One issue plaguing music festivals across Asia and internationally are cancellations due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. Acts backing out, entire events being rescheduled or abandoned entirely.
It’s a real problem, but Malasimbo triumphed!
The curation on the main stage was impeccable, and the silent disco offerings were consistently eclectic with a vibrant mix of local and international acts.
While considering a trip to Manila to visit friends and attend the Wanderland Festival, I stumbled across another festival in the city on the weekend prior. A few minutes of digging and I was swayed that Malasimbo was more my scene. The smaller, more intimate, natural setting and I was curious to experience the silent disco in full swing. So I booked it and saw about writing a review, doing the most minimal of research at the start.
It turned out to be a non-stop musical journey that blew my top off both days.
Only being familiar with two acts on the lineup, I went in with a bare grasp of the music. A good opportunity to learn about some new music and allow myself to be surprised. It turned out to be a non-stop musical journey that blew my top off both days. Because there was only one main stage and the silent disco was so lowkey, the action and energy were quite concentrated.
From a pure percussion drumline set to jazz, funk, electronica, world beat, R&B, reggae, traditional Philippino instruments fused with a rock twist…
At night, after the conference panel discussions with industry professionals of various ilks, the silent disco had two DJs spinning at nearly all times. So if one channel didn’t suit your fancy, simply flip the switch from red to blue or vice versa. There was no need to walk to another stage after gathering all your friends in case you never see them for the rest of the night like at larger festivals.
The new location provided a better experience
Malasimbo, in its 10th anniversary, celebrated the inaugural edition at a new location in Quezon City at the Eco Park.
The venue was beautiful, the weather was perfect, a little hot but manageable in the shade with the occasional tropical breeze.
And it felt very fresh with plenty of little trails to wander off and see the foliage or seek some solace for a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the festival. Much of the park was fenced off, but I didn’t spend much time away from the main stage.
I walked away beyond impressed and pleasantly surprised by the sheer musicianship but also the energy being generated by the chill and well-behaved family-friendly crowd and relaxed ambiance.
Apart from a few talks at the conference that were insightful and informative, I was truly captivated by the natural amphitheater and the event curation on both days. Again, not knowing much at first or what to expect really, I walked away beyond impressed and pleasantly surprised by the sheer musicianship but also the energy being generated by the chill and well-behaved family-friendly crowd and relaxed ambiance.
From my hammock perch at the top, overlooking the scene next to the upcycled plastic jellyfish art installation with a good view of everything and a slow but steady stream of new friends and artists sauntering by long enough to chat.
My Day 1
When we arrived on day one, at first I was a bit too distracted by the conference and getting my bearing upon arrival to catch much of the opening acts, but they were soulful and suitable afternoon music. For Maraga Jayy’s R&B band setting the mood, I sat on top of the hill talking about drinking out of Quincy Jones’ shoe with Laneous, who also orchestrated the funk live improvisation band Uncomfortable Science. He scribbled notes and instructions on a whiteboard for the band to follow like a funk conductor before giving us a solo set of looped guitar and vocals that meandered to match the vibe after the full band tore the house down.
I needed a coffee, but there was no caffeine to be had at any of the vendors. How do you sustain that many people without caffeine? It took me an hour, but I finally tracked down a packet of 3 in 1 and begrudgingly drank it down.
The silent disco was going after sunset, so I grabbed a pair of headphones and jammed on the dancefloor a bit, checking out the different channels and sharing knowing smiles with the people around. Having two DJs play back to back simultaneously kept things lively, and the selections from the roster of Logiclub, a local music collective, held it down righteously.
Then, crashing in from the main stage was Brigada, with 20 or so percussionists each with only one drum or shaker, playing synchronized samba and Latin rhythms with intense Philippino flare. The audience ate it up.
Very tribal, lots of stomping around with everyone getting loose. Synchronized perfectly, they’ve been playing together for 15 years.
I needed to take a seat after that, so the hammock came in handy. But not for long since Intergalactix from LA and Australia were such a delight. The funk was brought and it got me moving. The trio was so groovy and although the crowd thinned out a bit, they made up for it by going hard. Definitely a stand out performance, as that breed of jamming danceable tunes, are right up my alley.
Switching gears, Mike Love and the Full Circle Band from Hawai’i and LA played to the biggest crowd of the night. A cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” reminded me of the Dub Side of the Moon record. The crowd interaction brought home the strong reggae vibes, putting Malasimbo into a state of bliss. When they finished, I didn’t even have to leave my hammock to see what was playing in the silent disco. A live instrumental version of Prodigy’s “Smack my Bitch Up” was a welcome soundtrack for in between sets. Closing the first night was David De Barce, who I had the pleasure of meeting the next day.
He’s been DJing for a long time, including at previous Malasimbos. He lovingly referred to it as “Malabimbo.” The incorporation of live instruments and improvisation into his set featuring Mr. Marcus and a slew of other artists joining him on stage including the vocalist and drummer from Rhythm Masala was very unique and interesting.
Festivals are the perfect place for collaboration to happen spontaneously, and this made his set very memorable for me.
De Barce compared this year’s Malasimbo to previous editions saying: “Malasimbo was this year a little different than the other editions. (There were) fewer people because of the Coronavirus and the new location. But the quality of the music was the same. (I) always enjoy this festival. It’s like a reunion every year of musicians… You can feel the passion for music behind the man who organized this festival. Thank you Miro!”
We stayed until around 2 and then made the trek out of the park to catch a tricycle back to the hotel.
Another beautiful day at the park. I put my hammock right back up where it was all day previous and settled in for what is decidedly the most chill festival I’ve ever been too, and I’ve been to a lot.Project Yazz was a lovely solo jazz singer with a nice backing band. Another standout performance was Kadangayan, a rock band that plays with Philippino instruments.
The crowd sang along and they really had a nice stage presence and put on a helluva show. Then, the jazz train began with Tazzo Jazz Orchestra. The level of talent and love for music could be felt throughout each act. The jazz and instrumental funky, jazzy, performances were interspersed with a solo set from Mike Love putting a different sound to his songs and still getting the same big reaction from the crowd, which was a bit larger than Saturday as the day wore on.
Anomalie made their second appearance at Malasimbo, and as one of the only acts I was familiar with on the lineup, they fit right in. The downtempo, instrumental beats took the festival to another level with a nice peak. Last but not least, Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles were amazing with a massive live band and backing vocals, they certainly left everyone wanting more.
And that was really the only thing about Malasimbo that I saw could use any kind of step up. It was ripe for afterparties, but it’s a bit too far from the city to make anything feasible.
The venue could have camping, but then it might be too chaotic. Finding nearby accommodation was no problem, so we just took to the roof with a few others and winded down what was a flawless weekend at the Eco Park.
Although it is small, Malasimbo has its magic intact
Powering through venue changes and other difficulties, their new home is a good place to grow from. While festivals like SXSW and Coachella are being canceled or rescheduled, and in the Philippines, UNKNWN was canceled and Wanderland’s lineup was decimated by the coronavirus till it was also rescheduled.
Malasimbo made me forget about the troubles of the world and really focus on an amazing weekend of music and good vibes.
penned by: Evan Vitkovski, a regular contributor for udou.ph