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Colombian singer Shakira performs with Argentine record producer and songwriter Bizarrap on the Sahara Stage.
Colombian singer Shakira performs with Argentine record producer and songwriter Bizarrap on the Sahara Stage.

Lana, Tyler, Doja headline Coachella where Swift rumored to appear

Hordes of music fans were arriving in California’s Coachella Valley for the premier arts festival that began Friday and features headliners Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat and Tyler, the Creator. No Doubt - the group fronted by Gwen Stefani, which reached peak fame in the 1990s - will also reunite onstage for the first time since 2015. And rumors are flying that none other than Taylor Swift, the megastar currently on break from her blockbuster, billion-dollar Eras tour, could make a surprise appearance on the festival grounds dramatically flanked by the San Jacinto Mountains. Swift is not on the lineup but speculation is abuzz that she could appear on stage with friend Lana Del Rey or with rock band Bleachers - which is fronted by Jack Antonoff, her longtime producer. It would also be the perfect moment to promo her forthcoming album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” which drops April 19.

But hopeful fan gossip aside, it’s far from Coachella’s buzziest year. Ticket sales were sluggish compared to seasons past, although prices have remained in the $500 range for general admission and over $1,000 for VIP passes.

A decade ago, Coachella entries were snapped up within an hour. This year, weekend one took a month to sell out, while the second round - for which the lineup essentially remains the same - still has tickets up for grabs.

The 2024 edition follows a hard act. Last year, Bad Bunny helmed a historic year in which none of the major acts were white for the first time and where the reggaeton titan was the first Spanish-language and Latin American act ever to headline.

And another group with an insatiable fan base, K-pop group Blackpink of South Korea, was in 2023 the first top-billed Asian act. Meanwhile, reclusive R&B artist Frank Ocean notoriously dropped out of the second weekend after his initial set was inordinately delayed over a leg injury, angering many fans.

Virtual star, Latin revolution

Despite the slump in sales, Coachella 2024 features an eclectic line-up including many international acts, a consistent trend at the festival originally centered on alternative rock. Japan’s famed virtual singer Hatsune Miku - a Vocaloid software voicebank whose personification is a teen girl with turquoise hair - will make a Coachella debut after originally being booked for 2020.

The “artist” - who is not real - began as a virtual instrument in 2007, and has grown into a cultural icon, touring since 2014. The stage production will include visuals and a live band.

“We have no idea what to expect from the crowd...and the crowd doesn’t know what to expect,” said Riki Tsuji, who is on the business team of Crypton Future Media, the company behind Hatsune Miku. “I’m sure we’re going to have a ton of people who... have probably never heard of Hatsune Miku before,” Tsuji told AFP.

The Grammy-nominated Cimafunk will become the first Cuban-born artist to ever play Coachella, bringing his brand of Afro-Cubano funk inflected with disco and horns to the desert.

He is among the plethora of Latin acts that also include Puerto Rico’s fast-rising star Young Miko along with Peso Pluma, the Mexican superstar who broke into the global mainstream with a string of hits over the past year. Both are among the artists who have collaborated with Argentina’s Bizarrap, one of the most streamed Latin American artists in the world whose recording partnerships have also included Shakira and Residente.

Saint Levant, the Jerusalem-born artist of Palestinian, Algerian, French and Serbian origins - who spent much of his childhood in Gaza - will take the stage after finding fame across social media, including for his 2023 hit “From Gaza With Love.”  Britain’s influential grime star Skepta will also perform, his second turn at the festival after debuting in 2017. And none other than Sublime -- the 1990s stoner reggae rock group beloved for hits including “Santeria” -- will perform, with the late frontman Brad Nowell’s son Jakob leading the way. Coachella 2024 will take place April 12-14 and 19-21.-AFP

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