Around the world in 20 festivals

Whether you want to keep it cool in Iceland or catch the hottest acts in the desert, Elisa Bray hits all the high notes on a whistle-stop world tour
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The Independent Culture

WOMAD, Taranaki, Brooklands Park and TSB Bowl, New Zealand, 13-15 March;Adelaide, Botanic Park, Australia, 6-8 March; Abu Dhabi, UAE, April

Thisworld-travelling music festival comes to Britain, Charlton Park, Wiltshire on 24-26 July. But those heading overseas can catch it in New Zealand, Australia and Abu Dhabi. In Taranaki, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Ska Cubano and Keita Quintet are among the attractions. In Adelaide, expect Afrobeat pioneerTony Allen, songwriting legend Neil Finn, Dengue Fever, Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara Trio and quirk-folk Mercury nominees Rachel Unthank & The Winterset. The Abu Dhabi line-up will be chosen from around the world, as well as showcasing local stars (

SXSW, Texas, March 18-22

The music industry favourite, with all the bands causing a storm at the festival becoming next year’s hot tips. Now in its 23rd year, and with more than 1,800 musical acts of all genres from around the globe playing 80 stages in downtown Austin, SXSW is the place to spot trends and future hits. The Decemberists will preview their entire upcoming fifth album on the opening daywhile you can also catch Ra Ra Riot, Friendly Fires, Primal Scream and hip breakbeat act Buraka Som Sistema. The festival has launched a social networking site for festival-goers to interact beforehand.

SNOWBOMBING, Mayrhofen, Austria, 29 March-4 April

For thosewho like combining action with their festival-going – and those who don’t do camping – you can’t beat the 10-year-old Snowbombing, which takes over a ski resort with 625km of slopes. The exciting line-up, performing on mountain stages and at the forest arena, caters to the needs of rock and dance lovers, with a leaning on grooves and beats with Fatboy Slim, Reverend and the Makers, Ladyhawke, DJs Grandmaster Flash andMylo, and some snowboarderfriendlydrum’n’bass, courtesy of Fabio and Grooverider and up-andcoming hipsters Chase & Status. Show off your skills at the pro snowboard competition. More merriment at the igloo parties and fancy dress bash, and those in need of serious TLC can unwind at the four-star spa hotels.

COACHELLA, California, April 17-19

The location of this arts and music festival helps it draw 90,000 revellers from around the world. Set in the lush Coachella valley surrounded by mountains that provide the stunning backdroptobandsperforming on the two stages. In stark contrast to Glastonbury, which may boast such a consistently strong line-up, temperatures soar as high as 38C and clouds are nonexistent. The indie rock and pop line-up at the 10-year-old festival features The Cure, Paul McCartney, The Killers, Morrissey, My Bloody Valentine, Amy Winehouse and Beirut.

PINKPOP, Landgraaf, Holland, 30 May-1 June

Rock festival Pinkpop celebrates its 40th instalment this year. Set in the town of Landgraaf, also home to the largest indoor ski piste in Europe and 134 miles from Amsterdam, thedemocratic festival invites its 100,000 guests to have a say on three of the acts. Booked to headline this momentous year are Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, The Kooks, Depeche Mode, Bruce Springsteen and Placebo.

SONAR, Spain, 18-20 June

Loyal dance fans keep coming back to this festival, which is dedicated to electronic music and now in its 16th year. And what better location for culture, partying and good food than central Barcelona? Legendary techno brothers Orbital are the highlight, celebrating 20 years of cinematic techno anthems. As the festival is also committed to showcasing Multimedia Art, there will be films, lectures, seminars, exhibitions (and software demonstrations for the advanced techies). Sonar By Night takes place in an industrial hangar on the outskirts of town, but Sonar By Day is a chilled out affair based around the courtyard of the city’s Centre de Cultura Contemporania.

ROCK WERCHTER, Werchter, Belgium, 2-5 July

Started as a one-day blues festival in 1974 in Werchter, a small Belgian town, the festival went on to become Belgium’s largest, with 70,000 entering each day. It was boosted from three to four days in 2003. It has an excellent line-up: Radiohead and Kings Of Leon played last year and this year’s big names on the bill are Coldplay, The Killers, Placebo and Metallica. It’s won the Arthur Award for best festival in the world at the International Live Music Conference four times this millennium.

ROSKILDE, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2-5 July

This is one of the most sustainable festivals, with an awardwinning waste disposal system. The distinct orange “horns” of Roskilde’s main stage will provide the backdrop to Coldplay and Oasis, watched by 75,000 festival-goers from all over Europe. Plenty of non-music related fun can be had using the skating and rock climbing facilities at the site in Roskilde, the small Danish town. Extra green festival-goers can earn themselves a reserved camping spot through thefestival’s new Green Footprint initiative. It’s not cheap – tickets are £190 – but it’s a non-profit festival with proceeds going to charity.

EXIT, Serbia 9-12 July

Started by three students from Novi Sad in 2000 in a student uprising against Slobodan Milosevic’s regime, Exit is 10 this year. On the banks of the RiverDanube, young Serbians gathered for Exit which lasted 100 days, ending the day before Milosevic fell from power. Today, rock and pop stars perform across 27 stages to 20,000 visitors at Petrovaradin Fortress. It also lasts just three days, but with temperatures over 30°C, why not make a holiday of it and camp for 10 days?

RAINFOREST WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL, Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia, 10-12 July

Set in Borneo’s hidden paradise – an exotic rainforest the size of Austria and home to the world’s most diverse eco-system – this 12-year-old festival unites performers and 18,000 visitors from each and every continent. The three evening performances bring together on one stage indigenous musicians from Borneo and world musicians from the Amazon Basin, Equatorial Africa, Asia, Morocco, Hungary, France, Korea and further afield, to play at this genre-crossing festival of folk, gypsy, bluegrass, jazz and Celtic fusion. During the afternoons there are workshops and musical lectures and there’s an arts and crafts area too. It’s run by the tourist board – even Malaysia’s prime minister has attended.

BENICASSIM, Benicassim, Spain, 16-19 July

Also known as Glasto-del-Sol, Benicassim is popular with British festival-goers for its weather and proximity to the beach. It has a consistently top-class pop, rock and electronica line-up: The Killers, Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Paul Weller and Kings Of Leon are this year’s big draws. Benicassim is situated between Valencia and Barcelona and many of the 150,000 music fans tend to head to the site early, pitch camp and make a holiday of it. The site gets hot under the afternoon sun, so days are spent relaxing on the beach, while the cooler evenings see the action kick off. Bands perform sets into the night – headliners aren’t on until 1am – while dance tents pump out the beats until sunrise. Don’t forget the legendary farewell beach party.

REGGAE SUMFEST, Montego Bay, Jamaica, 19-25 July

Theweek-long festival kicks off with a beach party. More than 30,000 people from around the world gather for Sumfestwhich showcases traditional reggae music and the ever-more-popular dancehall. Expect to see some top R&B and hip-hop performers as well, fusing genres in their collaborations with reggae and dancehall artists. Last year T-Pain, Lil Wayne and Akon were some of the stars playing. Jamaican cuisine and arts and crafts from all over the island are another attraction.

FUJI ROCK FESTIVAL, Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata, Japan, 24-26 July

Set on a ski resort, this is a truly different festival experience. The 10 stages include the fabulously named “Field of Heaven” and the “Palace of Wonder”, and in a stunning Japanese mountain setting like this you can understand why. Acts are mainstream rock and pop – a selection of the best of the British festivals – as well as local Japanese bands. Last year the festival saw big names such as CSS, The Breeders and KateNash. Fuji Rock also proudly calls itself the cleanest festival in the world, promising clean toilets and showers, and no litter. And where else do you find allnight spring baths? Last year’s prices have been frozen, but it’s worth checking out the packages available.

