SOTU (Sounds of the Underground) is an annual alternative music festival and cultural foundation in Amsterdam that was formed in 2012. SOTU has a passion for genre-bending sound and performances which is focused on the promotion of the experimental, avant-garde and underground. The festival is self-funded and run by an artist collective. The festival is rooted in celebrating the unique aspects of the global independent music and art community and its diy and counter cultural traditions.

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SOTU Radio

Drawing: Reinilde Jonkhout


"Mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground."
- Frank Zappa

"Do Whatever You Want, Don't Do Whatever You Don't Want!!" "As a result of this philosophy we have lost money and the trust of society as a whole, but we've gained time and freedom."
- Acid Mother Temple

"People got this idea that ultimately what mattered was the quality of what you were doing and how much importance you gave to it, regardless of how widespread it became or how many records it sold."
- Lee Ranaldo

Postcard: Jonas Olsson

Comix Underground Newspaper, SOTU Festival 2014.
Big d
rawing: Peter Pontiac.

A short essay as to what the festival is all about:

Visual Overload

A couple of years ago everybody was going on about web 2.0 and how the internet was bringing real democracy to the public sphere. Now most of us have realized that we are not so much being heard for our opinions, but just providing data for mighty corporations that are selling our opinions back to us in flashy formats. Where does the underground fit inside all of this? Sure, the DIY-scene got a great boost out of it, but the internet hasn't proven to be the right place for critical reflection, let alone autonomous action. Getting below the radar has been virtually short-circuited in The Internet age, while doing something for yourself is also one of the things that drives capitalist thinking.

So what really is this thing we call the underground nowadays? Unprofitable cultural programs? The fetishist niches of the music market? Culture funds for bikram yoga and indie film screenings? What is left of an underground music scene when most of the output has become encompassed in marketing algorithms by global networking? Where we used to stumble upon exciting music in record stores, we now allow Spotify or Soundcloud to recommend us what to hear and what not to hear. What is left of the anti-establishment when even the protest itself has become bureaucratized? Please fill out this form if you want to oppose the increase in social housing rents, please fill out that form if you want the prime minister to go fuck himself.

What is left of it, I think, is a handful of places where people can come together in actual time and space and do stuff that is not driven by global capitalism or stained by welfare state bureaucracy. These places should be supported not just because they provide us with a cutting-edge program and are very modestly priced, but because these relatively autonomous places are becoming increasingly rare. 

It's not just our healthcare and our education that's being succumbed to neo-liberal rationality. If we stop thinking about alternatives to the establishment, our bodies will become more and more like bureaucratic systems and our minds will likely start to behave like google-algorithms. So let's have some of that butchers -tears-wonder-potion before we start praising tribal gods to shamanic tones in The Occii.

'Turn off your computer, music is the weapon of the future' (Vengence Tenfold)

What we are experiencing now in media and technology, Marshall 'The medium is the message' McLuhan knew already half a century ago; technology doesn't provide neutral tools, but actually shapes our behaviour. He saw in the dawn of modern man, also an extinction of a tribal man. With the introduction of the alphabet, language became visible instead of just being audible. The tribal man was submerged in sound whereas modern man is increasingly being led by the visual. The eyes are only our keenest sense because we are expected to act upon so many visual impulses. Until the Middle Ages, when the majority of the people were still illiterate, the most important medium was sound and song instead of script. Language as sung or spoken by the bard or preacher in songform provided the people with a Medieval Google or newspaper.

It seems that today we are neglecting out oral capacities more than ever, while overconsuming on the visual. Television was to our parents like the internet is to us, bt they would have been lucky to watch an hour or two of material a week. While today, one years worth of material gets uploaded every hour on to Youtube. It's not even that the visual space has become more interesting - I can't help but look at the bored expressions on those faces awkwardly lit from below those iPhones - it's just become more onmipresent. Maybe there is a way to fight the establishment by making use of this largely neglected audible world. Another radical thinker that realized the potential of the audible was John Cage when he asked why no-one ever really listens, despite constantly hearing sounds. I still find it remarkable that his music to this day sounds otherworldly and avant-gardist; while the visual avant-gardist forms have already established themselves in the art historical canon, much of the music-concrete still sounds like noise. In other words: while this visual space is overloaded, there still is a world of subversive sound to explore, an underground of music to mine out so to speak.

Music, the whole of audible or acoustic space, is not rational; it's chaotic, intangible and floating in free space, while our establishment, the government and neo-liberalism are rational, rigid, orderl. Everything has its fixed place in visual culture. Music has all of the subversive qualities we need for revolutionairy action; turn off your computer, music is the weapon of the future.

Hugo de Gier, 2012


Collage: Pytr Baum, Cut & Paste Academy, Ruigoord