Moogfest brings the relationship between the physical/constructed/engineering and the cultural/expressive/experienced to life, annually. Artists across a spectrum of electronic music and production gather around their equipment and instruments – we’re talking Kelela’s gorgeous, precise, probing R&B as well as Kill Alters’ chaotic vibrance, and the surreal, decades-old audiovisual renegades Psychic TV. Denzel Curry took the stage in 2016 and audience to another level, with folks hanging from the ceiling at the Motorco Music Hall.
That was the first year Moogfest took place in Durham, and since, the festival has declared the city its home. People who have long called Durham home have seen it morph and thicken; condos and parking garages have sprung up across the skyline to greet new businesses, new generations of yuppies and retirees, and their new money. Amongst it all though, we cannot overlook the foundations of Moogfest, and the development (read: gentrification) of Durham and cities across the United States: the born and bred artists, the true architects of community, and homegrown innovators.
There must be a sense of inclusion and access between those in control of the infrastructure, and those utilizing it, creating within, or simply congregating.
Of course, it was controversial. Some appreciated the initiative, some saw it as tokenization for points or profit, some found it unappealing. I was among those who would find a way to attend the festival for the content, regardless of the publicity, bringing along a curiosity and support that extends especially to those artists that Moogfest elevated. I would come to realize a fuller opinion over the course of the festival and in the following months, as Durham’s scene continued to change and build. It raises the opportunity to ask and attempt to answer questions, like “who is it for?”, “is this accessible?”.
Surely, that positioning was significant and renowned festivals should continue to make their intentions to feature black and brown and female and non-gender conforming and lgbtq+ artists known. At the same time, positioning bears little substance without acknowledgement of the contributions that communities thriving in the margins, though systemically oppressed have made daily to the culture. It must continue to actually include the creative, constructive counter to gentrification that breathes through Durham and cities across the United States.
Madame Gandhi seemed to identify with this wave purely. She lauded Moogfest, as a hub for artists and their decision to use their platform and share their intentions. She read from The Feminist Manifesto, giving us all a bit of insight into the shaping of hers. Warm energy emanated from the crowd and it was all so serendipitous; I recognized community members and artists local to Durham throughout Motorco Music Hall, cozy and upbeat like when home is fresh and revitalized. When I asked Madame Gandhi how visiting Durham had been, from the vault at 21C, she radiated that warmth right back. This year she’ll be back for Moogfest, April 25-28.
Kiran Gandhi went in depth on her philosophy of atomic living, in a 2014 TED talk and since then has manifested a broader conversation on presence, impact, and integrity through her activism and artistry.
“When I started seeing how accessible some of this stuff was, I got a bit frustrated… the closed-minded gatekeeper thing is a closed-minded gatekeeper mentality, because they realize it’s easy for a lot of us to participate and actually run laps around them…so I started stepping into my own voice when I realized wow if I actually step into my own potential, I have so much to offer and then I can use that to go to bat for others”
“I see you, fuck all these other people who don’t, I see you, and that’s truly a futurist female concept…”
Those were resonant themes of last year, for me, and they echoed as I wandered the city that weekend in May, especially remembering Christine McCharen-Tran’s workshop, Creating Sustainable Artist Economies, to Gemynii’s performance on the Raund Haus stage, to stopping by Young, Gifted, and Broke + Free Things Fest’s lounge at The Mothership. There was this common thread woven throughout the experience. There must be a sense of inclusion and access between those in control of the infrastructure, and those utilizing it, creating within, or simply congregating.
In the past year, Madame Gandhi has released a single, “Bad Habits”, a percussive afrobeat jam radiating messages of honest expression and growing resolve through warm, clarifying, empowering hues and mantras inspired by Fela Kuti. Serving looks, sentiments, and beats, she’s charted the world for conversations and panels, collaborative activism, performances, and djing parties. She’s still running marathons throughout the course, and open to sharing her ways of grounding, mindfulness; tuning the body and mind through drumming and meditating with the elements daily. That openness is effervescent and uplifting, it flows through her musical nature, evident to be just as broad and deep onstage. Her statements are poignant and insightful; the resulting experience is truly engaging.
I look forward to what she’ll bring to share this year, and I hope to continue our conversation. On the topic of gentrification, Madame Gandhi gave a perspective that seemed to come from her calling, as a reminder that as cities develop and things change, its up to us to invest in ourselves and ask how we can support one another. There is always space, though there will be those that imagine limitations for us they are not ours to claim and be held to.. She referenced the path that led her to drum for Thievery Corporation and then MIA, “always ask what can I contribute? What can I contribute in that moment?”
