Last weekend, one of the world’s most exotic cities – Marrakech, Morocco, hosted the third annual Oasis Festival. This 2017 edition, which featured as the event’s biggest to date, was a multi sensory barrage the likes of which few could have truly been ready for.
For those unfamiliar, Marrakech is (one of) Morocco’s most important and historical cities. A fortified expanse that dates back (officially) to the 8th and 9th centuries, the city has acted as a seminal outpost for trade and culture since its inception. Upon arrival, one is immediately struck by the consistency of the architecture – red walls enclose everything from palaces to markets with vast open areas dotting the in-betweens. The city itself is separated into two eras – old & new. The old area, which is more commonly referred to as the Medina, features many of the atmospheric elements traditionally associated with Moroccan culture, like its famous outdoor markets (souks), narrow streets, and traditional architecture (of which the city’s famous – and largest – place of worship, the Koutoubia Mosque holds prominence). Lining these streets are people of all descriptions selling everything from woodwork to handwoven garments, carpets to hookahs (and possibly a little something to go inside the latter as well), each within the expected haggle parameters as engrained into cultural nuance as are the country’s mint teas (drink them!) and Hamman massage (do it!). Wildlife like Monkeys, Snakes (even Cobras), Chameleons, Turtles, and others are also on hand for show and sale – although, even a photograph will cost you – something, a nature-less person like myself is always drawn to.
The new city is a result of the country’s latest initiative to boost tourism to some 20 million people by 2020. Set by its King Mohammed VI, the initiative sees a massive allocation of funds into things like resorts, hotels, golf courses, shopping centers, and (of course) the ever necessary luxury apartment market. Naturally, such initiatives manifest themselves in a variety of ways – both positive and negative, with the former being the country’s undeniable development, cleanliness, and stability within the region, and the latter being a certain sacrifice of self-culture to entice those with Western inclinations who are able to travel in the kind of “comfort” and “style” used to. It is part of this newfound focus that sees the likes of Oasis Festival playing a seminal role in the development and appeal of the area, which it does with a carefully considered hand.
As much an experience as it is a festival, Oasis is one of those events that seems to harness enthusiasm from all around. From an up-for-it crowd to an organisational team focused on the maintenance of local culture; From artist performances each featuring that little something extra, to a massive, free roaming location at the foot of the snow capped Atlas Mountains, Oasis Festival simply is a must experience event for those who love dance music, but also for those who simply love adventure.
Held at The Source, an expansive resort some may find as located in “the middle of nowhere,” the cactus adorned desert scape is actually far from it. A stone’s throw away from any number of cultural and nature driven experiences, The Source held the perfect location for such an event…with intimate stages, plenty of space to roam, diverse areas for relaxation, and enough amenities for the organizational crowd to operate with efficiency, it never got tiring to explore what was offered on location.
Across its four days, Oasis Festival brought a diverse lineup of International acts from across the spectrum of electronic music to this stunning location. The first day, a more abridged opening concert style affair, saw a massive 7+ hour set from Diynamic‘s Solomun, which took the big man’s trademark sound well into the morning hours. Then, beginning on Friday, the full festival program kicked off…each day featuring a slightly different selection of artists who would ultimately play across the festival’s pool laden, Oasis Arena or its more intimately set, amphitheater-esque Arena Stage. Of its many artists, each seemed to look at Oasis Festival as a showcase stop on their respective tours. The extra effort was obvious and palpable with such prominent artists like KiNK and Young Marco (for example) each turning in multi-hour sets high on energy, smiles, and effort…with the latter providing one of the more diverse selections of dance music I had heard throughout the summer season and the former, currently going viral with his audience participating synth improvisations, continued the trend with a lucky front row reveller…providing the kindest man in dance a perpetual ear to ear grin over his three hour performance.
The Arena Stage saw a bit more techno oriented sounds with Friday highlights coming from the likes of Willow and Dolan Bergin b2b Move D, however it was a relentless Saturday lineup which really captured my attention throughout. From the eclecticism of Dekmantel favorite Call Super to the extraterrestrial commuicae of Dr Rubenstein, the Arena Stage on Saturday was a place of experimentation and energy. By the time Detroit’s black mask clad DJ Stingray closed down the area at some 7am, I can almost guarantee that insides, brains and psyches had been rearranged thoroughly, with a no bullshit musical education applied along the way. On the day, and perhaps on the festival as a whole, the discovery of SHED was a top moment for me. I’m sure many of the purists out there had already been familiar with the name but I was not. The artists selection of manic Techno, broken beats and leftfield electro was unlike anything I hear while home in Amsterdam…a fearless set of bipolar mechanisms which I hope to experience much more of as the years go by.
Another highlight of the day came on the Main Stage as something of a surprise. When the news came in that Maceo Plex had missed his flight and was unable to attend, festival headliner Nicholas Jaar was tasked with a two hour DJ set (he had already been scheduled for a live set on the festival’s Sunday) on the Oasis Stage. Can I just say that Nicholas Jaar has always been hit or miss for me. I find many productions great, but have my questions on his construction and energy in live performances. With that said, Jaar’s DJ Set was simply THE SET OF THE FESTIVAL. No question. Any write up simply wouldn’t do the atmosphere created justice…nor the track selection. There was Rihanna, Techno, Samba, Afro Tech, Highs, Lows, extended interludes and never a dull moment. It simply was an otherworldly experience and the kind laid out by a master of music, but also of intellect…an intangible becoming more and more vital to the ever discernible tastes of the International electronic music faithful.
Naturally, there were many more experiences and sets to be discussed, which we can all do so over a coffee at ADE or a (in the spirit of it all) hookah at my place, but of note also came sets from (the always reliable) Marcel Dettmann, London’s fast rising Phonox resident HAAi, the charismatic Tijana T, and Amsterdam’s own Patrice Baumel. Each artists offered there own atmosphere, which was ultimately completed by the top notch production ad organization of Oasis Festival as an event. Sound systems were crisp, lights were colorful, food options were plentiful, tasty, and diverse, crowds were sexy, and never was their a dull moment across this one-of-a-kind event’s four days. Put simply, Oasis Festival (and the city that hosts it) are must visits on any curious world travellers list.
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All Photos Courtesy of The Oasis Festival