When I think of Ozora I think of growth, a symbolic representation of the power of the collective. Rewind 10 years and the dance floors were still humble spirits in comparison to how we see them vibrate nowadays. Vision, determination, and many creative energies have made this place what is it today, and let’s not forget without you Ozorians this meadow may never have become one of the most beautiful ever changing landscapes on earth.
Each year more infrastructure is built to increase comfort, and improve the overall Ozorian experience for all. This year one of the newest editions to the landscape was of course the lake situated close to the main stage, an incredible feat creating this body of water in just a year. What was even more incredible though, was the respectful response received upon the news that it was not to be opened this year as it was not quite ready yet.
During the week we share together you often have these realisations of how this way of living could be sustainable, not to live in a festival, but to live together and co-exist harmoniously the way we do when we come together in Ozora each year.
Okay, let me run you through my week in paradise, and the adventure to get there. After a few days in Budapest, we took the train to Simontornya, and then caught the bus to the festival. Pro tip never take the train. This was my first time taking the train instead of the shuttles from the airport, and it took much longer, almost the entire day.
Nevertheless, I met some lovely people during my time packed into the overcrowded wooden train, I think it was the fact that we were pretty much sweating on one another that truly bonded us.
Once at the festival, life was good. I settled in, had a shower and went exploring. Goa Gil was doing his thing under the chill out dome, he was 24 hours in and counting. The parade was starting through the festival grounds on their way to the main stage for the opening ceremony. We ventured up to the top of the meadows to witness the beginning of what was to be a momentous edition of Ozora.
This was my third time seeing this special ritual of running onto the dancefloor, and it was as moving as ever to see the magnitude of the festival, how many people had come together to celebrate life, dance and experience freedom collectively.
In these moments you realise the illusion of separateness we are fed in our daily lives, this idea that for some to prosper others need to suffer. Perhaps society tries to pit us against each other, when in fact togetherness is the only thing that makes any sense at all.
Let’s get our bearings, this was Monday, 31st July, and the first act on the main stage was Ott and The All-Seeing I, definitely the most beautiful opening to an Ozora I’ve seen. When I heard Queen of Everything and Harwell Dekatron it was like transcending through sound.
I think in the sonic landscape we find ourselves in today, where so many artists sound similar to one another, those who push to create the most unique signature sound really deserve to be admired, and Ott is the epitome of this ambition.
Avalon played the first psytrance set on the main stage, blasting from the get go in true Ozorian style. It felt as though the connection between the artist and the crowd was particularly strong for this opening, as if we really did share this flight together.
The next stop this evening was going to see the Gaudi Allstar Orchestra at the Dragons Nest stage, this was an absolute privilege, and a definite highlight for me as it was my first time seeing him perform.
The Dragon’s nest creates its own energy, vibrating at a different pace, it exposes you to some unfathomable combinations of sound. To end off the evening I caught Looney Moon label head, Phobos, laying it down on the main stage.
8am Tuesday morning, 1 August, I quickly realised my tent was not fully in the shade and it was time to swiftly vacate this pressure cooker of a pop up tent I was to call home for the next week. Luckily there was some nearby shade where I could steal a few extras hours of needed slumber further into the festival.
Soundaholix (GMS & Earthling) were in command of the sonic proceedings on the main stage late morning when I arrived, providing a rather fresh sounding start to the day. Later that afternoon Captain Hook delivered one of the stand out performances of the festival, tracks such as Perfect Stranger – Six Feet Under (Captain Hook Remix), just sending the dancefloor that little further. With each subtlety to the set making sense, this was a perfect example of how you don’t have to kill the dancefloor to play an incredible set.
Techno has become a big influencer in particularly the daytime sounds we hear today, and this reminded me of the unique atmosphere experienced a few years prior when Grouch performed at a similar time, these are rare moments of the most wonderful grooviness.
Zenon Records heavyweight, Evil Oil Man, closed a beautiful day in the valley. If you like it deep, chunky, psychedelic, and squelchy, I think this would have been the day you thrived in Ozora, but by the looks of it everyone was thriving. We really do feed off one another, when you catch a glimpse of that beaming smile contagiously spreading across a dance floor, it’s possible to not feel connected to those you share it with.
As the main stage relinquished its rhythm, I wondered to dinner with some fellow South Africans. I took them to my favourite place to eat in Ozora, Green Fusion. All of the vegan spots in the valley are really good, but Green Fusion and I have an on-going love affair, the flame of which clearly still burns bright.
Well-nourished and ready to blast, we later caught Aardvarkk on the main stage. This new project from Nigel Shiva Valley fuses the nocturnal essence of hi-tech and night time full-on. The Bom Shanka Music painter of psychedelic sounds was one of the stand out night time thrillers of this year’s Ozora.
I looked up and marvelled at the custom designed, hand woven shade structure which sheltered us from the sun in the day, and wowed us with its 2000 hanging LED lights by night. The programmed lights cascaded into the throbbing tree focal point synonymous with the Ozorian landscape.