We create connections and structures that sustain when we consistently come back to shared spaces around the logistical, the emotional, the ethical, the creative. Skills can and must be honed alone, and we must know and love ourselves first, but identity is social, and inherently connected to culture. Moving in alignment, the long way, is about uniting deep belief in self and the capacity to develop and learn and express selflessly, in the mix of it all. “If you’re always contributing value, you will always be invited to the party.”
Since last year:
has continued to flourish, balancing creative integrity with conscious collaboration and purposeful parties the world over. The collective’s mantra is AMPLIFY! EACH! OTHER!, which they live through their business practices, growing roster, and creative encounters. Recent addition Suzi Analogue will perform at Moogfest this year, joining Umfang, DJ Haram, and Stud1nt, who took the stage at last year’s festival. It makes sense to me; in 2017, Suzi Analogue and VHVL composed an intricate, honest soundscape that had me glued to the livestream. The Q&A that followed was the closest I got to a conversation or forum that first year. They dove into concepts of artistry and vulnerability in a stimulating and refreshing way. In 2018, the Creating Sustainable Artist Economies workshop (excerpts below) with Christine McCharen-Tran, a cofounder of DISCWOMAN, helped me along to believe in the processes and nurture the connections.
It bodes well that we are seeing yet another manifestation of that NRG NRG this year!
has taken up residence at the Durham Art Guild and the #PAYBLACKFEMMES movement most definitely reached the West Coast and well beyond. This April, The Conjure celebrated two years of intentional gathering to twerk, whine, exchange goods and currency – shout out Cosmosis Stones and Worthy Women NC– to sip, smile, and spin. The official anniversary party was hosted at The Pinhook and earlier, Mamis and the Papis (announced on the Third Wave lineup for Moogfest 2019) hosted The Conjure at The Mothlight in Asheville. Mamis and the Papis are “a DJ collective of womxn, femmes and tender hearted folx who are excited to share music from our hearts and people,” you’ll catch them out on the Durham scene giving realness to the many visitors, for Moogfest and throughout the year, inviting “everyone–queer, trans, gnc folx– to come revel in the music and bring their energy, heal, leave it on the dance floor”.
Gemynii, the creator and curator of The Conjure, sound selector, artist, and community educator hopped on the phone with me during last year’s festival, and I caught up with her set for the following piece:
YOUNG GIFTED & BROKE
is growing over public spaces across Durham with healing energies and interactive art installations, and documenting and facilitating cultural expression throughout the city. Marcela D Camara is artist in residence at NorthStar Church of the Arts, curating the hallowed space for community building through events including screenings, music, installations, theater. Young Gifted & Broke programming continues: “our work is innovating and reframing how and where art is seen using wellness, social justice, community, and futurism as our tools”. I’ve seen it firsthand in markets and art shows, and in the space she and N’Gamet set up at The Mothership last year in the neighborhood she grew up in, and just down the street from her current show, MAPS (closing reception April 19), before NorthStar was born.
I’ll be looking for spaces like this amongst the bustle of Moogfest this year as well. Check out the interview to see what I mean.
FREE THINGS IN LIFE FEST
gave folks a chance to gather late in the summer, with flamethrowers, a unique group of artists, drawing together a range of local talents – musical, artisan, culinary. Real good vibrations emanated across the field and YGB’s installation in the nearby forest reminded us all that trees and art and laughter should interact more often. Free Things in Life Fest serves as a reminder that creatives and families and small businesses should interact more often, and that it’s priceless, natural, and can be free to do so.
You can hear from each of these folks directly in our video footage, look into their projects, and support their work, come out to the events. Moogfest felt more like an educational experience last year, and it felt right that way.
My learnings: the future is undoubtedly female; it feels as if feminine energy is moving through all of us, giving birth to new infrastructure, instilling values like conscious consumption, the timeless provisions of nature and culture, feeding progressive concepts of economics and cooperation, innovating in the areas that aim to speak to the soul and to sustain society as we envision it. There’s a lot to learn from Madame Gandhi’s approach to living and sharing her philosophies – and from those invested in theirs and their community’s thriving. Look around you. There’s even more to build upon when we express and connect, showing up intentionally to the spaces we collectively constitute and naturally create.
You can still get tickets for Moogfest 2019. Moogfest has also always offered free programming, making access to technologies, installations, and performances possible throughout the weekend. Stay tuned!
Check out our MOOGFEST playlist on Youtube for all festival footage and interviews.
This article originally appeared in a small journal for the world, our October 2018 zine, for sale in our shop.