This open air festival is devoted to reviving ancient Lithuanian traditions through crafts, lectures, art exhibitions, films, archaic rituals, tribal workshops, hikes, land art, sports, theater and of course, music. Interested to hear more about this fusion of the modern and the archaic, Music Export Fund met up with Ugnius Liogė – the festival’s main organiser.
Ugnius begins with remarking that in terms of the music, Mėnuo Juodaragis has sought out non-typical, alternative cultures since it started in 1997. However different the music and artists may be, genres and musicians are always unified. The question remains – how?
“Everyone always asks – what is it that unites?” Ugnius questions rhetorically. “I tell them I don’t know, it’s a godly mystery. Something definitely does unite, though, and the listener senses it.”
This union may be hard to describe, but it allows Mėnuo Juodaragis to bring a wide range of exciting and international names to the line up. One of the most special bookings of this year is a Slovenian band, Laibach.
“We used to make jokes about booking Laibach,” recalls Ugnius. “We investigated booking this band carefully and there seemed to be a lot of terms and conditions as there always is with high caliber bands. Finally this year we decided to stop only dreaming and although it was difficult, the band is finally coming.”
Ugnius is also excited to see how the Baltic scene is developing. Over 40 bands from Lithuania will perform in Mėnuo Juodaragis which is a firm sign that folk and alternative are big genres in this part of Europe. The festival will also bring in 10 foreign bands, meaning that the festival resonates both regionally and internationally.
“We can see that the foreign audience is really interested, and there are a couple different aspects as to why,” observes Ugnius. “Some people are interested in alternative music and the atmosphere. They come year after year and have a lot of friends here. The others are more interested in seeing the unromanticised side of paganism and deep roots of tradition, which take place in a non-contrived and creative way. To see something that isn’t theatrically made for some tourists is rare these days.”
The festival’s audience is widely varied in terms of age, nationality and style. Most importantly to the organisers, everyone engages with the alternative atmosphere. Upon returning, they bring a plus however many along. As a result, the community grows over the years.
“The best advertising is the word of mouth, says Ugnius.”
So, do the festival goers come back because they feel like home at Mėnuo Juodaragis? This will be a question to look deeper into during the festival, as the main theme of 2016 is home. Ugnius finds it interesting how the notion of home is simultaneouosly very different and very similar to each. With this theme, Mėnuo Juodaragis is inviting us to think about what home means in the context of the modern world, the mythical subconscious, and within culture as a whole.
“I meet a lot of people saying it’s a great theme but they say they don’t know where their home is,” says Ugnius. “I’m not completely sure either and I don’t have a pure answer to this. On the other hand, we all realise that it does mean something. On a broader sense – we all have spiritual homes. It’s related to love, close people, finally – to places and even ideas; times in life, unique for each. It’s even about birth and death. We can go deep with this topic.”
Each visitor will be able to think about this notion via the many activities of the festival, which include workshops on how to build a house, lectures about houses in the past and now, films about home. Ugnius believes that guests may end up with more questions than answers, but either way, it will make for an interesting event nonetheless.
This year’s festival is bigger than ever, and according to the organisers, it initially seemed ambitious. Very ambitious. Ultimately, though, they simply couldn’t refuse the collaborative offers to Mėnuo Juodaragis 2016. This year, the music will be spread across six genres.
“Also this year, the festival will be less cosy, closer to nature, and more scout-like,” adds Ugnius.” Us organisers prefer it this way but of course, there is a part of visitors who want the benches, the shops, and the tarmacced roads. We’ll see if the community’s need for comfort is getting bigger or if we’re still young at heart,” he laughs.
So get ready for a four day long weekend in nature with a chance for philosophy, lively activity and a great choice of music!
Mėnuo Juodaragis Official Facebook: facebook.com/MJRfest
Buy Tickets HERE: menuojuodaragis.lt/en/tickets