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Not to be confused with Sonar.
Sónar, International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art
Logo Sonar.svg
Dates 13.14.15 June 2013 / 12.13.14 June 2014
Location(s) Barcelona, Spain
Years active 1994 - present
Founded by Advanced Music S. L.

Sónar is a three-day electronic and advanced music festival. It was founded in Barcelona in 1994 by Ricard Robles, Enric Palau and Sergi Caballero, and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013, with four festivals taking place in four different cities: Barcelona (for the 20th time) Tokyo (for the 6th time), Osaka (for the 1st time) and Reykjavik (for the 1st time).

The festival has been divided into two parts since its inception. Sónar by Day was organized at the CCCB, the MACBA and the surrounding area (Plaça dels Àngels, Capella dels Àngels, etc.), in the very centre of Barcelona, between the first year and the 2012 festival. Starting in 2013, the Festival is moving to the Fira Montjuïc facilities at Plaza d'Espanya, maintaining its central role and its status as an urban festival and expanding its capacities. Meanwhile, Sónar by Night has changed location several times, with the pavilion at Mar Bella (1997-2000) and the exhibition area at Fira Gran Via in L'Hospitalet (from 2001 to date) being its most well-known spaces.

This year's Sónar 2013 features performances by - among others - Kraftwerk (presenting their show in 3D), Pet Shop Boys, Jurassic 5, Richie Hawtin, Skrillex, Paul Kalkbrenner, Major Lazer, Jamie Lidell, Diamond Version, Chromatics, Diplo, Baauer, Nicolas Jaar, Liars, Lindstrøm & Todd Terje, Adrian Sherwood & Pinch, Seth Troxler and Gold Panda, among many others.

Birth and early years (1994-1996)[edit]

Sónar was founded in Barcelona in 1994 as the “Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art”, by music journalist Ricard Robles and the musicians and visual artists Enric Palau and Sergio Caballero. The first festival took place on 2, 3 and 4 June at the CCCB (the home of the Sónar by Day activities and concerts from the first year) and the Apolo club (Sónar by Night), with performances by Holger Czukay (a former member of Can), Mixmaster Morris, Laurent Garnier, Sven Väth, Atom Heart and Trans Global Underground, among others. This first event, which included the Record Fair and Technology Fair - the forerunners of what we now know as SonarPro (the festival's area for professionals) - was attended by nearly 6,000 people and 40 Spanish media were accredited.

In the next two years, the festival expanded considerably in every respect: compared to the first year, the number of accreditation holders (who in those years came above all from the music industry) doubled in 1995 and tripled in 1996; various international media arrived to cover the event and the number of visitors rose from 6,000 to over 12,000 in 1995 and 18,000 in 1996. Sónar by Night relocated in its second year, moving to various areas in the Poble Espanyol, where it was based in 1995 and 1996. Some of the most outstanding performances and sessions during these years were those by Spring Heel Jack, Josh Wink, Autechre, Richie Hawtin, Ken Ishii, Slam, Jeff Mills, Scanner, Orbital, Fangoria, John Acquaviva, Kenny Larkin and Biosphere. Some of them would subsequently become global stars, and several would appear again at later editions of the festival. In just three years, Sónar had become an essential event on the European festival calendar and a meeting point for electronic music lovers from all over the continent.

Evolution and growth (1997-2000)[edit]

The year 1997 marked a turning point for the festival, as Sónar by Night moved to a new venue: the Mar Bella sports pavilion, where it tripled its capacity. This was an iconic Sónar setting, where unforgettable concerts, sessions and shows took place next to the Mediterranean for four years: Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Jimi Tenor (who came on stage riding a white horse), Laurent Garnier (under his real name or the alias DJ Jamon), Marc Almond, Deep Dish, Motorbass, Plastikman, Herbert, Death In Vegas, Fila Brazillia, Roger Sánchez, Coldcut, Dj Hell, Sólo Los Solo, Atari Teenage Riot, An Der Beat, Chicks On Speed, Super Collider, Miss Kittin

They were years of considerable growth: from 18,000 visitors to Sónar in 1996 to 28,000 in 1997, 38,000 in 1998, 43,000 in 1999 and over 53,000 in 2000, when it became obvious that the new Sónar by Night venue had been outgrown in just four years. The festival's evolution can also be measured in the number of accredited media: in 1996 there were 72 Spanish and 15 international media, by 2000 the number had risen to 158 and 185, respectively, which in itself explains Sónar's tremendous worldwide impact during this period - a repercussion that was now permanent.

The festival's image also changed radically during this period, and set the tone which made the Sónar campaigns one of its major calling cards; the parents of the three directors took centre stage in 1997, and subsequently made way for Brazilian carnival dancers, stuffed dogs on wheels and twins with extrasensory powers in the following years.

