Going to Africa for a dance music festival is quite a big experience, an ultimate experience. We had the chance to attend the 3rd edition of Fairground Festival in Tunisia last weekend.
We fly from Paris to Tunis for a 3 hour flight, Imene is at the airport to greet us with a big smile. From there we go on a ride to Sousse, 2 hours away from Tunis by car. We check in in our fancy hotel and after enjoying the pool most of the day the next day, Friday, we can finally take the road to the Eco Village where Fairground Festival is taking place–only 30 min away from Sousse. As soon as we arrive we can tell it’s not one of those money-making festivals, this one actually has a concept with locals exposing their art, some amazing fire performances & dancers and a gigantic horse! Black Coffee and Âme are the headliners for tonight, only greatness can come out of that. I would had thought Âme should play first since Black Coffee’s sound is a little more upbeat, however Imene tells me “Âme has been coming here for +15 years”, good point, let’s respect the pioneers.
Mira opens for them with good skills, the dance floor is filling up quickly and soon some 10,000 devoted fans will be arms in the air, jumping, shouting and dancing until sunrise. Black Coffee takes over and makes quite a surprise by dropping a tune he would rarely play anywhere else. Lofti Bouchnak, a Tunisian singer. He is considered a tenor in the Middle East and North Africa. Black Coffee pairs it up with an afro house tune perfectly, the crowd gets so emotional, we’re set for a special night. His set lasts over 2h, he plays also that feel good classic “Music is the answer to all your problems” by Danny Tenaglia, and later on throws a mysterious afro house edit of “Scala” by Agoria. Black Coffee’s turntablist tricks make the crowd goes nuts and place the bar pretty high for the veteran, Âme. The Berliner plays with a rotary mixer, the MP2015 by Rane, and yes, he definitely knows how to use it. We enjoy his set very much but we fell like it’s time to check the “chill stage” for a more intimate vibe.
We get introduced to local favorite Oz – she played a little earlier, and we dance to the beats of Nacim Gastili, another Tunisian DJ showing some great skills behind the decks. The set up is really cool because the DJ booth forms a circle with the ravers dancing all around it, plus the DJ and partygoers can look at each other’s eye. They planned spaces to seat everywhere on grass, we’re millions of miles away from those VIP tables some festivals now require to be seating down comfortably. We go back to hear some of Âme and decide to go back to our hotel.
The next day we meet Sarah, one of the organizers, she doesn’t hesitate to share her thoughts on the scene in Tunisia: “This festival is for the people, it’s for everyone but also for the Tunisian people”. Then she adds: “There are many parties on the beach in Sousse, a lot of them are in hotel resorts, they’re private events Tunisians can’t afford to go to, that’s why we wanted to do something else.” A single day ticket is only 80 dinars – 26 euros, for that you have the biggest DJ in Africa along side cutting edge talents from around the world and an amazing main stage to dance to, you can’t beat it. She goes on with “A lot of the young ravers here are confused, they get distracted with extremism versus the new occident culture, we try to guide them to take the right path”
Of course Africa is not around the corner of Amsterdam, but it’s so worth the trip, why? Because the locals will make you feel special, they will treat you like royalty, even though they just met you on the spot. Also, we learn at the festival if we ask for a cigarette, we never get denied, no one says “no” to that, same thing for water, that’s a Tunisian tradition. Back to the main stage on Saturday, this is the day of the live acts. It starts with Lum, followed by Shkoon, Satori & The Band from Space, Sainte Vie and Nastia for the closing. If you’re not familiar with Shkoon, it’s a dynamic duo formed by a German and a Syrian artist, resulting in what they call “Oriental slow house” but trust me, that massive groove makes everybody move on the dancefloor. Satori transports us very very far, he’s widely known across North Africa and Tunisia in particular. Then comes up Sainte Vie, we had the pleasure to share a ride with him and before hearing his music, the guy is already a piece of art. He was born in Mexico, went to school in Paris and currently resides in NYC, quite a pedigree to say the least. Sainte Vie has earned countless fans while performing at Burning Man with “an uplifting set that took all of our souls on a deep journey into the cosmos” as Mayan Warriors puts it. Sainte Vie doesn’t disappoint, but we decide to take a peek at the chill stage again and then realize sunrise is coming, we’re finally about to see this magical place during daylight.
Sunrise is much earlier than Europe in North Africa, 5:15am in Sousse! The horse seems even bigger, the main stage prettier and everyone has still a nice smile on their face. Here comes the toughest part…leave Fairground Festival, our dear friend Marwen tells us “take the next flight! Stay one more day!” It’s really tempting but we got to get back to reality at some point. With a heavy heart, we say good bye to our Tunisian friends and yes we will be back.