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Ozora Festival 2015 Review

Ozora Festival is an ever growing entity, an alternate way of thinking, a glimpse into what can be achieved by the collective spirit

Globally we are busy experiencing an awakening, a realisation that we don’t have to conform to convention. Freedom exists within arm’s length of us all, it’s only the conscious decision to be free that stands between us and a life truly lived. We all possess the ability to bring about change in our own realities, but collectively the possibilities become infinite.

Ozora Festival is an ever growing entity, an alternate way of thinking, a glimpse into what can be achieved by the collective spirit. For just over a week we come together in a way so natural to us, yet so unfamiliar from the world we know, to celebrate life and create magic which will resonate with us long after the festival gates have closed, and the last Ozorian has wondered from paradise.

Last year I was running through the streets of Amsterdam to catch my flight to Ozora. This year was to be a much calmer affair. I was making my way from Cape Town, South Africa. My trip started on Friday, 31 July, when I caught an evening flight to arrive in Budapest the following afternoon.

Upon arriving I was greeted by my friend, Nick. Someone I have clocked several psy miles with back home. To see him was epic, and the fact that we were going to be in Ozora together was something almost unfathomable to me at the time. He had other South Africans with him, faces I didn’t know, but people I would definitely bond with in the coming week. We all spent the night in the beautiful city of Budapest, collecting supplies and catching up, before embarking upon a journey we would not soon forget.

The next morning, the numerous rums we had consumed the night before didn’t seem to be slowing us down, as we headed to the airport to catch our bus to the paradise city. A two hour trip through the quaint Hungarian countryside lead us to the always heart-warming ‘welcome to paradise’ sign that greets you as you enter the Ozorian grounds. The palpable excitement was bubbling through even in the presence of scotching heat. Once armbands were acquired it was time to find a place to call home. Where you camp at Ozora is pretty important, it does influence your party in many ways. There’s no bad place to camp, don’t get me wrong, each area offers something different, whether it be solitude from the music, or being close to the food stalls, showers or a particular dancefloor.

I set up camp near the Dragon’s Nest to be centrally located, while others I was with had camp already set up for them by few fellow South Africans. The trick now was to find their new home. Luckily this was an organised bunch of hippies we were dealing with, and they had left detailed instructions and a map of their whereabouts on the Ozora notice board.

With everyone now having a base camp, we began to relax and make some new friends, the first of which were my lovely neighbours, Shana and Abeq, who would feel like family by the time I left the festival, crazy how that can happen, hey?

Under the chill out dome, Goa Gil was busy playing a 24 hour marathon set, which actually extended to 28 hours, but really whose counting. This special pre-party set was creating a mystifying energy, ironically under the dome known for its soothing chill out. Goa Gil was glitchy and fast, music I struggled to move to, but upon leaving the dome I did feel an incredible sense that something unique was going on under there. My first evening in Ozora was so refreshing; I danced on the Pumpui, wondered through the art gallery and gazed over the festival grounds from on top of the Mirador.

I also managed to go see the Freak Fusion Cabaret in the Circus. I was so impressed by the cabaret show, I think I found a way of mentioning it in nearly every conversation I had the next day. It really was that good, I hope I encouraged some other people to go check it out. What a collection of talented individuals Ozora is, almost everywhere you look there is a master of their craft, or at least someone willing to try and learn something new, it’s inspirational, it’s infectious, it just makes sense. This world where we urge one another to achieve more, rather than looking enviously at what others have.

The next morning, Monday, 3 August, after getting to bed at a respectable hour, I ventured through the corn fields to the other side of the festival grounds where the majority of the South Africans were camped. This tented village was tranquil, although a rather excited few had not yet come home from the night before. The route I had taken through the corn was slightly quicker than the other walkway beside the wall of clay carvings. I guided new friends Warren and Natasha to the main festival area on my back, before going to shower and get some dinner. I by chance met up with them once more while walking to the chill out dome for the collective Om.

