The idea of having pioneering reggae star Jimmy Cliff and outstanding soul singer Joss Stone perform in a music festival with a mountain as backdrop is not farfetched in Europe or the United States. But if it will happen in the Philippines, that would be mind-bending.
Recently, organizers broke the news on its Facebook page. A few weeks ago, the team behind the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival met the local media at Sofitel Philippine Plaza to discuss the inspiration and vision that fuels the annual event.
Now on its third year, Malasimbo—named after the inactive volcano Mt. Malasimbo that overlooks the Puerto Galera bay—will be held March 1-3 in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.
“I first came to Puerto Galera in 1981 after visiting the Philippines in 1977. I fell in love with the place and have been living there for more than 30 years,” said Hubert d’Aboville, a Frenchman who married a Filipino, Araceli Valenzuela. He is president of the Puerto Galera-based D’Aboville Foundation and Demo Farm Inc., and lead organizer of Malasimbo.
He professed that the life-changing experience he had with Puerto Galera would be followed by other recollections from those who attended the first two editions of Malasimbo. “A couple from Spain told me that, after the festival, they decided to get married.”
Envisioned to promote the Philippines as a tourist destination, the Malasimbo fest is described as a holistic way to appreciate music and nature. “People say they like the place because they feel a sense of adventure as well as an eco-cultural vibe,” D’Aboville pointed out.
The three-day fest will have art installations, an organic food market, creative workshops, tree-planting activities, yoga sessions and cultural lessons on indigenous tribes from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
After sunset, the music takes over. The Grace Nono-Bob Aves Group will headline the March 1 show; Cliff performs on March 2; and Stone will close the fest on March 3.
DJs will be spinning music from midnight till sunrise.
Nono, former lead singer of Filipino rock band The Blank, has been collaborating with her husband, the Berkeley College of Music-educated Aves, in writing and recording local music that explores the country’s ethno-folk roots.
Cliff is recognized as “reggae’s first international star and remains its greatest living ambassador, having taken the music of Jamaica to all corners of the world.” A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Cliff rose to fame in the ’70s with the release of the soundtrack to the film “The Harder They Come.” According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, “that album served as a primer on reggae music for the uninitiated, and half of its tracks were by Cliff. They included three songs that have become reggae standards: the ebullient “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” the anthemic “The Harder They Come” and the hymn-like “Many Rivers to Cross.”
At age 64, Cliff is still active touring and released his latest album, “Rebirth,” in July last year.
Stone is a British singer-songwriter whose first two albums, “The Soul Sessions” and “Mind, Body and Soul,” both went multi-platinum—the latter topping the UK Albums Chart and yielding the Top 10 hit “You Had Me.” She confessed to having been influenced by the first CD that she owned, “Aretha Franklin: Greatest Hits.”
At age 13 she auditioned for the BBC Television talent show “Star for a Night” in London, singing Franklin’s 1968 Goffin-King hit “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and Whitney Houston’s 1998 song “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay,” and eventually won the contest.
Now 25, Stone released a new album, “Soul Sessions Vol. 2,” also in July last year.
Aside from the three headliners, four young Filipino bands have been shortlisted to play at Malasimbo: Jazlagiba (from Davao), Similar Objects, Yolanda Moon and Ivan Theory.
They will be joined by five more Pinoy groups, all to be chosen by the festival music committee.
Asked how the bands are picked, Miro Grgic, Malasimbo co-organizer, said that the music of the performers have to blend harmoniously with the venue’s natural acoustics.
He’s referring to the amphitheater, which was built like a mini-version of the Ifugao Rice Terraces. The sound that is conducive to the venue, said Grgic, “is roots and soul music, which could be folk, blues, jazz, Latin and electronic music with a soul twist.”
D’Aboville said that Malasimbo has been fortunate to have the support of the local government of Puerto Galera and the Department of Tourism.
Last year, he related, some 10,000 tourists flocked to the festival, with 3,000 attending the musical performances. “We’re again expecting 3,000 or more each night this year,” he said, adding that a major partner, Visa, will be promoting the event massively. “That’s 300 million Visa card users becoming aware of Malasimbo.”