Interview: Sam Christie

Though record sales – both physical and download – are experiencing an alarming decline worldwide, you certainly can’t say the same of the concert-festival market. In the UK alone, Mintel recently reported that, between 2010 and 2015, the value of the live music market snowballed by 45%. So while fans are less likely to part with their money for recordings – a reality we can attribute to the emergence of Spotify, YouTube and other streaming platforms – the demand for live music continues to grow. The only real downside to a rapidly-expanding festival market is of course saturation, which, in turn, creates fierce competition between festivals – the sort of competition that leads to inflated prices for food, drink and admission. We have all witnessed the recorded music industry adapt out of necessity in the internet age, but in terms of an already bloated festival market, what will prove to be the evolutionary tipping point?

The rise of smaller independent festivals and festival link-ups should not be scorned. Unlike larger mainstream festivals where the audience is comprised of fans from all four corners of the globe, small-scale festivals can galvanise a community, in that they offer a much more personal, family-oriented experience, with an emphasis on blooding bands and emerging talent. One such festival meeting this criteria and then some is South Wales’ Kaya Festival of World Music and Arts. Remarkably, the upcoming summer 2016 event is only the festival’s second year – a statistic that belies the festival’s excellent reception in 2015. Offering ‘an assortment of African, Jamaican, European, Latin, Caribbean, European and world musical flavours along with a diverse range of workshops, arts, food stalls and activities’, it is clear that Kaya is a genuine festival experience; especially when you consider how often we see indoor, one-genre all-dayers inaccurately labelled as festivals. Boasting an increasingly impressive bill featuring the likes of Craig Charles, Judge Jules and Asian Dub Foundation, Kaya Festival’s 2016 chapter looks destined to be another storming success. And fortunately for us Sheffield musos, prolific gig-giver and local music champion Sam Christie is bringing a taste of Kaya Festival to the Steel City.

In the latest of a series of successful festival link-ups, Sam has teamed up with Propeller Management to gift Sheffield its very own instalment of Kaya: A Taste of Kaya Festival in Sheffield – taking place at Hagglers Corner on May 6th & 7th. The partnership will also see a number of Sheffield bands travel down to Wales in August to perform at the flagship festival – AWOOGA, Back To Verona, The Velcro Teddy Bears and I Set The Sea On Fire are the first acts to be announced.

I sat down with the man himself to talk about Kaya Festival, the concept of festival tasters & link-ups, and finally, what we can expect from Sheffield’s A Taste of Kaya Festival.

What was your first experience of Kaya Festival?

My band Stop Drop Robot played the festival last year, and I fell in love with the setting and all round vibe of Kaya.

What is it in particular about Kaya that will captivate the Sheffield audience?

Kaya is based in Port Talbot, and both Sheffield and Port Talbot are linked through a shared history of steel production. It’s an industry that’s in real trouble, and both areas have seen plenty of struggles. This is the first festival partnership from Propeller Management, and I think this project is different to other festival link-ups because we are also trying to export the very best of Sheffield music and take it to another country. I know Wales is only next door, but you’ve got to start somewhere with these ambitions. It’s so exciting to be taking a host of Sheffield bands over to South Wales to play at Kaya.

Kaya isn’t the first festival that you’ve brought to the Steel City [having recently booked Long Division and Live in Barnsley taster shows]. Is the concept of festival taster shows something that will catch on?

I’d love to see it catch on to be fair. The more people out there making connections with out-of-town festivals and turning them on to Sheffield bands the better. We are trying to build hype around the event, and sometimes the best way to do that is by taking the party to the people. Propeller Management are generally very keen to work with festivals. We feel we can help by offering brand sponsorships, fundraisers and heavy promotion in exchange for opportunities for Sheffield bands.

 Do festival taster shows and independent festivals such as Kaya provide an insight into the future of the festival market?

It’s hard to say, but there will always be bands who want to play, and they will always have family and friends who want to support them – the more festivals the better I say. I would love to see Sheffield bands playing all over the place throughout the summer, because we have such a wealth of talent in this city. I just want to see it spread outwards, and this is our way of helping to contribute to that process.

 How will you recreate the identity of Kaya in Sheffield on May 6th & 7th?

We are throwing the kitchen sink at it: DJs, reggae bands with brass sections, outdoor stages, world food – we are going for it big time!

 Will you be hoping to expand the event in 2017?

Hell yeah! We want it to be the festival that Sheffield bands desperately want to play. This is only year one, but the sky really is the limit.

 It’s fair to say that the line-up for the Taste of Kaya show is one of the most eclectic Sheffield has seen for some time. Are varied line-ups more accepted in a festival environment than at a regular evening gig?

I’d agree with those statements, but people usually enjoy more than one style of music, so we are offering a diverse taste of what Sheffield has to offer. Just like the eclectic mix of music they will find at Kaya Festival in August.

 Who are your picks for the weekend?

I personally booked the whole line-up. Every band is sensational, but I know that the likes of Kiziah & The Kings, The Velcro Teddy Bears, I Set The Sea On Fire and Steel City Rhythm all have something special planned, so don’t miss those!

Tickets for A Taste of Kaya Festival in Sheffield are available at Hagglers Corner, The RS Bar and West Street Live.


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