The parade starts from the Artibarn, where many spent the day designing their outfits; it then passes through the chill out collecting people and leads them to the opening ceremony. The collective Om is a powerful practice of sound reverberation that can lead to a deep dreamless state of consciousness. Om is the primordial sound from which the Universe was created. Yoga calls it ‘Shabd Brahman’ or God as sound/vibration. It advocates that by meditating on Aum, one can reach subtle levels of consciousness, those that have the ability to unite one with the god. On a collective level the effect gets synergistic, well that’s the idea anywhere. I believe the effectiveness of any practice lies within the experience taken from it.

The opening ceremony on the main stage was simply crazy. Mongolian dressed horse riders rode down the meadow-side to circle the dancefloor area, before hurling flaming arrows into the unlit fire, igniting its’ light for the first time and signalling the beginning of the festival. The crowd ran onto the dancefloor like a steady wave of energy passing through the ocean. They just kept on coming as if never to cease, it was only in this moment that we realised the magnitude of this year’s gathering, and it was immense.

A dance performance was followed by the first main stage act of the festival, the legendary Juno Reactor. This beautiful live band performance certainly captured my heart. The most memorable song for me was Pistolero, the crowd interaction before playing it I think also added an element of excitement.

Nano Records founder, Regan, took us on a wild evening adventure next. Blasting handpicked pure psychedelic gems, this would be one of the top night sets of the festival. A favourite in this collection of beauties was Magik – Rainforest, a relative newcomer to the Nano family, this guy is set to take the world by storm.  Next I discovered Obliviant (Justin Chaos & Liftshift), the unpredictably groovy Looney Moon wizards. A highlight of their set was Loonacy (Dust & Obliviant) – The goof.

I hope one day soon to see a Loonacy Live set, maybe even in Ozora, who knows, all I do know is that the Obliviant guys are cooking up some seriously tasty bite size chunks of psychedelica, and their debut EP ‘Up All Night’ is fast coming up on the horizon. The energy on the first night is always unbelievable. It’s as if everyone has found their way home, and the excitement of coming to Ozora can finally begin to radiate into something more.

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The next morning, Tuesday, 4 August, after a shower, I went to grab an omelette and sat on the hill nearest to the wooden Adam and Eve structures. This is where I would enjoy my breakfast before spiralling into a wonderfully mad day. It was my friend Nick’s birthday, and we were determined to make it a day he would never forget. The morning sets were cooking with Back to Mars, Outsiders and Psysex, all playing, but it was when Liftshift took control of a fiery afternoon that the party kicked into hyper-drive.

This was definitely one of the standout performances of the festival for me. Deep fresh progressive psychedelic vibrations could be felt immersing your body in a hypnotic state. I remember Liftshift – Plant Life (2015 Remake) featuring Ariel Electron being played, with the sample ‘It’s the spirit of Gaia through the plant life’, it really was a full bodied track with a lot of colour to it.

Next was the Nano triple threat of Sonic Species, Future Frequency and Avalon, to close off the day.  Having witnessed these UK psy magicians recently in Cape Town, I thought I knew what to expect, but as is so often the case in Ozora, artists raise their game and preview all kinds of unreleased frequencies. Stand out tracks of the day would definitely be Symbolic & Sonic Species – Alma Libre and Avalon Vs Electric Universe – One Giant Leap, watch out for these two livewire releases.

As the music came to rest, we moved towards a waving South African flag on the dancefloor. Here we were greeted by new faces who would accompany us to the Pumpui for an all mighty shakedown. We danced our hearts out to intelligence techno music, embracing the incredible spirit in the air on this evening. As night fell, so we ventured back to the main stage for the legendary Goatika performance.

The Goatika Creative Lab is a unique project that has united gifted musicians from all around the world. Based in exotic Goa, this thriving collective inspires creativity through intuitive, innovative, and improvisational performances, rooted in the deep, magical vibrations of North Goa. Hearing Goatika – The Sun Over the Storm will be forever be etched into my memory, the organic memories and subtle guitar riffs really reminded me of the elements of psychedelic music I fell in love with in the first place.

