- 22 Jan 21
This year's Eurosonic Noorderslag returns with a unique twist, as it's held completely digital.
The digital showcase festival and conference platform Eurosonic Noorderslag focusing on European Music took place from January 13 to January 16. Its first online edition has exceeded all expectations and attracted an audience worldwide. Despite artists, audience and industry professionals being unable to meet each other in Groningen, they still managed to make the most out of the virtual experience with daily live streams and online networking opportunities.
Jelani Blackman from the UK started off with his performance on the first day of ESNS, on Wednesday, January 13. Growing up in London he was heavily influenced by Soul, RnB and, of course, Grime. Since his first EP 1-4 that sparked waves in 2016, he collaborated with the producer duo Sylas and Brian Eno and established his recognizable grimey RnB sound fusing the dark with the light and the hard with the soft. After he raised the bar with his 2019 EP Average Joe his 2020 output has been outstanding with signature tracks such as ‘Foolish’ and ‘Hello’ and many more. With the first track in his performance being ‘Foolish’, he started his gig off with one of his standout singles. ‘Foolish’ is a song with a hard, grimey beat and playful lyrics and, as Jelani himself said, about waking up after a night out with some memories that you might want to forget. At the same time, you would do it all over again because live is about making mistakes which can still lead you to the best times. He followed up with ‘Hello’, another dark yet light track with a bass heavy beat that was featured on the A COLORS SHOW YouTube channel, which is sort of an introduction to who he is and his life. Ending his gig with ‘Tricky’, an honest song with an RnB type beat that showcases Blackman’s emotional lyricism as he narrates his experiences growing up in London, he faded out with a light piano outro.
On the second day of ESNS, on Thursday, January 14, Icelandic Daði Freyr delivered a funky electronic set. Even with Eurovision 2020 being cancelled, his song ‘Think About Things’ still went viral and gained an army of fans. I enjoyed his kind of nerdy look while he also seems so charming and funny on stage. All of this with his pure voice made his performance a lovely one to watch. Daði Freyr specialized on quirky synths with sing-along harmonies, delivering an equally catchy mixture of pop, electro, disco and funk. Going with our current circumstances he started his gig off with ‘Where We Wanna Be’, a funked up synthpop lockdown anthem with a heart – a love song to the one he’s quarantined with and an optimism for the life beyond. His second song was ‘Skiptir Ekki Máli’ a song in the original Icelandic language which is about being yourself and not caring about what others might think of you. I had the feeling I knew this song from a movie, series or commercial sort of but it just doesn’t come to my mind from which… With his last track ‘Think About Things’, the song which made him break through to the international stage and which is another discofunky lockdown anthem he closed his set with a confetti explosion and leaves us with a nice earworm.
Day 3 of the ESNS festival brought us two great gigs from both Belgian Lous & the Yakuza and YellowStraps. Being born in Congo and growing up in Rwanda, Lous moved to Namur at the age of 15 where she realized her ambitions to be a singer but her parents did not support that. As time passed, she slowly became Lous and left for Brussels where publisher Mickaël Fernandez discovered her online. Since her first single ‘Dilemme’ in 2019 she released loads of singles, all french, among them COLORS SHOW single ‘Bon acteur’ with her highly anticipated debut album Gore being out in October 2020. Compared to the other artists she brought us a rather short set of two well-selected tracks. She started off with her first single ‘Dilemme’, which gives us a good insight into her musical cosmos. An emotional and beautiful song that is strong yet soft, showcasing her as a woman, an artist and a fighter. Her closing track introduced by her with her lovely smoky bedroom-voice was ‘Amigo’, her latest 2021 single featuring Joey Bada$$.
The Murenzi brothers, better known as YellowStraps have made a name for themselves in 2020 from playing MaMa, The Great Escape's First Fifty, Les Bars En Trans, Le Printemps de Bourges to headlining their first European tour. Their unique global sound focuses around an individual, summer-vibe blend of soul, jazz, electronic music and hip hop with road-trip character and earworm harmonies. On the background of their first track ‘Take Over’, the Murenzi brothers reveal that it’s about overcoming a toxic relationship where one party is overly dependant on the other taking the form of a direct conversation where one explains to the other that it’s essential to have their own balanced path and way of life. With a fast tempo that leads with a jazzy electric guitar paired with an atmospheric aura it captures the listener throughout the track. Following up with ‘Lalala’ from the 2020 album Yellockdown Project and 2019 COLORS SHOW single ‘Rose’ the duo showed us how good they look, sound and go together on stage bequeathing us with two more songs that give us a glimmer of better times after the crisis that we’re in right now.
Rewatch all the performances from ESNS here.