In a time where universal uncertainty looms, my mind reflects on last summer’s pilgrimage to paradise. A destined time, coated in nostalgia, yet focused solely on the present. This was my 4th trip to the Hungarian countryside, and after a few days in Barcelona & Budapest, celebrating my birthday, and preparing for a week in a tent, it was once again time to head to the magic meadows.
Travelling with 3 fellow South Africans, we arrived on Sunday, the 28th of July, in amongst some light rain. The atmosphere was anything but dampened though, as we set up camp and began re-immersing ourselves in the Ozorian world. The Pumpui and Dome were already kicking, but the rest of the festival landscape was at peace, filled with revelers, but calm. A welcome tension soon set in as anticipation for tomorrows opening ceremony grew.
This first evening is always one of my favorites, as you get to see Ozora Festival from a unique perspective before things blast off into intergalactic hyper speed. Our first stop was the Mirador art emporium, which offers unparalleled vantage points of the festival. This was followed shortly by a trip to the ever changing Alltribe Circus Cabaret show. The Day Zero Goa showcase was happening under the dome, which we popped into, before grabbing dinner and acclimatizing to this new parallel universe.
Monday, 29 July, the weather was back to typical scorching Hungarian summer temps. We went to check out the lake, a fairly new and recently opened addition to Ozora-land. This much needed body of water offers an opportunity to cool off, and spend time at the nearby chill out floor, the ‘Ambyss’. A strained glass dome shaped art installation sat on the hill above the lake, as you walked down a wooden bridge to the water.
The ultimate intention of Ozora Festival is to connect people from all around the world, and this year’s theme reflected that. It was to be inspired by the symbolism of BRIDGES. Music is obviously the steadiest bridge of all, connecting us on the most fluid level of consciousness, and without limitation, but visual and visionary arts play an integral role in the psychedelic experience too.
Later that day, as the sunset began its descent over the meadow we climbed to the top of the ridge above the mainstage for the opening ceremony. A symbolic awakening which inevitably leaves me with goosebumps every time. Herded between thousands of eager dance floor warriors, much like the sheep who wondered past our tent each morning.
Mongolian horse riders gallop down the meadow shooting arrows into a fire pit at the back of the dance floor, setting the fire ablaze, and breathing life into another edition of Ozora Festival. An endless stream of people ran onto a once empty dance floor from all angels, engulfing it in new energy.
Strontium Dogs were the opening set, a psychedelic techno project by Merv from Eat Static and Nektarios from Martian Arts. Born from their mutual love for old school acid and modern day modular synthesis, they made their debut here at Ozora a few years ago, on the Dragon’s Nest Stage.
Fast forward to the next morning, Tuesday 30 July, the beer was flowing early as we went down to watch Modus from Stereo Society beautifully navigating the mothership. The up and coming Israeli artist has that deep square bass analog sound, and reinterprets it in an original and interesting psychedelic way.
Further musical highlights of the day for me came from on the Pumpui stage, as Pallida (Sweden), Gabriel Le Mar (Germany) & Breger (India) brought out some serious groove bazookas.
The main stage canopy which towered above us was designed by Angéla Thiesz, Ozorian matriarch and art director, she is the founder of Retextil Foundation. A hexagonal African flower formed the main art motif, as 521 crochet flowers were woven together to create the spine of the overhead decorative piece. Angéla chose the popular 70’s hippy symbol as a nod to the flower children and the artistic and cultural impact they made, as Woodstock would be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
Wednesday 31 July, saw a triple threat of impressive main stage day performances by Animato (Israel), who was playing Ozora for the first time, followed by Liquid Soul (Switzerland), and Rising Dust (Israel), who closed off a fiery day in style. The weather soon turned, as thunder, lighting and rain added to a uniquely eerie atmosphere that evening.
We went from witnessing Electric Universe (Germany) performing on the main stage to a wild session on the Pumpui where Shanti v Deedrah (Netherlands/France) played one of my favourite sets of the week.
The experience is a sacred product of circumstance
The ground was slippery beneath our feet, as thundering sounds echoed behind the music. Light flashes covered the sky as the large crowd huddled closely together beneath the Pumpui tent. An electric energy existed in this moment, which perhaps could never have come to fruition had all these extraordinary elements never aligned.
Add the viciously strong Hungarian drink – Palinka, to the mix and I could almost hear Denzel Washington’s voice say, ‘Nothing stops this train, NOTHING!’, as if I was apart of that scene in Unstoppable, the popular 2010 film.
Thursday 1 August, the mother of all hangovers came down upon me with prolonged revenge, the beating sun no friend of mine, as we proceeded to eat from as many food vendors as our bodies would allow. After many a taste sensation we caught James Monro’s (UK) closing set on the main stage, and wondered to the Pumpui for a customary 3 hour D-nox & Beckers (Germany) set.
Next on the Pumpui menu was a very special Progtech chronicles sunset set by Ace Ventura (Israel), musically one of the best experiences of the festival.
The Pumpui by nature is not a big dancefloor in comparison to the other mega arenas in Ozora. I’ve never seen it overflow like it did during this set, floating silhouettes stretched out to the info point and even to the grocery store, the path ways between disappearing as we embarked on a never before seen mega collective Pumpui rave.
The unique Germany electronic duo Extrawelt took over next and kept things interesting, but the main stage was calling as the Novelty Engine performed the opening set of the evening.
Novelty Engine is a musical/visual collective with a variable line-up created by Ajja (Switzerland), which debuted in Ozora in 2015. Things soon escalated as Captain Hook (Israel) and Alpha Portal (Israel) took us on a psychedelic rollercoaster into the night.
Friday 2 August, a storm was brewing. Ominous looking clouds covered the sky. Burn in Noise (Brazil) was blasting the main stage early morning, followed by Iboga Records label head, Emok (Denmark). We joined forces with another crew of South Africans for what was going to be an unforgettable day. Astrix (Israel) brought the masses to dance floor, as towering stilt wielding alien suited performers invaded the crowd.
Ace Ventura (Israel) had an unexpected guest accompany him on stage, the living meme that is HIDE THE PAIN HAROLD, aka ‘Maurice’. