Label Suisse: a showcase for Swiss music in all its diversity

The eighth edition of the Label Suisse Festival was held in Lausanne from 14 to 16 September. The biennial festival, dedicated to Swiss musicians and creators, offers the public a broad panorama of Switzerland’s current music landscape. Text and Interviews by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse: a showcase for Swiss music in all its diversity

The main stage of the Label Suisse Festival at the “Place Centrale” in Lausanne during the performance of Geneva hip-hop group Superwak Clique on Saturday 15 October 2018. (Photo: Anne Bichsel)

90,000 visitors attended the 8th edition of the Label Suisse Festival, enjoying over 60 concerts of multifarious music styles at 10 locations in the centre of Lausanne. The full range of Swiss music was showcased: from electronic music to pop-rock, from contemporary and classical music to jazz, and last but not least, new folk music. All in one festival!

Label Suisse’s programming team attaches great importance to booking both more experienced Swiss artists and promising newcomers. Admission to all concerts is free since the full cost of the festival is financed by the sponsors. SUISA has supported Label Suisse financially since 2006, and was again one of the festival’s main partners in 2018.

The members of the programming team are each in charge of a specific musical genre. After the festival, we asked them how they went about selecting their artists, what they think is particularly exciting about the festival, and about current trends in the various genres. We also asked Julien Gross, President of Label Suisse, what he considered the highlights of the 2018 edition.

Label Suisse: Julien Gross

Julien Gross (Photo: Anne Bichsel)

Julien Gross, President of the Label Suisse association

As President of the Label Suisse association, you have been working hard for several years to make the festival a success. In your opinion, what makes Label Suisse particularly attractive?
Julien Gross: Label Suisse is unique for the broad artistic spectrum of musical styles in its programming. As a result, the festival brings together all audiences across all generations for three days.
Artists from all four language regions perform for the delight of a curious, attentive, and faithful public. Radio plays an important role in broadcasting music from the festival nationwide for the three days.

The latest festival was the 8th edition of Label Suisse. The festival has been held every second year since its first edition in 2004. What changes has the festival undergone in these 14 years?
Actually, it’s mainly Swiss music that has evolved. Creative, innovative and original, Label Suisse tries to present a snapshot of all the Switzerland’s musical scenes.
We try to awaken the urge for discovery and the desire to embark upon a musical adventure. To reinforce the presence of certain styles, or propose original creations.

Groups from all over Switzerland representing a great variety of musical genres come to Lausanne to take part in the festival. Subjectively speaking, which shows did you find most exciting?
I truly love wandering around the festival grounds. I enjoy the challenge of discovering musical styles that are not usually part of my everyday life. That’s what I find most exciting.

Label Suisse: Laurence Vinclair

Laurence Vinclair (Photo: Mehdi Benkler)

Laurence Vinclair, modern music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Laurence Vinclair: The interest lies in being able to showcase deserving artists for three days, artists whose development I follow all year round, sometimes over many years. And to enable a diverse public to discover styles that they might otherwise never listen to.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and bands?
The criteria are quality, topicality, artistic motivation and potential.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
The clearest trend is hip-hop, or urban music; this style has taken the lead over all the others as you can tell by looking at the programming in clubs and festivals the last two years.

Label Suisse: Stefano Saccon

Stefano Saccon (Photo: Claude Berthelier)

Stefano Saccon, jazz programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Stefano Saccon: The intelligence and the strength of the festival is to employ competent people in each area in order to identify the most representative musicians. Being part of a committee of experts is a stimulating way to encourage relevant and complementary programming.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and bands?
The diversity of supply in the jazz area forces you take a broad view and apply criteria which can be adapted in line with the artistic approach. In any event, the project must be original and add value to the rest of the programming; it must be in tune with the times while being clearly anchored in tradition; it must be mature and have potential for development.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are resonsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
There are three trends in my opinion:
a) the association of the acoustic and the electronic, the curiosity about the DJ world, and the sensitisation to new sound textures;
b) the minimalism which places the group rather than the solist at the centre of attention, in keeping with a more conventional approach;
c) the desire to develop writing on more complex rhythmic matrices.
Today, all jazz musicians possess great instrumental mastery, and a huge curiosity stimulating boundless creativity. Considering that they are faced with growing supply and increasing competition, I think musicians show tremendous humility and exemplary mutual respect.

Label Suisse: Johannes Rühl

Johannes Rühl (Photo: Roland Zemp)

Johannes Rühl, new folk music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Johannes Rühl: Very few festivals offer the stylistic breadth that Label Suisse does. That in itself is a major feat. In terms of programming, it means that each musical genre has to co-exist with the others. Moreover, the concerts can be expected to attract a highly differentiated public. This kind of festival is truly one of a kind for the curious music lover; we draw the best public we could dream of.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and ensembles?
New folk is a predominantly Swiss German musical phenomenon. To lure audiences from other language regions of the country you have to make this music attractive – especially since it takes a little getting used to. That’s why we try to book groups that have a certain stylistic openness. That’s what we focus on more particularly, in addition to quality of course.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
New Swiss folk music is essentially the popular heritage of the last century. In those days, music was protest; today, musicians have more affinity with tradition. They bring the material to life without blinkers, creating something completely new and previously unheard. The Hochschule Luzern Musik, the School of Music in Lucerne, has been vital to this genre in the last few years, and is a breeding ground for excellent talent. This trend is far from over, and I believe that it still holds much good in store.

Label Suisse: Claire Brawand

Claire Brawand (Photo: Nathalie Langlois)

Claire Brawand, classical and contemporary music programming

What is the special interest in being responsible for the programming of a single genre for a music festival which combines so many different styles of music?
Claire Brawand: the act of programming is always set in a particular context which has to be taken into account. In the case of Label Suisse (diversity of styles with a predominance of modern music, national dimension, different locations, free admission, broad public with lots of young people), the context is quite different to the normal context for classical music (from baroque to contemporary) and its aficionados. I see it as a highly fertile field for experimentation, which makes my programming mission even more stimulating; one of the main aims is to encourage festival-goers to discover the universe of classical music through one person, one energy or a special concert format. Label Suisse’s great freedom of movement, underscored by the mixture of styles in a single place, makes this possible.

What criteria did you apply in selecting the artists and ensembles?
In the classical programming, I favoured artists – performers and composers – who are powerful and unique, and whose approach is strongly resonant with the identity of the Festival, namely: contemporary, hence topical, and exploratory. This disposition on the part of the classical artist is essential for the special context of Label Suisse. As a result, we focused on the repertoires of the 20th and 21st centuries (including creations) and, with regard to the 21st century, on Swiss composers of all generations.

What are the current trends in the musical genre you are responsible for programming? What effects do these trends have on the actors of the Swiss music world?
Increasing trans-disciplinarity between the arts (visual, sound, composition) and esthetics. A strong capacity for renewal in the approach of the young generations of cutting-edge musicians in terms of their concert programming. Today, they consider the contribution of classical music freely, unconstrained by the barriers inherited from prior generations.

www.labelsuisse.ch

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