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We were a beautifully inebriated mess of brilliance at this point, proceeding to group hugged my friend, Nick, to sing what can only be described as the most passionate attempt at a happy birthday we’ve ever expelled from our lungs. It was a truly epic moment to be in the psychedelic epicentre of Ozora, celebrating life, and doing it with such vibrant souls. Justin Chaos was blasting like there was no tomorrow, but that’s just what he does.  As impressive as last year, I felt completely satisfied for the evening after his set, and decided it was time to refill the energy banks with some rest.

The next morning, Wednesday, 5 August, I was feeling pretty familiar with my morning routine of a shower and some sustenance to kick-start the day. So quesadilla in hand, I walked the main pathway toward the dancefloor, where I found friends from the day before and invariably proceeded to get acquainted with some morning beers. Goa Jonas, the man behind the infamous Antaris Project Festival hosted in Germany earlier in the summer, was on the decks, throwing down perhaps the top morning set of Ozora this year. The full power psychedelic fever was not soon to pass as Spectra Sonics and Burn in Noise were poised to follow.

On this morning we chilled out at the new butterfly house just beside the main stage, this impressive structure is the latest addition to the Ozorian dreamland, and also boasts a magnificent lookout point at its peck. With the music driving, our bodies were vibrating at a new frequency to sounds such as Burn In Noise Vs Shekinah – Emerge. It’s sometimes hard to catch your breath when each day erupts so quickly, before you know it you are dancing like a wildling being drenched with glorious flurries of water from the fire-trucks.

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Iboga boys, Critical Choice started the afternoon transition into some deeper funkier progressive sounds, with Emok continuing to play this solo DJ set afterward.  I first saw Emok play recently when he visited Cape Town for a love and light day party, where he closed things off with an exceptional bang. So my expectations were high going into it, but I think it’s fair to say they more than fulfil as he delivered a solid thumbing cutting edge progressive set, which was easily engageable and featured many unreleased tracks.

A highlight was hearing Ace Ventura & Captain Hook – Jolly Roger (Future Frequency Remix), although throughout the whole set the energy on the dancefloor was huge, the crowd was so receptive to each reverberation and one another, it was symbiotic, it was natural, simply put it was a beautiful celebration of coexistence.

We wandered from the dancefloor to have dinner at Green Fusion, a place I only earlier in the day discovered who were serving up the most delicious vegan meals around. I’m no vegan myself, nor am I a vegetarian, but these meals revolutionised my festival.With a galvanised stomach I parted ways with some friends who were camping corn side, as the sunset saw D-Nox & Beckers take over the Pumpui for a 7 hour techno extravaganza.

Every year their set is highly anticipated, and rightfully so, the tech gods tend to always give us something extra special in Ozora. I had connected to the wifi and checked my phone just prior to their set. When doing so I got a message from the head of Psymedia, who was unable to attend, saying, “get your ass down to the Pumpui for D-Nox & Beckers”. I think it’s safe to say we on the same page musically.

Day soon turned into night and after the break Highlight Tribe took to the stage, bringing the dancefloor to near capacity, as the crowd stretched back as far as the bar for the first time since the opening ceremony, a clear indication of their popularity and the excitement surrounding the live act. This instrumental band produces organic sounding rifts which emulate that of electronic dance music, but coming from a natural source it is in essence pure psychedelic trance music, created right in front of you, that is Highlight Tribe. Once I had witnessed this phenomenal performance my dancing for the day was done as I retreated to revel in an early nights slumber.

Practically rising anew the following morning, which was now Thursday, 6 August, I headed out with a proverbial spring in my step. Walking toward the dancefloor I would see the awfully familiar face of another fellow Cape Towian psy nut walking beside me, it was amazing how many of us made the journey this year, and what was even better was how easily we seemed to stumble across one other. It was time to get down to business, psychedelic business that is, as Gorgo was playing some slick older progressive tunes, including a personal favourite of mine Koi Boi – Pc Pitch.

