Electronic Stage Curator of Playtime Festival Tells of Mongolia’s Fascinating Music Scene

Marcell Dettmann at Play Time Festival 2023
Marcell Dettmann at Play Time Festival 2023

We had a talk with the electronic stage curator of Playtime Festival, one of Mongolia’s most renowned events. We break it down and discuss the local scene in the land of the steppes.

Playtime Festival largest annual music festival in Mongolia

Playtime Festival 2022
Playtime Festival 2022

Mongolia is not the first country that you think about in terms of electronic music and festivals with amazing venues and artists. Well, in the last few years it has become one. It’s indeed one of the freshest scenes out there when it comes to techno music and underground music styles.

At least, it’s what Mr. Bilguun Tuvshinbold – promoter and festival organizer of Playtime Festival – said to us in an interesting and insightful interview about his event and Mongolian electronic music.

“I cannot cite a specific date (for when Mongolian electronic music started to become a part of the culture, ed), but I’d say it started to get big around early 2000s. Around 2015, the scene started being recognized internationally.”

Then, it started subsequentially to get into Mongolian culture as well.

From steppes to stage: the evolution of Playtime Festival

One of the most famous festivals among the land of the steppes is certainly Playtime Festival. Playtime Festival is a part of Mongolian culture since 2002. As of now, Playtime Festival is mainly a live music festival, which brings to the stage(s) not only electronic music, but also pop, rock and more. Last year the main stage was seeing the amazing participation of the renowned band Cigarettes After Sex.

It’s hosted outdoors, with more or less 30,000 people that have the possibility to camp out and enjoy their favorite artists all weekend long.

Bilguun started working at Playtime in 2017, when its creator Natsagdorj “George” Tserendorj gave him a chance to prove his craft with the visual installments. Since then, Bilguun, a guy that was part of the contemporary art association (and still does), made his way to become one of the major promoters and the stage director of Playtime Festival.

Germany as an influence

KharKhorum Festival - Eclipse 2022
KharKhorum Festival – Eclipse 2022

For his previous occupation and his recent success at Playtime Festival, Bilguun was invited to do the same for another big stage in Mongolia, the Kharkhorum Festival. It pushed him to travel the globe finding the best visual artists and promoting both festivals worldwide. A part of this is discovering artists who could make their way to music festivals in Mongolia, with an eye for Germany.

“I was always travelling before even starting to work in the music industry, so I attended lots of international gigs and festivals. There, I made lots of connections, knowing that the Berlin is one of the most iconic cities in terms of techno and electronic music.”

Navigating the challenges of Mongolia’s festival scene

Nina Kravitz at KharKhorum Festival – Eclipse 2022

The scene is developing in something else now. There is less competition than other countries in Europe or in Asia itself, and the whole setting is so fresh that there are way less festivals organized, labels, or promoting agencies.

“Right now, you might see that the electronic music industry has it’s eyes on Mongolia because the energy it’s receiving and the huge work done on visuals and music quality is amazing.” 

These, in the words of Bilguun, are the advantages on administrating the growth of the scene in Mongolia. But as any self-respecting coin, there is another face which balances them. On the disadvantages, Tuvshinbold said:

“The distance is a huge problem. Obviously, if I have to find DJs, artists (etc.), who are usually booked from a day to another, I must book them for the entire duration of the festivals, considering the travel, if they want to come to such a distant country, jetlag and more hiccups.”

Economic challenges of running a festival in Mongolia

Another thing to face is surely the economic challenge for sponsors and artists. The price for tickets is relatively low, if you compare it to other important European venues, because the Mongolian average income is lower. Hence, while this could be seen as a pro for the attendees, for the organizers is not, since they still have to compete with the international scene.

“The main challenge here is to get sponsors which can cover the amount missing, and it’s never easy.”

Bilguun’s Artistic Odyssey

Bilguun with Boris at Kharkhorum Festival
Bilguun with Boris at Kharkhorum Festival

Nevertheless, Bilguun made sure to make the effort for it. During his past experience with Mongolian Contemporary Art Support Association, he had the opportunity to travel a lot, and so to attend lots of gigs and concerts. You can see lots of Berlin-based DJs at Playtime Festival, thanks to the network he made over the years.

The coronation of Playtime Festival’s electronic stage itself was the 2022 edition, right after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had a period of research after Corona to organize my stage with visual directors and artists from Europe, people were feeling it and everything was on point, even great personalities from other artistic worlds were present and vibing.

“I usually stay on stage to check everything, so I saw the crazy result of the work we put in. If something is truly masterful and decent, there isn’t really a difference between genres, because it’s true art.”

Looking forward for Playtime Festival

In the future, Mr. Tuvshinbold hopes to sharpen his craft on organizing and promoting both Playtime and Kharkhorum festivals. But probably his biggest goal for this upcoming year would definitely be to start working on his own experimental music festival, featuring audio-visual art exhibitions.

He didn’t want to spoil too much about it, so we will honor his secret, and encourage you to follow him and the Mongolian electronic scene to learn more.

Journey through techno landscapes in Mongolia

If you want to get a little taste of what the Mongolian DJs can do, here are a few amazing examples that – in our opinion – are worth a listen.

TMK

One of the OGs of Mongolian techno will make you dance with his crazy chops and electro beats, until your head will nod by itself, lost in its trip.

Tuvshin

Another DJ that was there from the scratch. Get lost in this amazing scenario in between the Mongolian landscape to vibe with some retro-electronic tunes.

Giin

To conclude, one of the freshest artists out of Mongolia, which definitely sets a new-wave tone in this Boiler Room episode, which will definitely lead to a more focused eye of the international listening community towards the Asian country.

Looking to discover more events like Playtime Festival?

Check out our dedicated festival section here.

Photo credits: Playtime Festival, Kharkhorum Festival & Blgunee Hiroshi
                        

Written by Gabriele Luchetti

Gabriele Luchetti is a music journalist based out near Rome, Italy. He writes on various scenes including hip-hop, post-punk and different music trends of the day.

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