Electronic music festivals are known for their spectacles of stage action. The lights and music dance together as if orchestrated by a master puppeteer and it all comes together into one huge production that leaves festival-goers in awe. Unfortunately, observers often take for granted the work that goes into seeing one of these projects through from start to finish.
Unsung design heroes walk among us as some of the most unassuming people. We had a chance to speak to a 25-year veteran in the field, Raphaël Ganhy from Belgium. Raphaël does everything from start to finish: From lights and lasers, to set design, he is the project manager for huge electronic music festivals.
Raphaël Ganhy is the one responsible for the spectacle, and his job is to see beyond the ordinary and create the extraordinary.
Most recently, Gedinne Plein Air celebrated its 30th anniversary. Raphaël has been the project manager for this event for the last 6 years and he was tasked with the challenge of making something exceptional that would commemorate the anniversary. Raphaël decided the goal was to be a 36-meter truss pyramid, the tallest ever in Europe.
But before we get into the wonder that went into the Gedinne Plein Air production, to understand the creative process of Raphaël’s mind, let’s learn a bit more about where he comes from and how his ideas blossom.
Let’s go back a quarter century, to when Raphaël Ganhy was most impressionable, when the lighting bug bit and he passed the point of no return in his quest to be one of the best.
“It’s simple, why I chose this career.”, Raphael states, “When I was 14 years old, I went to the auto show to see the cars with my dad, I’m a huge car fanatic. And while I was there, I was looking around at the lights and said to my dad, ‘You know what? I’m going to do lights for my career.’ That was over 25 years ago, and I am still doing lights!”
Beginning as an operator for lights and lasers and meddling in design 15 years ago, Raphaël’s career grew to project management and lighting designer. He has been using wysiwyg since 2012 and uses only this product for all his shows. The last six years sees Raphaël being the boss of everything as the creative mind behind some of Europe’s hottest events.
When asked where his creative ideas come from, Raphaël humbly states that he always has his eyes peeled, scanning the internet or TV channels for inspiration. But unlike most artists who try to recreate what’s hot, Raphaël’s approach is a little backwards from this. He says he tries to figure out what people are not doing, and he starts there, conscientiously challenging the norm and current trends.
“Lighting and Design is a career that requires passion and emotion. Just like a DJ or music producer, when they create music, they create it with passion and emotion. I design electronic music events and aim to make the lights reflect the emotion in the music being played, to create a connection between the music and the lights.”
An avid and loyal user of wysiwyg, Raphaël boasts that wysiwyg is very precise. If the plan that the designer builds is respected, if the importance to stick to plan is discussed with the suppliers on site, there are no technical problems. Raphaël uses wysiwyg, all the time, and only wysiwyg. He is emphatic when asked about this. From the first design to the final project execution, he uses wysiwyg.
It’s fair to say, we have a bit of an expert on our hands.
But when we look at an event as big as Gedinne Plein Air, it’s fair to ask what problems Raphaël might encounter, right? The issues he faces are maybe not what we’d expect. As a project manager for various events, there seems to be a common thread that Raphaël encounters and it has nothing to do with technology, it is the human aspect that throws a wrench in his spokes.
“Problems? It isn’t technology that is the problem, ever. It’s the budget. The budget is the principal problem. I’ll come up with an idea and a concept but am forced to work within the constraints of a tight budget and it gets harder each year. People want things “bigger and better” but the funding rarely goes up and often becomes harder to find. It is hard to find investors and partners who can help make it happen, like for the truss, rigging, construction, etc.”
This year’s anniversary truss pyramid was a definite challenge to take on. To put it into perspective, it was a truss pyramid the height of a ten-story building, and then some! This is an example of one of Raphaël’s ‘out-of-the-box’, ‘work within the budget’ creative ideas. The rush comes in the pay off, when the design is unveiled for all to witness. When the art comes alive!
Ideas and reality meet at show time and the year of planning unfolds, minute by minute. After six months of brainstorming and six months of planning and putting things together, it was go-time.
“When I was done drawing, I was happy to see my drawing come to life. But when I saw it, in real life, right in front of me, there for the public to see too, it was a truly amazing feeling. When the client loved it, that was the best feeling.”
We did mention that Raphaël was humble and perhaps there are no words that could adequately describe the amount of work that goes into building a project like this, from start to finish. Nor how it would feel to be one of thousands of witnesses in the crowd to see it all unveil. For the average person, it seems unfathomable, perhaps.
The umpteen wheels that must be put in motion begin with the creative wheels in Raphaël’s mind, what he seems programmed and wired to do, from the beginning. Thankfully, he spreads his talent around by working for such companies as PRG, PHLIPPO, SLE, Lazer system Belgium, EVENTCOM and has also been working alongside his partner, Michel for the last 2 years.
This increases our chances to catch some of Raphaël’s work, should we ever find ourselves in Europe looking for an incredibly well-produced electronic music festival to go to…
When asked if he ever gets down-time, project to project, Raphaël had a great response in saying that despite the events piling up, one on top of the other, and always being in a state of planning or execution, when you love what you do, sure, you may work all the time with little reprieve but the return is tenfold, watching your art come alive, every time.
Few of us would ever be granted such a massive canvas for our work to be shown but Raphaël Ganhy has been a player in the game long enough to almost be considered one of the founders of the game. It isn’t just the skill he puts into his work that makes the difference, it is the emotion behind it too. His earnest goal to create connectivity through technology, music and people is a unique gift unto itself that has left millions of people over the years in awe, with memories to last a lifetime.
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