Wednesday, 2 August, I spent the morning in the artist camp seeing old friends from previous editions, and some familiar faces from back home, such as Julian Graham, Aumega Photography, who was doing live art performances in the Mirador by night. It’s always amazing the vast array of talented individuals that come together each year to decorate this space whether it be with performance or art.
Circuit Breakers were getting freaky dropping their new Die Antwoord remix I had only previously heard in Burn in Noise’s opening set of Boom Festival 2016. I ironically bumped into a friend I had not seen since Boom for this set. I guess there is no better meeting point than the centre of psychedelic culture, Ozora.
On this day 1200 Mics Band performed for the first time in Ozora, with Bansi of GMS making his first return to the stage after illness accompanied by the legendary Raja Ram, Chicago & Riktam, his GMS co-pilot. The reaction to seeing Bansi back in action was electric, and the long awaited 1200 Mics live performance was a memorable moment in the valley.
As evening fell I headed to the Dragon’s Nest for the French act, Panda Dub. Sometimes the best way to discover incredible new music in Ozora is to take the recommendations of those you meet along your week’s journey here, or simply wonder onto a different stage when you do not recognise the name of the person performing. A trusted recommendation lead me to the smooth, soulful, hip hop influenced, breakbeat groove machine, which is Panda Dub.
Conveniently I found myself a short stroll from the Pumpui stage for the Digital Structures showcase. A night of Techno genius lay before us as Gabi 2B lead into the masterous Yuli Fershtat. The techno alter ego of Perfect Stranger, he delivered one of the best sets the Pumpui was to see this year, for 3 hours this quaint dance floor felt a seriously hypnotic pulse.
Thursday, 3 August, the sun seemed to be roaring with a new venom. The Ozorian Prophet did predict a fiery temperature spike from the already warm week we were experiencing in paradise.
I took the path from the Artibarn down through the tunnel of string art to the main stage early, grabbed my first ale of the day, and looked out from the butterfly lounge over the dance floor. The early morning saw only a dedicated few remain on the dance floor.
Just before it hit 11am, and Liquid Soul took to the stage, something remarkable happened. It was as if the majority of the festival were migrating to greener pastures. They were coming from every angle, down the meadows they flowed in anticipation for the emotional awakening Liquid Soul was about to bestow upon them.
Later that day Perfect Stranger & Loud went back to back for the first time in Ozora. A really well thought out pairing of two talented producers whose sounds came together naturally to create one of the greatest daytime sets this year. The techno inspired set featured many tracks from the exciting new Perfect Stranger album, ‘Eleven’, celebrating 11 years of perfectly strange music, set for released on Iboga Records soon.
After an early evening shower it was time for the Novelty Engine to open the main stage once more, but this year was to be a much groovier, funked-out version of the project, appropriately dubbed Novelty Engine for Funk’s Sake. This year the project consisted of: Ajja, Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Dick Trevor, Neil Cowley, Andy Gangadeen, Ludo Ji, Dymons, Braincell, Craig Waller, Pat Turnbridge and Chris Merki, a true union of talented musicians who come together to improvise, and create the psy-reggae act which debuted here in Ozora 2015.
What followed was the new act, Alpha Portal (Ace Ventura & Astrix), going full throttle into the night, vibrating an already steamy dance floor to a new frequency. This set was so strong, it had great purpose, intent and personality throughout. Now and then you hear subtle hints of their progressive roots, but layered in a full power psychedelic sandwich of clean psychedelica.
Friday, 4 August, I was up early to catch Tron from Zero1 Music, who has a new album now entitled Boundless, badass beats inevitably ensued. I managed to acquire an acai bowl before Rinkadink went back to back with Element, showing us the potential of mixing with stems on traktor.
The deep, heavy atmosphere of tracks like Fear is the Mindkiller was the just right kind of morning motivation for me, on what was to be one of the hottest days I have ever experienced in these meadows.
The punishing 39 degree heat wave did not deter this from being a day of pure energy on the dance floor. The excitement for the fire truck’s relieving aqua touch was palpable. Water was the currency in this economy, if you were wet you were happy. Oh, how simple life can be.
A staple in the Ozorian program, Ace Ventura was up next, followed by Astrix, Lucas, and Tristan to close the day on the main stage. A common trend I found this year was the musical ascension from progressive back to full-on to close most days, particularly as we got deeper into the week.
I bummed into a group of friends I went to school with back in Cape Town. After a several double takes, I realised that this was actually happening, they were here with me in the magic valley. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. We threw down moves the likes of which I’m not confident I could replicate.
Early evening is always my favourite time in Ozora, each day it seemed to have even more of a profound effect on me, as my appreciation for this moment grew. I always felt the most free at this time, the sun calm in the distant sky, and the market place bustling with hungry Ozorians.
