IN PHOTOS: 7 standout moments at the ‘new’ Malasimbo Festival

Paolo Abad
IN PHOTOS: 7 standout moments at the ‘new’ Malasimbo Festival
Malasimbo turns 9 this 2019, and is still going strong. Check out the sights and sounds (and flavors) from the latest edition of the island music and arts festival in its new home

PUERTO GALERA, Philippines – The whispers were loud enough to know that it wasn’t smooth sailing as organizers tried to mount Malasimbo’s ninth year. But the show had to go on to prove naysayers wrong, and yet again, what a special weekend it was.

Held on March 1 to 2 in Puerto Galera, the music and arts event’s latest edition had festival-goers flocking to a nature reserve adjacent to the resort town’s famous White Beach – a venue more accessible than the original, as veterans can attest.

Although a little more distant from its namesake mountain, the signature vibe and spirit of the festival is unmistakable and still definitely there: from that brass-filled, jazzy “island sound” to the iconic elements of Malasimbos past.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Three stages set up across a clearing in the jungle make for an interesting layout this year, considering that the amphitheater surrounding the main stage has long been the festival’s distinct mark.

Now, Malasimbo is just a year shy of a decade existing, and we look back at what went on during its latest installment. For all we know, this could even be a glimpse into its future.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

IV of Spades in their Malasimbo ‘Mundo

Where have you been, my disco? To the beach, it seems.

It’s a little tempting to say that Malasimbo was terra incognita for Blaster Silonga, Zild Benitez, and Badjao de Castro. The festival’s patrons hail from all around the globe, and there was probably a handful of their loyal fanbase present. In a way, it’s like they’re capturing a new demographic –expanding their horizons, so to speak.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Having a new album just added to their catalog, the trio certainly didn’t rely on just their old favorites – including “Hey Barbara,” “Where Have You Been, My Disco?”, and their megahit, “Mundo.” Their groovy, retro-inflected tunes swept the audience off their feet, winning the crowd that balmy Sunday evening.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Wonderful sets from Robert Glasper, Anomalie, more

Whether you’ve heard of them before or not, the headliners are always the most anticipated sets of the festival. 

This year, Malasimbo booked Grammy-winning musician Robert Glasper, who was accompanied by the equally formidable virtuoso producer-slash-beatboxer Taylor McFerrin and bassist Derrick Hodge, to deliver a fascinating jazz set.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Hailing from Montréal, keyboardist Anomalie tinkled the ivories with his serious chops and dished out some really sick beats that kept revelers on their feet throughout the evening.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

From Brisbane, Laneous brought some good ol’ soul to Malasimbo.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

At the DJ stage under a canopy of trees, the likes of the prolific legend Danny Krivit (of “Strings of Life” fame) went behind the decks to spin an unforgettable disco-influenced set.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Homecoming act: Ruby Ibarra

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

It wasn’t the first time for the Bay Area-based rapper to bring her urban verses and beats to the Malasimbo stage. This time around, Ruby Ibarra breathed new, fiery life to her brand of hip-hop with her motley crew of Filipino-American musicians, the Balikbayans. (READ: The rise and resonance of Ruby Ibarra

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Reflecting her own experience of the diaspora across the Pacific, she seamlessly wove English, Filipino, and even Waray into her forceful, razor-sharp bars. Meanwhile, the Balikbayans with its prominent brass section backed her up with jazz-influenced beats – seemingly incongruous sounds when described on paper, mayhaps, but undeniably gripping and groovy to the ears.

The rapper performed on both nights of Malasimbo, playing a full set to a bigger crowd on the second.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Local talent winning the crowd

Malasimbo didn’t seem to be a tough crowd. Up-and-coming acts and some artists from the independent scene can win new fans here – especially considering that a good number of the guests come from other parts of the world.

From afternoon until way past sunset, the eclectic 2019 roster of musicians – from reggae to electronica – commanded the stage to give revelers a good time.

Munimuni:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler  

Ena Mori:

 Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Coeli:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Extrapolation (with Zia Quizon):

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Lenses:

Carousel Casualties

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

CoffeeBreak Island:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Dayaw:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

The Blue Rats (feat. Paul Marney and RJ Pineda):

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Ian Lofamia Band:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Vic Facultad & Weather the Roots:

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Swaying in place to a (silent) disco

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

From afar, the sight of people swaying in place with lighted headphones on seemed odd, but it’s actually a silent disco – a pretty ingenious setup for a music festival. 

Three DJs spun on three neighboring small stages, while festival-goers bopped along to the beat of whoever’s set they chose – with just a flick of the switch.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Dabo-Dobo

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

After tasting this version, you might never look at adobo – that humble, ubiquitous dish among many Filipino households – in the same way again. With its fall-off-the-bone-tender chicken, slivers of mushroom, and a generous heap of crunchy garlic, Malasimbo’s signature version of the adobo, dubbed Dabo-Dobo, is unforgettable.

The recipe, which belongs to the d’Abovilles who helped set up Malasimbo, still tastes like the familiar, beloved dish Filipinos have known. But at the same time, for any newcomer to the festival, it can be potentially mindblowing.

A tip: try it with the homemade kesong puti marinated in olive oil and herbes de Provence.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Stunning, enchanting art installations

The art installations at Malasimbo are always worth looking forward to. They transform the space deep in the jungle into an otherworldly escape: teeming with foliage yet awash in enchanting color.

This year, artists Leeroy New, Denis Lagdameo, Kawayan de Guia, Agnes Arellano, Hohana, Olivia d’Aboville, and Henri Lamy dotted the Malasimbo landscape with their works that had hung on trees or towered over festival-goers.

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

Photo by Paolo Abad/Rappler

– Rappler.com

Paolo Abad

Paolo Abad writes, edits, and shoots for a living. He is one of the founding partners of the online radio platform Manila Community Radio.