Malasimbo has a new venue, and a new sound

A festival like Malasimbo honestly doesn’t have to change much. Going strong since 2011, Malasimbo as the high altitude, gold standard of concerts, and the place your well-travelled friends get their faces blasted with colorful powder.

But this year, Malasimbo’s making a big move, taking the show from up in the mountains and a bit closer to nature: at the back of White Beach, Puerto Galera. And we could go on about this year’s lineup of acts (Robert Glasper, Danny Krivit, Carousel Casualties, Extrapolation, Badkiss, Ruby freakin’ Ibarra, among others), or the show’s new, all-inclusive packages that make going with friends and availing of certain amenities more affordable.

But let’s instead talk about about an oft-overlooked aspect of organizing shows: acoustics. The sound. The levels. The tech that makes sure you get the most out of every act, the work that prevents nasty feedback and technical f-ups. We spoke to Malasimbo co-founder Miro Grgić about the science that makes any musical festival worth its salt sound the way it does.

Au naturel: This year’s Malasimbo will take place at the back of White Beach, Puerto Galera, near a jungle and beach. How can sound travel in such an unconventional space?

YOUNG STAR: I understand you’ll be changing Malasimbo’s location this year. Can you tell me the reasons behind the relocation, and what technical considerations you have to make for this new environment?

MIRO GRGIć: It’s a jungle beside the beach, with beach access. The main reasons for the move are accessibility and convenience for the festival goers. It also reduces the cost for everyone, mak-ing for an overall better experience for new and old guests. Stage and speakers’ placement is very important, especially this year since we will be having more than one stage. We are lucky to have a natural amphitheater to work with again, which will contain the main chunk of the sound. Our DJ stage will have speakers pointed in the opposite direction and a solid distance away.

 

What does the Malasimbo team have to know to get the show’s sound just right? I imagine there are a lot of technical factors to take into account.

Sound travels in time and space. So you need to understand these three elements to make good sound. Generally, sound quality is controlled by someone’s “signal” (voice, guitar, snare drum, etc.) and the engineering of it. Most producers and musicians understand this part. If the signal is clean and as desired, you mix that signal with other signals and create a balance of signals. This is simple, as long as you have the right signal. The time and space part, this is where it gets tricky for a lot of people as it involves acoustic properties. Sound travels at 343 meters per second. It’s very important that speakers are positioned in the right place and that all frequencies are aligned in time and that the space you are in is able to contain the sound, ideally absorb it. Sound likes to travel one way and get absorbed, not bounce around. This absorption is what makes recording studios, headphones or cars sound nice and what makes venues with glass, tiles, aluminium and concrete surfaces not sound nice (when using amplified sound).

All the world’s a stage: Anomalie and Robert Glasper are set to play at what may be Malasimbo’s most ambitious show to date.

For the gearheads and roadies out there, can you give a rundown of the equipment you’re using for Malasimbo’s sound system?

We use Funktion One Sound System, which is known to be an efficient sound

system. This means, that it uses the least amount of power to convert to the most amount of energy. You want a 100-watt speaker that is loud. Not a 1,000-watt speaker that isn’t.

 

I assume there’s a whole world of difference between designing sound for festival-sized gigs and small gigs. What are these differences that most people might not be aware of?

Acoustics primarily. Everything is usually relevant to the space you are working with, because this is what generally determines the sound. In small gigs with amplified audio and no absorption panels, the sound waves bounce around the walls which adds to the volume. In big outdoor gigs, sound dissipates, so you have to try and contain it to get that warmth and energy without turning it up too loud.

 

For the musicians — what advice would you give in terms of doing sound checks and testing sound levels for big gigs?

Hire a sound engineer. Most bands have budget for tech crew to help with their instruments carrying, tuning, etc. But few have sound engineers. It’s odd because sound is the output of the entire collective effort of everyone.

 

Be real with me — should it be common practice for people to bring earplugs to concerts?

Hell yeah! Not just to concerts. Take them to bars, restaurants, cinemas, and whenever you stand on EDSA in case the bus beeps their horn.

 

For more details about the show’s acts and its packages, you can check Malasimbo out on Facebook at facebook.com/Malasimbofestival or the show’s official website, malasimbo.com.