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Artists’ Tales

Marcel Bieri – The Sailing Stones Residency & Festival (Tunisia)

“We’re looking back on an amazing residency with a lot of beautiful, difficult, and important discussions, 10 hours of recorded music for the first sailing stones tape, a lot of improvisation, and the organization of an amazing festival, even though the weather was not with us”

In the past couple of years, I went on field studies all over Europe to learn more about the continent, its people, the activities in the field of current music and culture. Also in order to figure out what my future work field could look like with the background of 15 years of building up the B-Sides platform and network, and find out how we can further connect our community with likeminded people and transfer the knowledge.

While developing the B-Sides Festival music-program, I have felt more and more the need to create a sustainable platform where artists from different regions can meet longer than just for one night in a backstage. Artists who I have met on the road, and who I love and respect for their artistic work, and for their social values as well.

While speaking to the Swiss based Syrian musician Bahur Ghazi several times about how we could build bridges back to where he grew up, I also felt the need to include the Arab region, since culturally we share the same background. I strongly believe that even stronger exchange between the current music scenes of Europe and the Arab Region will bring forth even more fantastic new music, and help get a better understanding of each other.

When Sailing Stones and Bookmaker Records co-founder Youssef Chebbi, and the Swiss artist Thomas Kuratli aka Pyrit told me about the idea of Sailing Stones Residency & Festival in Paris in March 2018, I immediately knew that this encounter, and being a part of this journey could bring my work to a new level. Besides the idea of connecting artists, I also loved the idea of going to more or less culturally abandoned places in Tunisia, and including the locals in this exchange.

And here we are. After the B-Sides association invited the Bookmaker family including Youssef Chebbi and Thomas Kuratli, and Sameh Arfaoui from the Sailing Stones family in Tunisia to B-Sides Festival in June 2018, we started the process of organizing the second edition of Sailing Stones with the result of bringing almost 30 artists, and promoters from Switzerland (with the financial support of Pro Helvetia Cairo), Germany, Belgium, UK and France to Tunisia. We’re looking back on an amazing residency with a lot of beautiful, difficult, and important discussions, 10 hours of recorded music for the first sailing stones tape, a lot of improvisation, and the organization of an amazing festival, even though the weather was not with us. And with the result, that the small scene of current music in Tunisia, after this crazy, unexpected experience, is very motivated to work closer together, and build a community around the Sailing Stones idea. Even though the festival lost money due to the weather conditions, it seems like everybody is very motivated to continue, which is why four people of the new formed Sailing Stones committee will visit Switzerland in June for a research trip. Two of them will arrive in time for the Bad Bonn Kilbi with the goal to be a part the construction, and dismantling of the B-Sides Festival. The other two will solely be here for the period of the festival. Again with the financial help of Pro Helvetia Cairo and B-Sides.

Reducing of mental, cognitive and social borders on both sides is only possible through a direct contact, and exchange at eye level. The field of the current music and culture scene is a common language which can be used to create challenging and linking encounters. That is the mission for the Sailing Stones journey which is creating the foundation to build a social space between existing networks.

Marcel Bieri, Artistic Director of B-Sides Festival (Switzerland)

Photo Credit: Florian Bachmann