Friday night saw the opening of Sydney’s VIVID Festival. Spreading all over Sydney city and into the suburbs, the festival is a winter showcase of lights, music, and ideas that spans 18 days, from the 22nd of May till the 8th of June. On top of all of Circular Quay and Darling Harbour being lit up on Friday, there were also a number of musical performances and talks to kick things off. Sufjan Stevens played the first of a number of shows at the Opera House while Squarepusher filled the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and beneath the depths, in the studio, French-producer Onra gave a talk to a very lucky group of people before he played the opening night. Hosted by Red Bull Music Academy, the discussion was a combination of two/three of the key aspects of VIVID, music and ideas.
Red Bull Music is responsible for a huge amount of events all around the world, and right here at home. Laneway Festival and Splendour in the Grass have a Red Bull dedicated stage, showcasing upcoming hip-hop and electronic based talent, they have their own show on FBi Click, they put on a bunch of shows – with GoodGod Small Club being the home for most, and Red Bull Music Academy takes in around 60 applicants every year for an intensive music-making period in a whole bunch of different places all around the world. This year the Academy heads to France, so who better to give a talk than a French graduate himself.
About twenty of us packed into the small little studio in the depths of the Opera House, weaving in between loading bays and masses of people preparing the main attraction of VIVID for what was to be an absolutely huge opening night. We sat down and things were super casual. Everyone found their seats and settled in for was meant to be an hour long talk tragically cut short by spending a little too much time looking out over the harbor – but so worth it. Onra is, to say the least, a very chill dude. Though the interview was conducted by another RBMA graduate, everyone was free to interrupt and ask questions of the French producer. It said a lot about Onra as a musician, and the way the RBMA conduct themselves – it’s all about artists connecting with their audiences.
Onra spoke about his origins:
“In the beginning I never thought that music was something that I was going to keep doing. I did a business degree at university and I knew that I wanted to do something in music, but I was more thinking of managing or owning a small label or something. Then Coca Cola came to me when the Beijing Olympics was on and they wanted to use The Anthem in an advertisement, and from there it just blew up.”
His identity as a French-Vietnamese beatmaker:
“People keep relating my music to my origin. They say that it’s like an exploration of my heritage, but I don’t really see it that way. This is just the music that I want to make, and will continue to make.”
The state of music:
“With my latest album I wanted to make something that was really fun and bright. That’s why I called it Fundamentals. Music these days is just really dark, even pop music has these really dark sounds. I wanted to go back to something that’s bright to listen to.”
And when he asked about his future, said:
“I’m going to just keep making beats. I’ve only done one small part of what I plan on doing, and I’m just going to keep going and evolve and progress the way that I make my music.”
Just this month Onra released his latest album, Fundamentals. You can listen to the whole thing here:
VIVID continues for the next three-ish weeks until the 8th of June. There’s a whole array of talks, gigs and intimate sessions just like this taking place that you should definitely check out on the VIVID website. VIVID will no doubt continue to grow with the support of people and companies like Red Bull Music Academy, and become an even bigger and greater event than it already is.