Luring musicians with sun, beach and pastizzi

TEODOR RELJIC speaks to music journalist Shawn James, who will this year step out of his comfort zone to organise the Bewildered Music Festival – a Valletta 2018 supported indie music event incorporating both local and international acts

Shawn James
Shawn James

Tell us a bit about your career trajectory. How did you go from being a music journalist to organising a festival?

Interesting question. Well I guess it all started during my time living in London. Working with Kemptation as a music contributor opened the doors for me to interview acts who I had seen perform live. When seeing a number of big name indie acts perform, I always asked myself the question, “What If I can get these artists to perform in Malta?”

Approaching among the many, bands such as MONEY, Big Deal, Leave The Planet after their gigs and just talking to them about Malta – sun, beach and pastizzi - kind of got them interested in playing here. 

However I have to say that it was Sofar Sounds that gave me the taste of organising events. Having organised gigs in living rooms, church halls, boutique hotels, and bars, I have to be honest that I started enjoying the feeling of having bands play with audience seated in front of them. After the success of Sofar Sounds Malta, I said to myself that I need to try something different, and that’s where Bewildered Music Festival came into the fold. 

What would you say is the main raison d’etre for the festival? Do you think it addresses a particular ‘lack’ in the Maltese scene, and how do you aim to keep the festival consistent? 

I wouldn’t say I have a main reason, but many reasons I guess. Firstly having been to a number of alternative music festivals abroad and seeing how many Maltese people attend such festivals, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we have one in our own backyard?” I mean in Malta there are some pretty amazing spaces/venues which can be used to host such a Music Festival, why not just do one here? 

The second reason was that most of the festivals here focus more on the mainstream/commercial acts and having always championed alternative music in Malta as there are so many talented and amazing bands, I decided that its about time that the alternative acts of Malta should be given a bit more recognition.

Another reason would be is that alternative organisations before me such as Hairyamp, Kinemastic and Alternative Malta had brought over big name alternative acts to Malta, and I wanted to continue that lineage, however with the intention of mixing it a bit by having diverse bands, trying my best to creating a bigger platform for alternative music and building a reputable festival that hopefully foreigners from abroad can attend along with more big name alternative artists. But this takes time and preparation, so I’ll just take it one step at a time. 

How did you choose the line-up? What kind of criteria did you apply?

Well having heard most of the alternative acts in Malta, I already had in mind which artist/s I wanted for the Bewildered Music Festival. However it wasn’t an easy process, as some of the bands that I had approached to perform at the festival had to refuse the opportunity for various reasons. So then I had to think of which other acts I could approach to perform instead of the ones I had already in mind. I didn’t apply any criteria except for that I wanted to have at least one or two acts perform in Maltese. Being a firm believer in our language, I decided that it’s only right to have our language performed, along with the English language of course. 

What would you say each of the acts performing in this year’s edition brings to the festival?

Each of the acts bring something – the Language, the genre of music, the instruments, the energy on stage, the music composed, the dynamics of the bands members, the image, the songs… these are all good factors that are brought out by all the artists who will perform at Bewildered Music Festival. Alternatively speaking… “there’s a bit of everything for everyone!”

The Bewildered Music Festival will take place on August 28 and 29 at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, Valletta. Doors open at 19:00. More info: