Colourful Reality: A reflection on the ethos behind Intonal Festival

10 Minute Read
Intonal 2018 Camilla Rehnstrand (6)
Art & Culture
Written by Alasdair King

Following the pandemic, the Swedish festival explores the importance of recalibration – focussing on our physical interaction with music and art.

Like many other festivals, Intonal was forced to reimagine its offering in the midst of the pandemic. However, unlike the majority, they felt it was essential to persevere in 2021 – opting for a significantly scaled down edition of the festival, yet still very much a physical representation of the music and art that they love. Tiny crowds were treated to up close and personal performances at numerous venues, masks mandatory and social distancing enforced.

They have since released numerous statements and have began to establish a narrative built around the importance of physical, personal interaction and its relationship to music. The team are hugely passionate when it comes to the provision of a real world, human centred experience.


Next month will see Intonal return to its full might, hosting a spirited festival programme against the backdrop of the beautiful city of Malmö. They will take over venues big and small, profiling musicians and artists who they feel are essential to the progressive development of experimental and creative culture.

Guests set to appear include the likes of Space Afrika, Shackleton, Low Jack, Ben Vince, Elena Colombi, Maria Spivak, Ka Baird and many, many more.

We caught up with the team behind the festival to discuss the importance of the upcoming edition and what it means to them as we emerge from a turbulent spell for their community.

Describe the significance of the event in the present, following covid restrictions, how exciting is it to be able to host the event on a grander scale once again?

“During the pandemic we noticed changes not only in people’s social behaviour, but also in how they consumed culture. It seemed to us that the curiosity for the brave, new and unknown lessened at the same rate as social interaction. In a small town like Malmö, you could really feel how the audience changed. Safety replaced curiosity, socially and culturally. To me these secondary effects of the restrictions were very scary. Anyhow, this year’s festival is all about changing that. We want people from all over the world to meet and enjoy everything that is unsafe about music.”

How has the pandemic forced you to reconsider the festival?

“We managed to host a festival in June 2021, even if culture and venues suffered from hard restrictions. This was our way of supporting the scene and the artists involved. Still the effort and work behind it was crazy and all I can say is that we would not do it under similar circumstances again. Ever. If restrictions were still in place, we would cancel the whole thing and probably close the festival. So, as mentioned before, with this year’s festival, we will try to do all the things we could not do last year. The program is again very international and in general the festival will be much more energetic and chaotic.”

What are you seeking to achieve with the 2022 edition?

“We are trying to get the festival back to the point where it was before the pandemic. That vibe we managed to build up over the years. It was very special. Intonal is a small festival with a big program. We managed to create this family thing, where artists, workers and visitors did a festival together so to speak. Communal magic. This is what we strive for to get back. Five days of international music together. After the pandemic festivals like Intonal are more important than ever. It is our mission to break the borders the pandemic built for us.”

How do you feel the festival has evolved over the years, what lessons have you learnt?

“The main lesson is not to work with energy vampires. We do not have the budget, staffing or interest to deal with difficult artists, mangers and booking agents. Intonal is basically a big collaboration. And if you are not interested join as a member of the team, please do your business elsewhere. Intonal is not about stars, headliners, or expensive hospitality riders. It is about music, and to celebrate creative freedom together. Apart from that, the festival has been growing a bit, but still slowly. The international projects and collaborations are at the core. Today the production is much more professional than when we started. We do not burn out in the same way as before, working around the clock, partying, and having a bunch of artists staying at the house. When it comes to the program, I think we are still basically the same. We try to build something from our own standards and resources with the goal to make a festival that is unique, colourful and sprawling.”

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s edition?

“I love the smallest stage at the festival. This is where much of the magic happens. Acts less known gets to perform in a packed and sweaty room. And last year that stage was closed because of social distancing. I am really looking forward to the vibe in that room.”

Why is it important for you to showcase emerging and underground musicians?

“We are a partly a funded festival, involved in multiple small projects – projects that mainly focus on showcasing underground artists. That is our job I would say, our responsibility. To sustain development. And the festival format is perfect for this.”

Setting and environment has always been crucial when programming your festival, what are you looking for in the perfect space and how do you pair the line up to the locations?

“For me it is all about vibe. I come from the rave scene or the dance music scene. If anything, that scene has taught me the importance of the ‘vibe’. It is very abstract, I cannot really explain it, but when it is present, you can almost touch it. The perfect space for us is a space that is not used to much for concerts. We always try to find something new every year. This is something we’d really like to develop more in the future.”


“The main lesson is not to work with energy vampires.”

Intonal 2018 Camilla Rehnstrand (1)

You reflect on the role of physical interaction and participation in art and culture, why do you feel this to be so important when listening to music?

“The joy of experiencing things together is always stronger than when alone. Also, there is an important layer of communication between audience and performer. I also see music, festivals, and concerts as important tools for peace. We meet and we enjoy life together. Across borders. Finally, we are animals after all. Our human communication is much more advanced than what digital communication can ever provide. Digital culture is a compliment to reality but it can never substitute the full experience. At least not yet.”

When programming the music, what are you looking for, there doesn’t appear to be any one particular niche or sound but the programming does make sense in an underground or left field context?

“Colour, I think is a key word for the festival programming. We are trying to avoid locking ourselves to a certain format or sound. Instead, we curate many small journeys inside the festival program. And to tell you the truth, there is also a lot of chance and coincidence involved in the final product. Which is great.”

Which spaces are you looking to make the most of this year at the festival, which spaces excite you?

“We are doing this free outdoor pop up, in a yard close to Inkonst. This space used to host different underground venues and bars back in the good old days. Today the area is different, a bit more gentrified. It will be very interesting for us to wake up the since long sleeping soul of this place.”

Are there any artists on the line up you are most excited to feature?

“Well, I am a big fan of the explosive modular work of Tyler Friedman. There is so much tension and drama in his compositions. I really look forward to closing my eyes on the floor of the black box stage and riding out into space on one of his glimmering melodies…”

Visit the Intonal website HERE. Photography courtesy of Camilla Rehnstrand.