“We always try to support young artists”: 27th edition of Prague Sounds gets underway

The Prague Sounds music festival is set to kick off on Tuesday, ushering in more than two weeks of performances, with concerts ranging from classic jazz to hip-hop. On the eve of the event – formerly known as Strings of Autumn – I spoke with head programmer, Guy Borg.

“We’re now in our 27th year, and we are happy to be considered one of the premier festivals here in Prague. Our approach to programming is quite eclectic, and we tend to not worry too much about genre distinctions, and try to illuminate relationships between genres. For example in this year’s program, we have everything from electronic music, to hip-hop, to jazz, and contemporary classical music.”

I’m curious where you get your sources of inspiration from for the programming of the festival?

Guy Borg | Photo: Prague Sounds festival

“We are all super passionate about music at the festival, and our music tastes are quite diverse, just like the festival programming. We often try to choose artists whose concepts we feel shed interesting light on the other concerts around them in the programming. For instance, this year we have jazz legend Ron Carter, the bassist who played with Miles Davis, and he is performing on his last European tour, so it’s a fairly big event. On the other end of the spectrum, we have a British rapper called Kofi Stone who is just starting out and has a great future ahead of him.”

It’s great that you give new artists an opportunity while also having established artists. Is it an important part of the festival to give new talent a platform?

“It is and it always has been. We’ve always profiled icons in music, in jazz for instance we’ve had Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, and contemporary composers like Steve Reich and Terry Riley – all of whom are legends. But on the other hand we always try to support young artists coming up, and Kofi Stone is the latest example of this. In the past, we’ve given platforms to Ghostpoet and Young Fathers when they were quite unknown, and we were very happy to see that they went on to become the stars we knew they would be.”

How many people are you expecting roughly at the festival?

“It’s hard to give a rough estimate, but we have some large venues this year. The biggest venue is Forum Karlín, and the legendary African singer Angelique Kidjo, will be performing her version of the Talking Heads album Remain in Light. We have a few concerts at Rudolfinum, Ron Carter and Benjamin Clementine who is the great troubadour from the UK will be opening the festival at Rudolfinum. We have the Czech band Bert & Friends who will be playing at Rudolfinum, a venue that people may not be expecting to see them in, but then again that’s why this particular project appeals to us. We have smaller venues like La Fabrika and CAMP, and we really try to match the space with the artist and the project, and really produce an experience that will be memorable.”