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Next up was the formidable Scandinavian sound master Gaudium, playing tracks from his new album ‘Stories of a Viking’. It was to be said that he played one of the best sets this year, it was electrifying punchy and powerful, with that unique northern European twist to it. I particular enjoyed the song ‘Wrong Theory’, this song is a living breathing organism of its own accord, or at least that’s who it seemed on that fine Ozorian morning. I had given the album a listen when it first came out earlier in the year, but it didn’t grab me like perhaps his previous releases have, but hearing it live I soon realised just how much of an oversight I had made.

I had plotted, with the help of trusted friend, and wingman, Phil, to dart around the different dancefloors today, to catch some unique acts we wanted to see. Our first stop was the Pumpui for UK based psychedelic techno act Nanoplex. Their ‘On the Way to Ozora‘ mix had been in my work playlist for the last few months, and with a fair amount of space on the dancefloor, it seemed like the appropriate time for some experimental dance moves.

They don’t serve alcohol at the Pumpui bar, but rather offer refreshing topical juices to sip on while you enjoy your techno adventure. Nanoplex had impressed, but it was now time to collect the bottle of Jägermeister I had stored in an icy shelter, and head back main stage side to poison our friends, and get a little weird. When trying to retrieve my bottle of medicine, a funny language barrier presented itself, as I was first handed a plate of food from the fridge rather than the bottle.

This day was to be dubbed the unofficial progressive session of the festival, as things slowed down and got a little groovier. Ticon were in command of things playing tracks such as ‘Hops of Hades’, giving the dancefloor life, animating an already energetic crowd. The days were scorching as temperatures continued to climb as the week progressed. It was pushing close on 40 degrees, and just before Son Kite preformed Regan reminded all Ozorians to take care of themselves and each other in the radical Hungarian heat.

The gesture was well received, and I think it’s always important to take a step back from the party for a moment, and remember that looking after yourself is your top priority. I will never forget what a German guy once said to me in a festival, he said, “the stronger you are feeling the better dance you can have”, and I never forgot that. Sometimes it’s not about how many hours you dance for, but rather being present in those moments when you do choose to lose yourself in the music. Just some food for thought, use it, don’t use it, it’s entirely up to you.

The pioneering sound of System 7 wrapped things up for the day on the main stage, a day with a calmer, more tranquil energy on the dancefloor, which at this stage was quite refreshing.

As the music faded, so our bodies began to drift toward the comforting sands of the Chill-out dome. This is where Kayla Scintilla was hypnotising dancers with the smoothest downtempo around. From the mountains of Australia, he really is someone making authentic, unique music, packed full of emotion.

In this moment I felt happiness, I experienced a wave of appreciation for what was happening around me, I could feel the magic in the air, it was real. I had been in Ozora for nearly a week now, and I think it’s the way of life you keep falling in love with year after year. Perhaps this is home, perhaps we are merely traveling the rest of the year, waiting to reunite with our brothers and sisters under the stars.

After mild revelations, I satisfied my hungry and went to see an old friend blow people away on the Dragon’s Nest Stage. Originally from Cape Town, the Berlin based busking gypsy, Alice Phoebe Lou, captured the hearts of the crowd with her powerful range and thought provoking lyrics, in a performance that saw the audience rise in unison at its apex. An incredibly talented little individual, Alice is an inspiration to all those still indecisive about throwing caution to the wind and perusing their dreams.

I almost subconsciously embarked upon a sneaky shower quest, before stocking up on some chocolate milks for the imminent Yuli Fershtat techno session about to go down on the Pumpui. The next 3 hours were pretty indescribable, my body moved effortlessly to the swift melodies of tracks old and new, a wonderful concoction of rhythm was developing as a master was a work.

The Pumpui was a bustling caldron of dancers, celebrating the simplicity of this moment. We danced because we were happy; we danced because nothing else matter. It’s said that, “To be in a moment truly, you need to allow this moment to be”, have truer words ever been spoken? Surrendering myself to this moment, I have to say this was probably the most memorable set from Ozora this year.