OYA, Norway, 11-15 August

Norway, like all of Scandinavia, may be hideously expensive, but its greenest festival has a solution for cash-strapped festival-goers, while doing their bit to conserve the environment: audience members collect beer glasses and other rubbish in exchange for cash. And all the food on sale is organic. Oya also boasts a beautiful setting – it is held at the Medieval Park in Oslo, surrounded by sandy beaches, the fjords and the Ekeberg Hill – not to mention the city’s skyline. Rock, indie and a splash of electronica is the flavour, with festival headliners ArcticMonkeys and home-grown talent Röyksopp, showcasing their new album Junior. Bon Iver, and the hotlytipped Chairlift, over from America, are other highlights.

MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL, Canada, 18-20 September

The longest-running jazz festival in the world is now in its 52nd year. The event is a three-day celebration of jazz, with more than 500 artists appearing on nine stages spread throughout 20 acres of grounds in historic downtown Monterey. Artists including Jamie Cullum, Herbie Hancock and Kurt Elling have played the festival. It’s educational too – go to the website for the list of opportunities.

IBIZA ROCKS, Ibiza, 31 May-9 September

Ever since live rock gigs made their mark as a fresh addition to the dance music of Europe’s party island in 2005, they have become a regular fixture in the live music calendar. Ibiza Rocks turned into more of a festival two years ago and gigs now take place every Tuesday at various locations on the island. Arctic Monkeys, Mark Ronson, Foals, and Dizzee Rascal have all played the island. Now expect to see a more limited range of guitar bands play. Young gig-goers will be attracted by The Rascals, The Enemy, The Fratellis, The Wombats and the Courteeners. May last year saw the Ibiza Rocks hotel open and this year they are launching a new after-show club night.

ICELAND AIRWAVES, Iceland, Reykjavik, October

Despite the country’s economic woes, Iceland’s annual Airwaves went ahead in 2008. Like SXSW and our own Great Escape and Camden Crawl, it’s a showcase of new and upand- coming acts alongside some of the biggest stars, playing in dozens of venues across the city. It’s a chance to check out indie, rock and pop bands and the natural setting of Reykjavik with its geysers, waterfalls, natural spas, lava fields and hip hangouts.

GLOBAL GATHERING, tours Australia in November

It started off in Long Marston Airfield, near Stratford-Upon-Avon, as a one-day electronic music event and has since established itself as the world’s premier dance festival, drawing the biggest names in commercial dance music. It has since toured to countries including America, Poland, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey and New Zealand. Its British expansion to a two-day camping festival saw it broaden out to include some rock acts, but the Australian one-dayers which take place in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney in November are a dance affair only. Last year’s bill featured Kraftwerk, Mark Ronson, Gorillaz and Sound System.

LAKE OF STARS, Malawi, mid-January

Plan ahead for this five-year-old festival which takes place in the heart of Africa on the shores of its third largest lake, Lake Malawi, named “lake of stars” by explorer David Livingstone in the mid-19th century. Set up by Brit, Will Jameson, who spent his gap year in Malawi, the bill across the two stages combines local and European acts and the diverse music policy of this growing festival incorporates Afropop, reggae, folk, beatboxers as well as internationally renowned DJs. Along with camping spots, dorm beds and private rooms are available at tiny prices.

FESTIVAL IN THE DESERT, Essakane, Mali, January

Situated two hours from Timbuktu in the Sahara, this is one of the world’s most remote festivals. Created in 2001, the festival stems from the traditional Tuareg festivities in which dance, poetry, camel rides and games represented a place for decision making and exchanging information among the communities. Today the festival attracts some of the biggest names in Malian music, along with nomadic tribesmen and a sprinkling of western bands that bridge the gap between the cultural tradition and modernity – and blend together seamlessly.