Eminent artists at special venues: 2023 Prague Sounds lineup revealed

The 2023 edition of the multi-genre Prague Sounds music festival will feature the likes of Benjamin Clementine, Alva Noto & Ensemble Modern and jazz great Ron Carter. Though the event is not until November, the organisers unveiled the line-up this week – and I spoke to programmer Guy Borg.  

Guy Borg | Photo: Prague Sounds festival

“We tend to try to look beyond strict genre categories, although it’s fair to say that in our programme you will find things like hip hop, electronic music, contemporary classical music and jazz and so on.

“But each of the artists in those categories, we feel, kind of go beyond those genres in various ways.

“Those are the kind of artists we look for and that’s the kind of programme we try to put together.

“And we always try to make sure that each concert kind of informs the ones around it, so that there’s a dialogue between the concerts, between the artists and a kind of overall experience for the audience.”

The festival will be happening at a wide variety of places, from, for example, the Rudolfinum to CAMP. How do you match the artists to the venue?

“Matching artists to venues that you might not expect to see them in is something that we try to do, both in terms of providing a different experience for the audience and also for the artists themselves.

“For example, Benjamin Clementine, who’s opening the festival.

“He has performed at all kinds of venues around the world and with various different bands and ensembles.

“But I still feel that he is at this strongest when he is playing in a pure solo environment – just him at the piano.

“So we thought that Rudolfinum would add a bit of drama to the proceedings as well, especially given Benjamin’s back story.

“He raised himself up from the streets of Paris, where he was a penniless busker, and has come a long way of course, so we feel that he deserves to be given that kind of stage, that kind of venue, for his Prague debut.”

Who are you yourself most looking forward to seeing?

“Speaking personally, one of the ones that I’m really looking forward to is the Alva Noto & Ensemble Modern concert, because that’s a fairly unique project.

“Ensemble Modern are perhaps the best European orchestra playing contemporary music. Alva Noto of course is a pioneer of electronic music.

“But it’s also about the setting. We decided to do this in the Veletržní palác [Trade Fair Palace], in the spaces of the National Gallery’s modern art collection.

“Because Alva Noto is also a visual artist, as well as an electronic music artist, and he has performed and had installations at places like the Tate Modern, the Guggenheim in New York and even the Venice Biennale.

“And this particular project, called Xerrox Volume 4, is a kind of audio-visual project.

“There will be Alva Noto as soloist, playing with the orchestra, but he’s also travelling with a whole technical crew to create a sort of audio-visual installation.

“So doing it at the spaces of the National Gallery at the Veletržní palác makes sense for us.

“It’s quite demanding from a production point of view, because we have to build the whole setup inside the big hall there – which is not of course designed for concerts – but we feel it’s going to be worthwhile.”

Is there any name in the lineup who people will not have heard of and you think people really should make the effort to go and see?

“One of the things that we try to do every year is to profile at least one artist who perhaps is a bit of an unknown – certainly in the Czech Republic – but are at the stage of their career where we feel that they are not too far from becoming quite a big star.

“In the past it’s been artists like Ghost Poet or Young Fathers, who we were lucky enough to have at the festival right about the time they were breaking, so at that time they were still not very well known here.

“This year there’s a young rapper called Kofi Stone from the UK, who I feel is possibly at a similar place in his career.

“He’s released one album and has received a lot of very positive reviews, not only from critics but also from his contemporaries on the hip hop scene.

“He recently toured with Loyle Carner, who’s one of the UK’s biggest hip hop stars.

“So yes, Kofi is I think one to watch.

“We have some bigger names in the programme but we also want to make space for artists who we think are worthy of people’s attention, even if they may not know them at this point.”