The artists performing at Sónar by Day during these four years included Squarepusher, Fennesz, Bruce Gilbert, Patrick Pulsinger, Pan Sonic, Mouse On Mars, Suicide, Aviador Dro, Dj Spooky, Pole, Dj Zero, Goldfrapp and Merzbow, among many others.

Sónar in the twenty-first century (2000-2012)[edit]

The 2001 festival saw another change of venue for Sónar by Night, to an even larger space than in 1997: from the Pabellón de la Mar Bella to the large venue of the Fira Gran Via area in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, adjacent to Barcelona's Zona Franca area. This new home meant that it was subsequently possible to offer large format concerts with an extensive audiovisual display, adding new stages and hosting many more visitors during the nights of the festival. This is the venue where some of the key concerts in Sónar's history have taken place: Björk (2002), Beastie Boys (2007), LCD Soundsystem (2010), Chic (2006), Pet Shop Boys (2002), Masters At Work (2001), Grace Jones (2009), The Chemical Brothers (2005). They all performed on the main stage, SonarClub, with a capacity for more than 15,000 people. As well as SonarClub, the stages at Sónar by Night (SonarLab, SonarPub, SonarCar, SonarPark and the classic Bumper Cars) have witnessed shows by countless artists and djs over the past 10 years: M.I.A., De La Soul, Linton Kwesi Johnson, The Roots, Justice, Hot Chip, Janelle Monáe, Leila, Madlib, Prefuse 73, Ricardo Villalobos, Kode9, Plaid, The Sugarhill Gang, Flying Lotus.

In these early years of the new decade (and millennium), Sónar grew significantly until its size stabilized at around 80,000 visitors each year. Sónar by Day also consolidated its extensive range, which is based not only on music but also the exhibitions at SonarMàtica, the activities at SonarPro, the screenings at SonarCinema and the installations at Sonarama. During these years, the festival also collaborated with various institutions, spaces and centres such as the GREC festival, the Centre d’Arts Santa Mónica, the Mies Van Der Rohe Foundation, CosmoCaixa and above all, L'Auditori, the venue for concerts by the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and the National Orchestra of Catalonia with Ryuichi Sakamoto + Pan Sonic + Fennesz, Francesco Tristano + Murcof, Matthew Herbert Big Band and dj/Rupture, among many others.

Sónar and Barcelona[edit]

During its 20-year history, Sónar has transformed the dynamics and atmosphere of the city every June, as well as making Barcelona into the continent's epicentre of electronic music and one of its main attractions in the cultural tourism sector from its very earliest years. The impact of the festival on the city is unquestionable, and it translates into figures that have been corroborated: in 2004, Sónar contributed 47 million euros to Catalonia's GDP (according to a study performed by Deloitte); three years later, in 2007, the figure had risen to 52 million euros. The impact on hotel occupancy in the city is also considerable in the days before the festival starts; the occupancy rate in 2011 was 83.65%, and in 2012 it was 83.11%. These figures increase to 100% for officially approved tourist apartments.

In addition to all the above, Sónar also leads to the proliferation and organization of many other events, presentations and showcases that take place in Barcelona outside the scope of the festival itself, which in turn also attract very large audiences, of between 50 and 70 thousand visitors, in addition to the 80,000 visitors attending the festival proper.

Sónar in the World[edit]

Sónar has been present in various cities all over the world since its first international foray in London, in 2002. Since then, the festival has taken its philosophy and cutting edge urban format all over the world, to cities like Chicago, Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Hamburg, New York, Seoul and Rome, among many others.

Including the events scheduled for 2013 (Reykjavik, Tokyo-Osaka and São Paulo), these are the 42 events that Sónar will have held in 23 cities around the world: London (2002, 2003, 2004, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011) / Lisbon (2002) / Neuchatel (2002) / Hamburg (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006) / Tokyo (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012 and 2013) / Rome (2003) / São Paulo (2004, 2012 and 2013) / Lyons (2004) / Guadalajara (2004) / Buenos Aires (2006) / Seoul (2006) / Frankfurt (2007) / Washington (2009) / New York ( 2009) / Chicago (2010 and 2012) / Cape Town (2012) / Toronto (2012) / Denver (2012) / Oakland (2012) / Boston (2012) / Montreal (2012) / Los Angeles (2012) / Reykjavík (2013) / Osaka (2013).

