This weekend Le Guess Who? returned to Utrecht for its sixteenth edition. Subtitled ‘A Celebration of Sound,’ it is considered one of the most forward-thinking festivals in the world. A music lover’s marathon, Le Guess Who? exists to promote sounds that are often overlooked, and to platform fresh perspectives on what is possible in music.
“Listening is the way forward”
With these words, visitors were welcomed to Le Guess Who? 2023. They are representative of a festival where the audience is encouraged to embark on a journey of discovery through an unprecedented amount of diverse listening experiences. It is also a call to listen to new voices, a call to continue listening to each other, and a call for more empathy. Le Guess Who? believes that music has the power to stimulate new insights and ideas, while also deepening our connection with the world around us.
The sixteenth edition of Le Guess Who? was visited by 19,250 visitors from 60 different countries, from Australia to Mexico and Japan to Lebanon. The free city program U? also attracted thousands of visitors. Combined, the program consisted of 259 artists from more than 40 countries.
On the opening night of Le Guess Who? 2023, the festival debuted The Anonymous Project, where several artists performed anonymously in a cube in TivoliVredenburg’s Grote Zaal. It was a space for artists to experiment freely and for listeners to enjoy a pure listening experience, both focusing on the enriching and transformative power of sound.
Other highlights came in the form of hip-hop legends Antipop Consortium giving their long-awaited comeback show, which was also their first European performance since 2009. An emotional start to Sunday came in the form of ‘The Harvest Time Project: A Tribute to Pharoah Sanders,’ an icon of spiritual jazz who passed away in 2022. The evening also featured rapturous shows from Pakistani singer Faiz Ali Faiz, and festival curator Stereolab, the Anglo-French avant-pop group often hailed as one of the most influential and idiosyncratic bands of the 1990s.
COSMOS is the global music platform of Le Guess Who?, where films, performances, radio shows and interviews can be seen and heard, both online and offline. Documentaries were made especially for COSMOS in Peru, Australia, Greece, Indonesia, Ghana, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam, which premiered during the festival. Local events and screenings were also also organized in Vietnam, Canada, Peru and Indonesia, often together with performances.
Earlier this year, COSMOS organized its first residency. In Goa, India, composer and musician Hardi Kurda from Slemani, Kurdistan-Iraq, collaborated with local artists and the results–a short film and a photo exhibition–were on display throughout Le Guess Who?, and culminated in a performance on Sunday.
U?, the freely accessible city program of Le Guess Who?, returned for its third edition on Saturday (11 Nov) and Sunday (12 Nov). The program was created for–but especially with–various communities and organizations in Utrecht to celebrate the creativity and diversity of the city. For two days, 150 programs were presented and experienced in Utrecht South, West and the city center, ranging from music, art, spoken word, art exhibitions and dance, to sports, workshops, VR and AI experiences, and even a one-day amusement park.
U? started as an idea to ignite a flame in the city; to provide a platform for people to showcase their creativity and ambitions. Every year this fire seems to get bigger.
Le Guess Who? 2024
In 2024, Le Guess Who? will take place 7-10 November. Two-thirds of the 4-Day Passes for Le Guess Who? 2024 went on sale this weekend and sold out in a matter of hours.
More information can be found at leguesswho.com.