MADEIRADiG — An island in the future

After a silent year, MADEIRADiG is back. The beginning of December resumes the way it has been since 2004: a trip to the best exploratory electronic music.

Always a paradise. Madeira is ready to be discovered and to marvel many, even those who return as if for the first time. A festival in Madeira, an archipelago fit for gatherings and celebrations. A festival in paradise. That is MADEIRADiG: a festival in paradise. But not only. Although in recent decades it has highlighted electronic/experimental/contemporary music, far from the traditional model, the essence is music whose relationship with the public is tricky. Not with its own audience, but the external one, that needs to be converted; or the one that must put any biases aside. MADEIRADiG has broken down these invisible lines and helped covering the gap between different audiences. This is part of any festival’s effort. Those days in December are a small utopia.

The Atlantic is inviting. And so are the natural landscapes of Madeira. There is something triumphantly innate in this festival’s design, which offers the audience many possibilities. Since 2004, the MADEIRADiG line-up surprises and builds bridges between sub-genres of larger musical families. It’s where musicians first learn to be and then want to be. It’s a different festival.

After a year where the festival didn’t happen – the dreadful 2020 –, the 17th edition of MADEIRADiG takes place between December 2 and 7. A refreshing solution for those looking for partaking again in these events, with healthy encounters with electronic music and many discoveries to be made. This year’s line-up is perfect for that (we’ll talk about it in a moment). MADEIRADiG is conceived by Rafael Biscoito with the help of Michael Rosen, both representing two of the five entities involved in the festival, Associação Para a Promoção da Cultura Atlântica (Biscoito) and Digital In Berlin (Rosen). Estalagem da Ponta do Sol, Centro Cultura John dos Passos and Centro de Artes – Casa das Mudas, designed by the architect Paulo David, are the other three partners, providing venues for the events.

In past editions, the festival has featured names such as Leyland Kirby, Pete Swanson, William Basinski, Grouper/Nivhek, Felix Kubin, Cluster, Maria w Horn, Jamie Lidell, Mocky, Taylor Deupree, Tim Hecker, Kali Malone, Keiji Haino, Heather Leigh, among many others. These artists reveal a story attentive to the present, whilst looking into the future. The past is treated with care, as part of the present, with an uninterrupted vision: to show avant-garde music created by songwriters with different origins, methods and perspectives.

The programme cohesion is remarkable. MADEIRADiG is more than a festival in a paradisiacal spot. It contains a strong pedagogical element, with a will to set up bridges, either in the music presented or in the visiting audience. A festival that does not want to limit itself to the music heard, the shows seen and the artists with whom one talks. The relationship can continue outside of it. And the following year. MADEIRADiG’s history proves it: those who go there once tend to come back.

The word festival immediately makes us think of music concerts. MADEIRADiG has stepped beyond that, investing more and more in activities devoted to the formation of audiences and cultural pedagogy. The target is the local population, but also to show how these sounds can cover other aspects beyond the idea of a musical concert. With this intent, the shows – the festival’s core – are enhanced by artistic installations, performances, conferences and, this year, a soundwalk in the village of Ponta do Sol.

The event’s six days begin with a concert by João de Nóbrega Pupo (day 2) at Centro Cultural John dos Passos. Born in Madeira, Nóbrega Pupo has lived for some time in Barcelona, where he studied Sound Art and Digital Animation for Video Games. Over the last few years, he has been releasing music with some consistency through Colectivo Casa Amarela, a Lisbon label that has developed quite an interesting catalogue in new Portuguese electronic music. Nóbrega Pupo is no exception. He presents a different perspective on the relationship between sound and different mediums and how this can be combined with contemporary music. At the same venue, the festival will end with a concert by Gwenifer Raymond (day 7), who curiously also has a career in video games. The Welsh guitarist is known for her raw, abrasive and violently natural approach to the guitar.

The festival will feature historical names such as David Behrman, one of the first artists to release on Robert Ashley’s Lovely Music. His beautiful debut album On The Other Ocean came out the same year – and on the same label – as Jon Hassell’s Vernal Equinox. At MADEIRADiG, he will be on stage (Casa das Mudas) with South Korean cellist Okkyung Lee. Over the last decade, she has released impressive efforts, such as The Air Around Her (with Ellen Fullman), Ghil or Yeo-Neun. Another pioneer name in this festival is Kafee Matthews, known for her work with electroacoustics and samples, in a search for unusual sounds to justify her presence in space and time.

Due to the great work of the Italian label Ecstatic, we have discovered the wonderful Abul Mogard, a prolific Serbian artist who has been creating innovative electronic sounds, in a constant battle between noise and dance music. If Mogard’s work is unknown to you, that can be compensated by MADEIRADiG. He’s one of the names in recent electronic music that must be discovered.

At Casa das Mudas, there will be concerts by Ben Bertrand, Lea Bertucci, Marja Ahti, Lucy Railton, Giant Swan and Alfredo Costa Monteiro. The festival will also feature multimedia installations by Silvestre Pestana, Henrique Leal and Rodrigo Camacho. There will be a dance performance by Sara Anjo and a concert by Madeiran jazz trio Francisco Andrade & Cia, both at Centro Cultural John dos Passos, as well as the usual DJ sets at Estalagem Porta do Sol.

December is back. Today it seems absurd to say it. But, after months that had left us with an odd taste, we must celebrate the possibility of meeting this month, in the good things it brings us – like MADEIRADiG. An avant-garde music festival, conceived on the island but looking outwards, aiming to be entirely inclusive, multidisciplinary, and educational for those who enter through its doors. MADEIRADiG is more than an event on an island paradise. During its length, it is a utopia where we live the past, present and future of the best exploratory electronic music.


He studied Modern and Contemporary History, but during the course he let himself be seduced by writing, as a way to distract himself, not focus on the course and follow another path. It all started with music criticism. He collaborated for ten years with Time Out Lisboa as a television, film, literature and art critic. He writes in Observer and Sábado about the same subjects and others (like video games, another one of his downfalls). He is one of the managing partners of Flur and co-founder of Holuzam.

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