As you may have seen over the last few months, we’ve been featuring a unique event – Fairground Festival – which went down in Sousse, Tunisia 14-15 July.
The festival, which featured a slew of DJs like Adriatique, Mano Le Tough, Unders, Just Emma, Hunter/Game, and Woo York, as well as live performances coming from Satori, Stavroz, Viken Arman, Jonas Saalbach, Oceanvs Orientalvs, and Ninze., was heavy on the more eclectic, ethnic, and nomadic side of the dance music spectrum, which marked a stark contrast to its first year, which featured more Techno, Tech-House and Leftfield music (Marcel Dettmann, Guy Gerber, DJ Koze, Musumeci, The Drifter, Ripperton, Thugfucker, Frankey & Sandrino, Einmusik, Peter Pardeike, Monolink etc). The change in sound, alongside its carefully curated and constructed daily lineups, surely must have made all the difference for this year’s event as its scenic, unique location played beautifully in tune with the esoteric audio emanating from the crisp Funktion One sound systems.
Held at the ECOVILLAGE, a few kilometers outside of Sousse (Tunisia’s primary holiday and tourist destination on its Northern coast), Fairground Festival hosted some 2000 people across its Friday and Saturday run. There was a single Main Stage playing the festival’s guest DJs and local heroes Anemoia and Etereo, with a second stage hosting its locals (Babaya, Khaled Mrabat, Nebila Deussal, and The L Brothers). Upon entering ECOVILLAGE, one is immediately struck by its seclusion and atmosphere. Surely a hippie haven, this enclosed area is vast and undeniably artistic. There are installations and statues lining its grounds, including a massive horse overlooking the Main Stage, a pool, ostrich farm (!) and, for those looking for a more on-site-with-the-earth experience throughout the weekend, bungalows and camping tents were available (although both had been sold out well in advance).
Musically, the festival built its daily lineups quite well with tempos steadily rising throughout, having its live acts morph into full on DJ sets. On day 1, Belgium’s four piece live band Stavroz and France’s Viken Arman held a quality one-two of slightly more downtempo beats, which led into Satori’s slightly more dancefloor oriented live set (a personal festival favorite). As Satori led into the full on melody of Einmusika‘s Jonas Saalbach, whose slightly abridged set did leave the audience craving a bit more, Maeve’s Mano Le Tough would ultimately bring it home for the day’s final 2 hours.
On day two, which also featured a sweltering 40+ degree heat during the afternoon, the festival’s crowd increased to some 1500 people, that day saw Oceanvs Orientalis and Ninze (who’s performance you can check out below courtesy of local Club & Festival videographers Full Fuel. Check out their FB page as this crew is really doing it for the love of the music, much like everyone I met on site in the country), handle live performance duties, ultimately leading into Afterlife & Just This label head Hunter/Game, Diynamic‘s ultimate duo Adriatique and Ukraine’s Woo York bringing the festival hammering things until the wee hours. Day 2 was decidedly more club oriented with Adriatique bringing 2 hours worth of fire to a crowd who seemed to hang onto every beat, clap and boom. Highlights included Tale of Us & Vaal – ‘The Monument’ and &ME – ‘Avalon’.
As a festival, the event seemed to go off without a hitch from an organizational standpoint, which is always impressive. However, it was the focus on visual and production detail that really impressed me. I’d already mentioned the crisp sound that thundered through the speakers throughout the event, but it was also the massive LED display behind the musicians, which frequently grabbed my attention across the weekend. Perhaps a person naturally drawn to visuals, but Day 1 as created by 12gramz and Apachon, and Day 2 as created by Boomj and Mogli, a collection of local A/V artists were a sensory experience to behold. Ranging from psychedelic to informative to slightly scary to galactic, the ever morphing visual element of Fairground (in my opinion) was a definitive highlight. Couple this with a consistent barrage of laser, light, and smoke, and you’ve got yourself a festival!
For me, there was little in my reference that would prepare me for Fairground and its host country. This was the first time I had traveled to the African continent, as well as to an Islamic predominant nation. As we tend to live in an age where media and politics are quick to judge culture and country, it would ultimately be these dynamics which piqued my curiosity to visit. What I saw on the ground was a country and culture looking toward their future, spearheaded by an intelligent and vibrant community of young people each looking to express and create by any means necessary. The passion amongst the crowd, organizers, and artists was palpable…audiences cheering, organizers smiling, artists dancing throughout. Tunisia is one of the planet’s history-rich countries, whose legacy stretches back to the 12th Century when Phoenician immigrants founded ancient Carthage. It is also a country with a prominent role in 21st Century dynamics as its capital Tunis was the catalyst for 2010’s Arab Spring…a grassroots movement which would ultimately inspire the West’s Occupy movement, as well as securing itself as the Arab World’s only full democracy. With that, it comes as a highly recommend country from me, as well as DHA, for a visit, especially from our European audiences. Not only will you experience one of the most passionate dance music scene’s the world has to offer, but you will also educate yourself on a culture and system frequently misrepresented by Western Media. For me, it was an experience unlike any other!
Photo Credits: Moujahed Modjo