We got dinner and sat down to watch the robot band, perhaps a tough one to explain if you have not seen it before, but basically it’s a band made up of large hydraulic robots who are digitally controlled, playing songs along one of the main walkways.
Iboga Records label head, Michael Banel was playing a set on the Pumpui stage at the same time, as Behind Blue Eyes. I actually wondered onto the Pumpui without knowing who was playing, and about 4 tracks in, curiosity got the better of me as I checked the program. Suddenly, yes, it made a lot sense why the music was so unbelievably good.
As the night sky blackened, and the warm evening breeze gained momentum, we grabbed an almost customary chocolate and banana flavoured milk from the grocery store near the Pumpui. A seemingly unbreakable habit for me, these treats were a welcome break from all the beer. Tonight was to be an early one, being wing-manned by a someone I met on the dance floor here two years ago, who I today call a good friend, we went to witness Juno Reactor’s charismatic live performance on the main stage.
Saturday, 5 August, I saw Imaginarium from Serbia, and Nano records head honcho, Regan, blasting one of most smoothest morning sessions I had in the festival. Both displayed raw power in their track selection, but created an atmosphere to float easily through the psychedelic subtleties.
The ever changing landscape of Ozora extends further than that of just its physical infrastructure, the people who call this place home for a week change too. Globally psytrance is becoming more popular, more accessible, of course Ozora, being such an almost unbelievable production gathers many admirers who wish to experience it.
I think some are ‘bucket-listers’, those who want to experience the festival only once to tick it off their ‘list’. They perhaps embark upon an intense roller-coaster ride of substances throughout the week, as they attempt to get the most out of something they feel may only transpire once.
Don’t get me wrong substances can be wonderful, they can enhance a moment to a beautiful new perspective, especially when your intention is honest. Whether it be coming to the festival or indulging in a mind bending experience, your intention is always the most important thing. To approach each moment with an open heart will always guide you initiatively.
The thing with Ozora is that you will come back, you take a part of this place with you. It’s a feeling which resonates inside of you, and this is why I could never imagine only coming here once. Change is the only constant in this life, but I think the steps taken by Ozora to limit tickets, and stop weekend passes this year has kept a balance, and the intentions of those attending the festival pure.
The rest of my day consisted of a mushroom trip and a date with Bayawaka under The Dome. The Dome is a truly spectacular space, with beach sand beneath your feet, a Poseidon-like stage, and a diverse blend of chill out dub world sounds. The level of detail in each decor feature under The Dome is quite ridiculous, the psychedelics were definitely a contributing force to me fully appreciating each element in this welcoming sanctuary.
Coming down from the parallel planes my mind was wondering to for the past few hours, I headed to the Chambok House for the meet the DJs talk, featuring Giorgia Gaia (In charge of bookings for The Dome in Ozora), Giuseppe (the owner of Parvati Records), and Markus Henriksson (Minilogue/Son Kite).
I got a prime spot with a cool breeze coming from a nearby fan, and was ready to enjoy the engaging conservation by some influential figures in psytrance culture today. Each panel member spoke from the heart which I think the audience could really sense, and this kind of openness made the conversation very relatable.
Chambok house is a wonderful environment to learn, engage and discover new things. I will never forget the talk Raja Ram gave a few years ago, his life story a truly a wild tale to hear.
Main stage side of life, Atmos was playing a beautiful sunset set, featuring unreleased material from his forthcoming album out early next year on Iboga Records. A rare moment to experience dusk on the main stage, as this is usually when it takes a brake to breathe. This day was set to lead straight into the next, as tomorrow would be the final day of music beneath the big tree.
My last musical excursion of the festival was going to see James Monro perform on the Pumpui. I have never seen so many other artists go down to watch someone preform before, and justifiably so as it was a spectacular display of psychedelic techno. He recently released a new album, ‘In the Ether’, featuring some real gems in it. This 2 hour journey gets the nod as one of the top sets of the festival, and provided a perfect sending off as I was to leave this magical place in the morning.
Leaving the festival, I reflected on the week spent in these paradise fields, realising once again that in this place our differences no longer separated us but brought us closer together, the diversity throughout the festival only added to the vibrant aesthetic of the valley.
Perhaps the secret is not to try change the world entirely, but to take what we learn here, and let it influence us and those we meet in a positive way to create a ripple effect in the universe.
I once heard someone else’s view on Ozora and it stuck with me, they said, ‘This is a magical place like no other you’ve ever seen before. Here there are no boundaries, egos, or expectations, just you and an endless array of colour and beauty.’
What has come about from this endless array of colour and beauty is something which is pretty unreal. Each year Ozora grows, perhaps no longer in attendance with the limited capacity, but the magic city continues to be built. I for one can’t wait to go back, and I’m even more excited to swim in the lake for the first time. Huge thanks to the Ozorian Crew for having us, it’s always a pleasure to spend a week with you!
Words by: Troy Evason