Talking to the team behind Baybeats about the surprises on 2018's lineup, festival history and more

Talking to the team behind Baybeats about the surprises on 2018's lineup, festival history and more

Presented by Baybeats 2018

Last week, Baybeats gave everyone following them on Instagram a blast from the past when they uploaded a poster of the very first edition of the festival in 2002. Many things in Singapore music have changed, but the annual music festival remains a stalwart in the scene and a must-attend event – and as this year's lineup proves, still has some surprises up its sleeve.

From welcoming hip-hop into the festival ranks, to partnering with a local club night, to the return of old school acts, this year's Baybeats shows that even 17 years in, the festival is still evolving to respond to contemporary tastes while trying to preserve what makes it special. To understand the decision-making and philosophy behind this year's festival, we spoke to Sai Akileshwar, Programmer, from the Esplanade team behind Baybeats. Check out the interview below.

Demystify this a little bit – who exactly books Baybeats? What’s the process like?

Like all our Esplanade-presented programmes, there is a dedicated team of Esplanade programmers who curate and run Baybeats each year. In addition, the team is also supported by our colleagues in Esplanade’s Marketing, Technical Production and Operations teams. 

Each year, the Programming team will first get together to decide on our programming direction and objectives for the year, before we start thinking about which bands are suitable. If we were to include the auditions and mentorship sessions for our Baybeats Budding Bands, the entire process of programming the festival takes close to eight months, from the time we begin, right up to the weekend of the festival.  

What stood out to us about this year’s lineup was the inclusion of standout rap acts (Yung Raja, Fariz Jabba, Zamaera, Akeem Jahat) on the lineup for a festival that historically has not had a strong hip-hop presence. Why turn to hip-hop this year?

Having been around for 17 years, there’s been a whole generation of music lovers who’ve grown up with Baybeats! We recognise that the scene is evolving and so are the music preferences of our audiences, as well as their music consumption habits. So, to continue being relevant to our artists and audiences, Baybeats must also evolve and continually engage new audiences.

With all these mind, we are bringing two new music experiences to this year’s edition. Firstly, we are presenting hip hop, a genre that is rarely-presented at Baybeats. Hip hop is another genre of alternative music and it will bring another edgy dimension to the festival. So, Akeem Jahat, Yung Raja x Fariz Jabba will perform at the Annexe Studio and Zamaera will perform at the Arena at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. 

This year among the international acts are Hundredth (the first American act to play Baybeats in a while) and Totemo (the first Israeli act to play Baybeats). What sort of decision-making goes into choosing the international acts for the lineup?

When it comes to international bands, we tend to look at acts that are touring the region and reach out to them. Of course, we also look at the genre and each band’s suitability for the festival. Through our contacts, we knew that Hundredth and Totemo were planning on a tour and immediately reached out to them and we are happy that they are able to make a stop at Baybeats.

EMONIGHTSG was a surprising name to see on the lineup given how it’s a club night series, not a band. Why book them for this year’s festival?

 We wanted to have an opening night party at the Annexe Studio and were on the lookout for possible groups to work with when EMONIGHTSG approached us with an idea. We felt that it was a no brainer to work with them as the Annexe Studio is apt for such an event and through this we can also reach out to a different audience.

Acts that have played Baybeats before are on the lineup (e.g. Wormrot, Full Pledge Munkees), as is typical for Baybeats. How do you invite festival ‘alumni’ to come back to play while avoiding a repetitious experience for Baybeats diehards who attend yearly?

This is also the last time our Powerhouse Stage—a temporary stage erected specially for Baybeats each yearwill be hosting performances at its familiar location along the Esplanade Waterfront. So for this year, one of the things we wanted to do is invite back some of our top local bands who have previously headlined the Powerhouse Stage to return to the festival and play at the same stage. 

Baybeats is in its 17th year now. What role do you see the festival playing in Singapore’s music scene?

As a Singapore music festival, our first commitment is to support and help develop Singapore artists and the local music scene and this is something that remains constant. The festival is in its 17th edition this year and even as the local music scene grows and evolves, we want Baybeats to continue to be a bastion of Singapore’s alternative music scene and be a platform for the audience to witness the height of local artistry.

Baybeats has always been a free festival. How has that model worked for you?

As Singapore’s national performing arts centre, our primary objectives for presenting an alternative music festival are to help develop Singapore’s music scene. As such, we are committed to keeping the festival free so that as many people as possible have access to these artists and performances, without having to worry about admission costs. 

We also have some other guiding principles that remain constant when it comes to programming the festival each year. We try not to repeat bands over consecutive years. We also try to feature festival alumni who have new material as their fans would want to see them perform their new stuff. Lastly, each stage at Baybeats has its own identity and we allot the bands accordingly. The Chillout Stage is where we feature acoustic and electronic acts while the Annexe Studio is a space where we can experiment with newer/unfamiliar genres. Arena is a place where louder acts are programmed at and Powerhouse is where the heaviest and edgiest bands perform.

The Baybeats Budding Bands programme was begun in 2007 and is still going strong. How has the programme evolved over the years?

This is a mainstay of Baybeats and always manages to garner excitement. We see the budding bands programme as an integral part of the festival and as way to give back to the community. 

The Budding Bands programme has evolved from mentors attending a band’s rehearsal sessions and providing feedback before their performances, to now become a programme that is a lot more intensive. It’s almost like music school. We try to expose the bands to many different soft skills such as the basics of music production, voice master classes, live sound management and media and marketing training.

Baybeats 2018 will take place 17 to 19 August 2018 at the Esplanade. The festival is free.