Day has turned into night and the dancefloor is teeming with worked-up ravers, cheering on the DJ as he drops another floor-filler. The crowd is a diverse mix of people, all smiling and happily dancing as another track is introduced into the mix. The pulsating L-Acoustics soundsystem is immense, with bass caressing the dancefloor, inviting feet to keep moving as lights cut through the night sky of the open-air venue. Rhadoo of RPR Soundsystem steps up to the decks, replacing Dan Andrei and Praslea, and in turn, Petre Inspirescu and Raresh take their positions behind the booth to continue the looping beats and sweeping drops, taking the energy on the floor to another level.
This could be a clubland scene played out on any stage from London to Berlin to Ibiza. But we’re in Málaga, at Sophie Festival, a new series of events taking place every Sunday throughout the summer in the gardens of the Palacio de Congreso de Torremolinos, just a short drive from both Málaga-Costa Del Sol Airport and Málaga Central. The arena was purposely built just for the summer, to house the carefully put together line-ups that aim to put Málaga on the map as an electronic dance music destination.
Mainland Spain has a rich lineage of electronic music — Barcelona’s Sónar being one of the most recognisable names on the dance music calendar — but outside of the well-known spots, places like Málaga have failed to achieve the same impact in the underground scene. But this is starting to change. During the last few months, Sophie has played host to artists such as Seth Troxler, Craig Richards, Paul Kalkbrenner, Jamie Jones and Giorgia Angiuli, inviting dance music fans to come and discover a more, dare we say, sophisticated sound, in an area that has previously entertained a more mainstream/commercial flavour of dance music and clubbing experiences.
“We want people from all over Europe when they come to Sophie to discover Málaga, Torremolinos, Marbella, Estepona... We want them to discover what we call home and why we call it home. A place with a rich cultural heritage, sun-kissed the whole year round, with great weather, amazing food...” says Giorgio Maulini, a promoter, producer, DJ and one of the brains behind Sophie. “The whole Málaga region gave us a lot, now it’s our time to give something back to the city and for people to discover what it has to offer and the value we can add to it.”
The venue is situated on top of a hill, giving stunning views of the sea and surrounding area, and has been designed to blend in and respect the eco-friendly and sustainability messaging that Sophie is pushing alongside the music and cultural aspects of the festival. It came about as an idea between Giorgio and three friends; “Music lovers, enthusiasts, ravers, artists, you name it, we have always been driven by the underground music culture and what it represents,” Giorgio explains. “The freedom of being who you are and not being afraid of showing it. Feeling free to feel whatever makes you who you are. A parallel culture where like-minded people share and express love to one another, the joy of being alive is always present and it represents itself all around.
“We knew we wanted to create a place where we could help people discover these values, listen to quality music, and at the same time change the stereotype of our society to a more open-minded, tolerant [one], and give a real opportunity to alternative cultures, which are actually the ones that help develop the collective consciousness and artistic scene of a city. Sophie is born from the [love] of bringing people together, enjoying life and being surrounded by nature, listening to quality music by the best selectors on the planet.”
When DJ Mag attends, the crowd have come not just from the local area, but other parts of Spain. We meet a group from Gibraltar, people from as far off as Leeds, and some [including us] have even made the trip over from Ibiza to sample a different flavour of electronic music than what Málaga is used to.
“We really wanted to showcase a big artistic spectrum, but always having ‘musical quality’ as a key value,” says Giorgio. “True selectors, long-time, well-respected artists, new, talented artists, amazing producers; quality, for us, is really one of the most important things in the equation and we wanted to reflect this also in our line-ups. We cannot talk about creating culture and not keep up with that promise artistically speaking as well. You can find various styles and many artists, but in every line-up of any of our events you will always find a curated, artistic direction.”
With this vision clear to see, are we seeing the birth of southern Spain’s very own Sónar in Sophie? “To be able to do this, we need to create a system where we can offer the necessary information to people to understand and learn about electronic music culture and the music industry itself.
And what this means for us as human beings — its benefits to our society and what we have achieved through music from the late 1930s to today. And how all that has made possible the idea of having thousands of people dancing at a rave, enjoying [their] freedom,” Giorgio continues. “To be able to make this happen we need schools, artists living in the city, events happening around the region, record shops, speeches, documentaries, talks, and many other educational cultural gatherings... This is something that happens at Sónar and ADE, for example, and is absolutely something that inspires us and we keep in our minds as a reference to deploy in our region.”
However it develops, the first chapter of Sophie Festival is a promising one — a welcome inclusion to both Málaga and Spain’s dance music landscape.