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‘Let’s make a modern Ulysses’

The Liberty hears from Max Zanaga of the Irish-based band Tebi Rex about Musictown 2021, in collaboration with The Word Up Collective, putting on a very Dublin online show.

The Dublin Music and Arts Festival, Musictown 2021, was held at the end of April. The festival which takes place live in the city centre annually was forced to migrate online last year where it was met with remarkable success.

This year’s festival continued with its online format, with brand new performances and showcases being streamed for free online over the course of ten days. It was in collaboration with The Word Up Collective to present the show ‘Ulysses’, a very different take on the James Joyce classic novel.

“The idea of the showcase was to explore the idea of the new empty Dublin,” says Max Zanaga from the Irish based band, Tebi Rex, who served as one of the curators for this year’s festival. ‘Ulysses’ is so preoccupied with the vibrancy of the city. I thought it would be interesting to do something about empty Dublin with the backdrop of things like nationality, race and class. 

“Let’s make a modern Ulysses!” 

The showcase was filmed in various locations across Dublin city centre.  

Max Zanaga. Photo courtesy of Musictown

“We (The Word Up Collective) had put on a gig with Musictown before and we put in a proposal that they had liked, and we just went from there,” says Zanaga. 

“I thought it would be interesting to do something about empty Dublin with the backdrop of things like nationality, race and class.” 

ARTIST MAX ZANAGA -TEBI REX

“Your primary concern is the show – the smooth running and the managing of artists. Then you also worry about looking good and it sounding good,” says Zanaga. 

“Obviously with Covid-19 it made everything a bit more complicated. You have to re-do all of the health and safety forms and just make sure that everyone is being safe and abiding by the rules. So, it definitely added a layer of complexity. We had to make adjustments and had to figure out things as we went along.

“A city, a place and its people is something that is constantly changing. If nothing else, I think that’s the most important message of the show – it’s the idea of change. We are taking this traditional work and we are switching it. In the same way, we are taking what we are used to in terms of gigs and we are swapping it. Change can suck like Covid, but a lot of change is good. 

“I hope it widens the audience’s world view. It shows that change is not necessarily a force for good. This energy is going to exist one way or another.” 

The showcases bring the famous work of Joyce into the digital age, in a piece that both celebrates the city and critiques it in the same breath.

There are poets like Natalya O’Flaherty and Sasha Terfous, artists such as Daire Patel, Raji Music and Tebi Rex performing. Each performance is bridged together by James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’.

The themes of belonging, race, gender, socio-economics and politics through the spoken word, live music and videography were explored.

Sasha Lousie. Photo courtesy of Musictown
Daire Patel. Photo courtesy of Musictown
Natalya O’Flaherty. Photo courtesy of Musictown
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