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When the dust settled and the main stage reopened, it was Zenon Records’ dark progressive genesis, Hypogeo, who was playing some of that ‘welcome to a creepy forest’ madness. I’m a big Zenon Records fan, so even though my legs were sort of giving in at this point, I’m glad I got to experience some of the chucky sounds and ridiculously rad stage visuals on display. Night time in Ozora the mappings transport you to a whole new world, well thought out design concepts really add an element of the spectacular to an already beautiful environment.

Friday, 7 August, was set be one of the biggest days in Ozora, so I was up early ready to blast off to some Laughing Buddha. What followed was something I’m sure many of you have seen by now, the Loud Band live performance, captured by multiple cameras, their whole set can be seen online. What is clearly evident from the footage is just how wild the crowd were going, the energy being created before me was quite unreal, yet at the same time it was just another day in paradise. There were two stand out tracks for me, Tandu – Alien Pump (Loud vs Oforia Remix), and of course the special version of ‘Small Talk’, which they closed with.

Next up was the mighty Astrix, a producer most artists call ‘The King’, high praise indeed, but not a misguided description, which becomes quickly apparent once you witness him live. Needless to say pandemonium ensued as the fire-trucks were pumping out enough water to grow a small garden, and ‘The King’ was laying down some serious daytime sound. An energetic set, featuring unreleased tracks like Astrix – Jaadu, moved the dancefloor in an organic way. 

Fellow Israelis Perfect Ace took over to deliver a techno progressive psy-fusion set to close off the day. This was the first time Perfect Stranger and Ace Ventura have played together in Ozora, a truly epic moment for both artists, the crowd and psy-trance culture as a whole.

Living in a digital age, the world’s eyes were on Ozora Festival, while my eyes remained firmly fixed on the rapturing dancefloor which lay before me. Two really engaging tracks in the set were Rocky – Paganka, from the new Rocky album ‘Conflict of Rhythm’, and Future Frequency – Naked, Stoned & Exalted (Symbolic vs Audiotec Remix), out soon on Sourcecode Transmissions.

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We continued to get silly in the forest surrounds where I camped, sharing some sort of THC ball which at first seemed fairly harmless, but about 20 minutes after ingesting this little homemade treat, we found ourselves on the precipice of highness. This was a feeling I’m not too familiar with now-days, considering I don’t smoke the green monkey, the stinky cabbage, the Zulu’s salad, or whatever you may call it. The euphoria was enjoyable, behavioural changes were quite evident, and the fact that we were venturing toward the dancefloor was rather brave.

The improvisational psyfunk-reggae live collective, Novelty Engine, were performing for the first time, on the main stage. The cast of performers involved was quite something with Cedric Myton and R.Zee Jackson on vocals, Dick Trevor and OTT on live FX & keyboards, Ajja on guitar, keyboards & programming, supported by Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Dymons and Vlastur on the guitar, keyboard, bass and percussion respectfully. This act was totally different to anything else I had witnessed in the past week. It was hard to believe that this refreshingly groovy sound was being made completely spontaneously.

Next we got Spongled by Simon Posford, before delving into an X-Dream, pretty humbled by the astonishing music I was hearing, I swayed to the rhythm. Whether my eyes were open while I did so, I predict will remain a mysterious, but what I do know is that I had lost my flip flops somewhere along the way, yet I didn’t care, not in this moment anyway. I was floating in a sea of radiating souls, and as I wandered from the dancefloor I could see this city was alive.

Fast forward to Saturday, 8 August, the heat was real, getting an early start, much like myself. Feeling weathered by the insatiable climate, I spent some time at the Artibarn, watching different performances, ranging from group instrumental music creation to visual kids puppetry, and resting my head occasionally. We could hear Raja Ram playing from on top of the hill, but couldn’t muster the strength to participate.

