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Road to Recovery, ESNS 2021



By Ruth Kilpatrick

The thirty-fifth edition of Eurosonic Noorderslag will be fully digital for 2021. Running from the 13-16 of January, the team behind ESNS are keen to address the ongoing issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic - the impact on the wider industry, and on the people within.

Next year’s festival will focus on recovery and resilience, with additional sessions aimed at tackling mental health, key conversations discussing racism and inequality, as well as an added focus on sustainability for 2021 and beyond.

Alongside the conference there is of course the showcase aspect to consider: usually a sure-fire springboard for many artists into Europe, with export results for new acts more often than not being a vital component when kick-starting that all important next phase of a career. January will be different of course, but ESNS have plans in place to ensure their chosen acts still receive that added exposure:

“The majority of European acts will record themselves and this will be premiered during ESNS. Some of them (mainly Dutch acts and some European acts studying or working in the Netherlands) are coming to Groningen to record a digital showcase for the event in January.

Where possible some artists will be recorded, in a Covid secure way, at the venues that would normally host artists and audiences during ESNS. This includes special performances at Vera, the Grand Theatre and Oosterpoort.”

Many of the artists chosen for this year’s festival have of course since missed out on their follow up bookings across spring and summer, with the vast majority of festivals cancelling or rescheduling. Here at RotD we picked some of our favourites from the 2020 line-up to listen to, including Arlo Parks, Celeste, BCNR, Flohio and Inhaler, just some of the artists who missed out on bookings due to Covid-19. 

A few key highlights:

Crystal Murray, France.
A modern twist on more traditional jazz, the Parisian teenager did well at 2020's showcase. Her debut EP I Was Wrong, released this year, also references her joint love of both house and RnB, with over 100k monthly listeners regularly checking in via Spotify
 
Celeste, UK.
Celeste was the most tipped artist for ESNS 2020 by media, prior to the festival itself. Previously featured in Compass back in 2018, Celeste has certainly not been short of accolades and awards. Stunning TV performances as well as well-received singles, and ending the year as the first original song to be featured on the John Lewis advert. 
 
Pongo, Portugal. 
Another highly popular showcase during ESNS20 was the ineffable Pongo. Based in Lisbon and born in Angola, her blend of influences and high energy performance drew an eager crowd at both sets back in January. Debut album Baia is certainly worth revisiting.  
 
Charlotte Adigery, Belgium. 
Long loved here in the U.K. by the likes of Crack Mag and TLOBF, Adigery is well known for her energetic on-stage performances. Mixing DIY aspects with more highly produced sounds leaves room for interpretation in a live-setting, an area in which Charlotte excels. Released via the DeeWee label (Soulwax), listen back through her EPs via Spotify
 
Inhaler, Ireland. 
Their singles so far have survived and surpassed the initial hype, with Inhaler's live show often being more than enough to silence any early critics, namely on their sold-out UK run back in February. Featured in Compass prior to signing with Polydor, tracks like Falling In and My Honest Face clearly showed the makings of what should be a lengthy career. They've also just been nominated in the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards 2021.

Listen to the full playlist.

Adaptability has been a recurring theme for the creative industries throughout 2020; diversifying output, responding to new challenges, even in just finding some positivity (and additional work) when able. Artists have become even more inventive, utilising the free tools at their disposal, engaging with an eager fan base and calling upon fellow independent creators as and when appropriate. The point of course is that throughout this often woeful year, we’ve witnessed an increasing amount of goodwill to those who provide art, of any kind. Recognising that in doing so they also offer an escape, some solace, nostalgia and hope - a means of connecting when in reality we often feel so far apart. 

ESNS have acknowledged that need for community in their own way, providing multiple methods of connection to delegates, speakers and performers. Tickets are listed at €50 for 2021, gaining you access to all events plus their ongoing database of information.

Full details and delegate passes are available via the official site.

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