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Why is Praia da Rocha becoming a festival venue in 2022?

Portugal is a land of festivals. In the last two decades, major music events have multiplied and become very popular in our country, generalist festivals have triumphed, as have events focused on specific niches.

In 2018, according to Aporfest – Associação Portuguesa de Festivals de Música – 311 festivals took place in Portugal. In total, they will have mobilized around 2.7 million viewers. Of course, most are small or don’t exactly fit the concept that many festivals have, but it’s an indication of the vast amount of events of this nature that have occupied the country from north to south (and across the islands). , in recent years.

The pandemic, of course, halted this trend. But the news never stopped being announced. Several festivals that were due to debut in Portugal in 2020 are now scheduled for 2022. And many more have been announced over the last year and in these first few weeks of the new year.

Among the many festivals set to take place in the coming months – if, as expected, the pandemic’s restrictions are eased soon – one location stands out in particular: Praia da Rocha in Portimão.

It’s not the most obvious venue for a music festival, but it’s set to host three major international festivals next summer. One of these, which premiered back in 2019 at the same venue, is Afro Nation – an event that started in Portugal this year and then had an edition in Ghana. Go to Puerto Rico in March and then you can have other destinations. It is dedicated to African pop music.

Another highlight is Rolling Loud, the world’s largest hip-hop festival – specializing in contemporary trap sounds – making its European debut with an event in Praia da Rocha. The third most recently announced (late January) is the electronic music festival Secret Project, also based in the United States. Why are they all taking place on the same beach in the Algarve?

It all started with Afro Nation

The Portuguese event organizer co-producing all these festivals is Memories Of Tomorrow (MOT), best known for organizing the RFM Somnii in Praia do Relógio, Figueira da Foz every year.

It all started at the end of 2018 with contact with international organizers who wanted to do an Afro-Nation-style festival in Europe. “The Algarve was chosen as the first destination. The fact that there is an airport – the events are for the international market – and that the Algarve is the destination par excellence with the largest capacity for hotels and services,” explains TUV Manager Tiago Castelo Branco to NiT. “And secondly, because Praia da Rocha is not only very well located, but also has the natural conditions that few beaches have. The sand is quite big. Praia da Rocha was chosen not only for its location, but also for the tourist offer and of course for the relationship created with the community, which recognized the importance of this fact. That’s a jackpot for each district, isn’t it? All the ingredients are there: sun, beach, sea, planes, hotels… all that was missing was the music.”

Afro Nation, held in early August 2019, was a “success”. “It was a complete success from both a production and consumer point of view. The people who attended the event gave incredible feedback.” This festival “was a showcase of a great event produced in a great place” – and it opened doors.

This is how Rolling Loud and Secret Project were born, American festivals that had the intention of hosting events in Europe – and who realized that the Algarve with the partners of MOT could be the right place.

“The arrival of the other two festivals is nothing more than a economy of scale, taking advantage of the venue and just doing the rebranding and transformation for the following events. The venue is set up, all the infrastructure is set up, so it makes perfect sense,” Tiago Castelo Branco explains the decision to hold all the events in the same place.

“The idea was to capture international events that might come to Europe. These big events were meant to make an impact here, and with the impact the Afro Nation was having, they realized this was the right place. From there things started to unfold. And another very important detail: Portugal is a top-class travel destination, whose standard of living is not that high and the safety factor is very important. People feel safe in Portugal,” adds the organizer’s director.

Tiago Castelo Branco argues that his company’s experience in running an annual festival on a beach was crucial. “It’s one thing to host a festival in Parque da Belavista, another to host a festival on the sand, it’s a little different. Building RFM Somnii is much more complex than building Andrea Bocelli at the Estádio de Coimbra, which we did. I hope I make a lot of bocelli. But operationally and logistically, sand is always sand. As we understand it, a beach enclosure is always very attractive. Somnii stands out from all the rest precisely because it is located on a beach. There’s a different vibe, it’s a summer party, the beach is the differentiator.”

The festivals 2022

The first event to occupy Praia da Rocha this year is the Secret Project, taking place from June 17th to 19th. With a poster dedicated to electronic music, it will be possible to dance to the sounds of Amelie Lens, Boris Brejcha, Charlotte de Witte, Eric Prydz, Maceo Plex, Netsky, Richie Hawtin or Sven Vath, among others. Tickets start at €129.

Then comes the second Portuguese edition of Afro Nation, which will take place between July 1st and 3rd. Burna Boy, Chris Brown, Wizkid, Megan Thee Stallion, Ckay, Pa Salieu, Tems and Koffee are some of the main highlights in the lineup. Tickets still available start at €303.

Shortly after, from July 6th to 8th, Rolling Loud will take place. Poster includes J. Cole, A$AP Rocky, Future, Da Baby, Don Toliver, Lil Skies, Lil Tecca, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, M Huncho, Rae Sremmurd, Roddy Rich, Sheck Wes, Skepta, Ski Mask the Slump God and Trippie Redd, among others. Tickets still available start at €370.

Tiago Castelo Branco admits that the target audience is international. In fact, more than 90 percent of the tickets sold for these festivals are destined for the foreign market. “We don’t close the door to anyone, the tills are of course open. Well, the kind of experience and expense that comes with a festival like this forces us to work in other kinds of markets. The lineup itself is intended for specific types of markets other than national. In theory, we can weld with Portugal, right? But even then we are not competing with any national festival. We are all colleagues by profession, we are not here to cannibalize the market. The idea is not to spoil anyone’s market because this is a market that didn’t exist. We’re bringing what wasn’t there: we’re going to look for a different audience, a different critical mass… If we have that opportunity, why not?”

The truth is that this work will result in reduced participation from the Portuguese public – and there is only one national artist on one of the posters, in the case of Lisbon rapper Lon3r Johny, who will be performing on Rolling Loud. The impact will be mainly economic, for hotels and local trade, and not cultural.

Tiago Castelo Branco promises that this year the venue will “receive a major upgrade on all levels”. And it doesn’t close the door on the possibility of more international festivals joining the Praia da Rocha venue, although it’s not happening yet.

“Three events of this kind have already made our beards water. But we don’t close the door. In fact, Portugal is gradually being recognized as a good destination for festival tourism around the world. It’s only natural that other events and festivals are starting to target Portugal as a travel destination – some are even popping up.”

He adds: “It is often said that when you build a hotel, a hotel leads to a hotel. Next, others will be born. I’m starting to see and believe that Portugal is increasingly a preferred destination when organizing major events because we have promoters who know how to work, about the know-how and then about all the natural conditions that Portugal offers. “

Click on the gallery to meet other international musicians performing in Portugal in 2022.


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