Prometheus and Hallucinogen’s set times swopped around, so I managed to get to the main stage late afternoon for the legendary Hallucinogen by Simon Posford. I think the retro styled sets are highly valued in Ozora, a true appreciation for the primordial soup of the scene exists here, which could not be more evident than when Hallucinogen – Gamma Goblins played.

This was one of the rare occasions I went backstage and actually managed get some visual memorabilia from the festival. I could not have picked a better time though, as Merkaba was about to perform. Accompanied by the beautiful, Eve, they kept the crowd enthralled at dusk, on a day when there would be no break in the music.

Along my walk back to the tent, I sat upon a wooden boat in the magic garden, near the herbal tea bar, where I watched a magician perform tricks of illusion, merriment and humour. There was interpretive dance and movement practices happening under the Pyramid in the distance, another circus show was about to begin, everywhere I looked there was entertainment, laughter and joy, playful abandonment as far as the eye could see.

Some may think such a place could never exist, but it does, and this world teaches us to appreciate the things we are lead to believe we don’t have enough time for in the ‘real world’. What we choose to see as valuable is somewhat misguided, yet when immersed in an environment of natural origins, it’s as if we sober up from our mild-less states, and become aware of life’s beauty once more.

Main stage side, it was prime time, with Lucas showing off his new Avant Garden compilation, featuring the banger Lucas & Laughing Buddha – Revel With The Devil. When it comes to full-on night-time psychedelic, Lucas is pretty much the cream of the crop, along with Tristan and perhaps Electric Universe now days, this is of course personal preference, but I do have a hutch I’m probably not far off.

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Aphid Moon also gave us a taste of what he’s been working on with cracking tracks such as Killerwatts – All Seeing Eye (Aphid Moon Remix). This was to be my last night in the festival, and with my body feeling attuned with the music, I was ready to make the most of it.

I headed up to the Dragon’s Nest to see Ott & The All Seeing Eye play songs from the new album ‘Fairchildren’. The visuals in the Dragon’s Nest were outrageous, it was as if I had entered an even more mystical environment, was this even possible? My favourite track of this awe inspiring set was Ott – The Queen of All Everything. If you ever find yourself in a festival where Ott is performing, do yourself a favour, go see him play live and sample the sweet sonic nectar for yourself.

I was running a little late for my date with Ajja on the main stage, so I darted down the steep descent from the artist camp to enter the fray once more. Ajja was playing the track Yab Yum – Earthquake, from Timecode Sangoma Record’s Himavat Dāna (Nepal Benefit compilation) released earlier this year in aid of the disaster. Ajja’s family were once again presence on stage creating a live art piece to accompany his set of wicked squelchology.

Finding remnants of responsibility I retired to bed soon after Ajja. The need to replenish my energy supply before travelling was a reality. The following morning, Sunday, 9 August, I enjoyed a Turkish breakfast with Shana and witnessed Earthling drop the powerfully enchanting Waio – Polen Planet, with some saucy Polish vocals, from the newly released Waio album ‘Supernowa’. Once packed up and ready to go, I chilled out at the Artibarn one last time before catching my shuttle to the airport.

It was sad to miss the last afternoon of the festival, but what an unbelievably memorable edition it was. To all those I shared a moment with, thank you for one wild, wonderful, and harmonious week in paradise. Ozora has a way of stealing your heart, there’s no doubt of about that, but it also gives you so much in return for surrendering that heart. Let us reflect on the week we shared together vibrating at the same frequency, and let that echo into our daily lives. Until we meet again next year, stay lovely fellow Ozorians.

Oh yes, one last thing, do go check out the individual albums of each photographer and enjoy the visual wonderment. They captured beautiful moments in time, that help us realise that this wasn’t a dream, but in fact a vision of a far clearer reality.

Photos by Yonatan Benaksas, Pawel Wieloch, Ildikó Répáczky, Gotticon Photography, Jesse Thompson, Sofiane Bouchard, Peter Nemeshazi, Amit Itach, Guigui Photographie and Shahar Ratzenberg

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