Audiovisual and multimedia creation at Sónar[edit]

Since its early years, Sónar has been committed to being something more than a music festival. In the first year, 1994, the festival already launched several activities running parallel to the concerts and sessions. These included the technology and record fair (the roots of the future SonarPro) and lectures (like the one given by Holger Czukay of Can), video art projections (the origins of SonarCinema) and art installations such as those by Xabela Vargas, Juan Antonio Lleó and Louis-Philippe Demers & Bill Vorn. This was the origin of what would later become SonarMàtica, a concept that came to fruition two years later, in the 1996 festival, and which included all kinds of activities: installations (Paul Sermon and Ramon Caus in 1996, Victor Nubla and Masaki Fujihata in 1997, Tommi Grondlub & Petteri Nisunen and Carsten Höller in 1998), exhibitions (Designers Republic, Tomato, Charly Brown, Abuse Industries, etc.), demos, performances, conferences, music a la carte and online content.

1999 saw the creation of SonarCinema, which offered a programme featuring 18 screenings including short films, documentaries, selections of clips and video art works. That same year, SonarMàtica was curated by Oscar Abril Ascaso, and focused on highlighting what was happening at that time in digital art in Barcelona, with works by Rafamateo, Juanjo Sáez, Orange World, Vasava and Josep Baga, among others. SonarMàtica would subsequently focus on specific themes: Berlin (2000), invisible London (2001), Helsinki (2002), 10 Years of Sónar (2003), micronations (2004), twenty-first century landscaping (2005), the "always connected" culture (Always On, 2006), magic (2007), film (2008), handcrafted instruments (2009), robotics (2010), portraits (2011, in collaboration with the OFF festival) and the new projects by UPF (2012 ).

In addition to all the above, 2002 saw the creation of Sonarama, another Sónar exhibition area which focused on sound and audiovisual creation, with works (by Edwin Van der Heide, Christian Marclay, Roland Olbeter, Francisco Lopez, Thomas Köner, Radioqualya and Mike Nelson, among others) that were displayed for several festivals at the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica.

All the non-musical activities at Sónar in 2010 were subsumed under the heading of SonarPro, and under the new title of Sonar+D in 2013.

Sónar for professionals[edit]

As mentioned in the previous section, in its first year, Sónar organized a fair for professionals with a dual dimension: first, the record and publishing fair (record labels, distributors, publications, publishers, promoters) and second, the technology fair (hardware and software brands, musical equipment companies, etc.). Since then, the festival has constantly focsued on professionals in the industry, extending this concept as broadly as possible. During this period, the festival's professional area, known as SonarPro since 2010, has changed substantially, as it has gradually abandoned the trade fair format and become an open laboratory for the creative industries featuring demos, meetings with experts, conferences, business and networking areas, and technology workshops, among many other activities.

In 2012, SonarPro recorded the highest number of professionals and participating companies in its history, with more than 2,500 accreditation holders from 51 countries. In 2013, SonarPro has become Sónar+D, the festival's new brand that also includes all the artistic and new media areas at Sónar, which is based at the Palau de Congressos, the new venue for Sónar by Day.


Since its inception, the image of Sónar has been one of the major attractions of the festival. Produced by Sergio Caballero, one of three directors of the event, the aesthetics of the Sónar posters, advertisements and merchandising often use ironic and sometimes even provocative items, far removed from the images usually associated with electronic music.

Sónar 2013[edit]

Sónar is making many changes to celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2013: chief among them is the new location for Sónar by Day, which after 19 years at the CCCB and MACBA, is moving to a larger space, at the Fira Montjuïc area, in the iconic Plaza d'Espanya in the Catalan capital. In addition, the festival has created Sónar+D, the next step in the evolution of what we used to know as SonarPro. The musical programme of the latest event is shaping up as a big birthday party with illustrious guests (Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, Derrick May), consolidated figures in international electronica (Modeselektor, Jamie Lidell, Paul Kalkbrenner, Diplo), the new stars of the explosion of dance music in the United States (Skrillex, Baauer, Major Lazer), young innovators in techno and bass music (Karenn, Oneman, Objekt, Vatican Shadow), Sónar classics (Matthew Herbert, Mary Anne Hobbs, Laurent Garnier, Nicolas Jaar), experimental and unorthodox artists (Mykki White, Dinos Chapman, Fatima Al Qadiri, Diamond Version), talented maestros from the neoclassical school (Francesco Tristano, Ólafur Arnalds), the best of the year's Spanish crop (Delorean, La Bien Querida, Bradien + Eduard Escoffet, Jansky), major names on today's dancefloor (Lindstrom & Terje, Seth Troxler, Maceo Plex) and artists who are sure to achieve success in the near future (AlunaGeorge, Darkstar, C2C), among many others. As well as the festival's own birthday, Sónar will be the perfect opportunity to celebrate another two anniversaries: those of Red Bull Music Academy (the curators of the SonarDôme stage, who will be 15 years old) and the French label Ed Banger (with a showcase at Sónar by Night including special sets by Justice and its founder, Busy P).

See also[edit]

External links[edit]