to see how different we are. Stockholm will always be Stockholm, meaning that it has the benefits and drawbacks of being a capital city. Malmö is more loose and free thinking, so changes happen fast and often here. It’s a city to experiment, succeed, fail, and just “be”. No pressure.
Why is it so racially and culturally diverse? What in its history has made it so?
Malmo is the Scandinavian gateway to mainland Europe, so even though it is the 3rd biggest city in Sweden, culturally and racially it is the epicenter of what Sweden is and will be. It is the definition of a melting pot, with over 179 nations represented, it’s the 5th most culturally diverse city on the planet. Without sounding too much like a history teacher, since the 70’s Sweden has taken in large amounts of refugees and asylum seekers which have helped shape its now flourishing multicultural feeling. Our large Persian, Palestinian, Balkan, Afghan, Iraqi, and now Syrian populations make our city an example of what Europe can and will look like when we start embracing those in need.
For anyone coming to the city, have you got some tips on what to see, what to do, where to eat, what to visit etc?
Malmö is a city of hyper local scenes. While the city is roughly 400,000 people, the scenes you find within are small, dedicated and passionate. This makes meeting new people and “diving into” a scene easy and welcoming. So the best advice is keep an open mind and make sure to socialize when you’re out at dinner or having a pint, as you never know who you’ll meet and what adventure they’ll take you on.
That being said, start your search online and don’t plan too much in advance. Get lost in the city and discover the different neighborhoods. The cuisine in Malmö is very diverse and rivals that of Copenhagen in terms of diversity and quality. You go from amazingly fresh and simple kebab/falafel, to Indian food to Michelin star restaurants. Some of the BYS teams favorite’s include: Casual Streetfood, Kafé Agnez, Bastard, Pickwick Pub, Belle Epoque, Kaffebaren på Möllan, Saiko, Lyran, Kv. Åkern, and Scandwich to name just a few.
Is there a certain sound or style of music most associated with the city?
Traditionally strictly raw, dubby “working class” techno. But the last 5 years we’ve seen a smorgasbord of new genres like disco, deep house, future bass and vapour all entering the scene and cross-pollinating each other.
What is the scene like? Is there a song network of small promoters or one central club that you congregate around?
As mentioned above the underground scene is ran by different promoters, some of them come and go. The Swedish alcohol regulations and curfews don’t make it easy to create an scene and you have to be positive, naïve and quite stubborn and persistent.
Who is behind Backyard Sessions? How did you come together?
Full organization: Jerome Lantheaume, Alex Esser, Emilio Bernard, Hannah Fröberg, Rasmus Jonsson, Ella Valfridsson, Henrik Lennartsson. See first question.
What is the aim of the party? What informs it? What inspires it?
Create a uniquely Malmö festival to promote electronic music in a very laid back environment, involve people and celebrate life. The underground scene has always been associated with bad things and we want the city to see that it isn’t that bad, we want to show all the love and togetherness, how the music brings us all together. Especially in these trying times, we want to promote coming together rather than segregating and isolating. Music is the vehicle for that now, but maybe it is just the starting point.
What are the key ingredients to get right for any party do you think?
Being open minded towards music styles and towards people. Listen to your ‘fans’ and book local upcoming DJ’s and strong established names.
Experimentation is the key to keeping things fresh and exciting. Don’t be afraid to try something new or weird or odd. If you fail, it doesn’t matter, it’s a party after all. It’s ok to borrow ideas and concepts from others, just make sure to do it in a genuine way. From an organisational perspective, be very open in your communication and involve the community, Malmö city and police so they know about your projects. It’s a given that the authorities will find out sooner or later about your party, so be proactive instead of reactive.
What crowds are you aiming to attract with your Backyard Sessions?
We want to see young and old, everybody is more than welcome if he or she is up for having a joyful and lovely time with others. Put your prejudices aside and get to know the man in the suit, play ping pong with the bald woman, grab a falafel at the Syrian food truck,, have a cocktail with the tattooed guy, join the young family on the jumping castle, buy a beer for the volunteer who is cleaning the dance floor, and above all, get to know your fellow residents.
What are you most excited about for this year’s event and why?
We are very excited to see how a festival like this will work in Malmö and we really hope all of our hard work will pay off and put Malmö on the map. We also hope to see a lot of old and new faces with big smiles and that our artists enjoy a really cozy festival in southern Sweden. Most importantly, we want to create an experience that is uniquely Malmö, where all are welcome, the music is top notch, and the party never stops.