04 March 2017

What makes Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival different?



"The entire weekend is just a treat. You’d always want to go back to the amphitheater to immerse yourself back in the music again and again."

I check on my email inbox religiously and this is what catches my eye. It was a response from Mr. King Puentespina himself, or Crwn rather, the moniker he publicly manifests. On March 10, the magic is bound to be alive yet again, mysteriously surrounding the mountains of Malasimbo in the glorious, oft overlooked Puerto Galera landscape. And Crwn, known for his take on soul and old school jazz laced with modern beats, is one of the lucky ones to have graced and headlined a locally inspired world stage with nature as its backdrop, away from the awry city buzz. He’s been a regular since 2015 and this year, he’s back and he couldn’t be happier, “First time I played in Malasimbo was just too surreal. The show literally drowned me in music and eventually I learned how to swim in it there. The musicians playing there were just unbelievably talented. It was an overwhelming experience for me to be on the stage, let alone do an entire set.”


All photos are from @malasimbofestival and @shutterpanda



It’s hard to believe that the Malasimbo Music Festival, no longer spoken of in hushed tones but in loud booming notes of anticipation, started out on a whim. Miro Grgic was born and raised in Croatia and lived in Australia for half of his life before moving to the Philippines and eventually making it his home in 2010. In his adventures and misadventures as a recurring tourist in our country, he had several encounters with local artists who were craving for more, who wanted a platform to be heard. Then, the feedback he was hearing firsthand wasn’t just mere coincidence anymore. 



A strong force drew him here and it was clear that the universe wanted him to do something bigger than himself in a foreign land. “It just seemed like a festival was the right catalyst, so I ended up spearheading this movement that would help encourage others commit to their craft,” he says of the endeavor. Miro Grgic was not pining for a Philippine version of Coachella, no, not even close. He’s quick to point out that the movement he pioneered was a means towards that end, a meaningful one at that. It’s a place where the local scene is invested on, where local artists who have yet to make it big are made known and developed.




There was a time around 2009 that music festivals started sprouting out like daisies all over Manila. Before this even took place, Miro saw the potential right off the bat. Music festivals can indeed take off in the Philippines. He was right all along. But lo and behold, he chose to go against the flow. Given the rising trend, the ideal route would be to have one in a large metropolis in the Metro (say Pasay, Makati or QC, cities where the musically inclined youth get their fill). If not the city, then definitely a well-known beach where the weekend warriors and the party animals come to play. You’ve got the likes of La Union or Boracay for that. But Puerto Galera? And not on the beach but on the mountains? What gives? Apparently, there’s a method to the madness. “(Personally) That’s because my wife grew up there. And it was also a good place because it was lacking a bit of attention from the tourism…We really went against the rules and against the grain and I think it’s really something. That’s how it became what it is today.” Indeed, making a huge endeavor happen in the most unexpected place reaps rewards.



Since then, Malasimbo has curated a wide set of artists, left and right—of different genres and diverse personalities. They fly independent musicians from abroad too but the spotlight has always been transfixed on the local musicians from different parts of the country. The process of handpicking the acts for the three-day event is rigorous, as Miro suggests, but surprisingly, it’s also as simple as getting in touch with what’s happening online. The process of curation starts with visits to Youtube and Soundcloud. He also makes it a habit to spin some records on his basement. He shortlists his favorites and then tries his luck at finding these people personally, reaching out to them to give them an opportunity of a lifetime.

Enter Mito Fabie, a.k.a. Curtismith, who came into the Malasimbo picture three years ago and has been living it up ever since. It’s a match made in heaven actually. He’s a firm believer of the musical advocacy the festival presents. A typical weekend at Malasimbo is the epitome of chill. It’s more than just a nature trip, it’s more than just the music.  The homegrown rapper known for his slick raw verses puts his personal experience to words, “You have to experience it to understand…I like to play things by ear when I’m there because there’s a lot to do depending on who you’re with.” Crwn agrees with this sentiment, at a loss for words by the weekend’s pure bliss, “It’s the island. You just want it to swallow you alive, if that makes any sense”.

What is it exactly that keeps people coming back for more? For Jorge (more known as SimilarObjects), another returning performer for this edition, five things immediately come to mind: nature, art, music, good people, and magic. On a separate correspondence with the multi-genre beat-maker, he shares his thoughts on the yearly fest that has consistently drawn a devoted crowd since year one. "No hype, (it's) just pure vibes all around...it allows people to get away from all the dense vibrations of the city to be able to enjoy the healing energies of nature and music and the context of an open celebration," he says.

Now on it’s 7th run, the Malasimbo Music Festival promises to be that much needed escape for the soul. It promises to stay the same old festival we fell in love with back in 2010, but also promises new surprises. For instance, the two biggest additions for this year will be the drum shows and the silent disco. It will also be featuring June Marieezy’s last show as June Marieezy before she reinvents herself into another musical persona.



It’s no question that Malasimbo has been keen on pushing the envelope and taking Original Pinoy Music to a higher place. While they’re at it, they even showcase the lesser heard voices and talents the rest of the world has to offer. Curtismith elaborates further, “They’ve contributed by elevating the culture. Everyone behind Malasimbo is coming from a genuine place”.

Perched atop Mt. Malasimbo while the sea-scented wind blows and the birds chip chirp in unison and the stars twinkle even brighter in the night sky, the magic rests in the music. The magic happens when all these artists from different backgrounds and genres merge to just play and celebrate the beauty of harmonies and beats and chords and notes.

Just the thought of basking in that revelry is enough to put a smile on my face.

For more info, visit the Malasimbo Music & Arts Festival page.
All photos are from @malasimbofestival and @shutterpanda


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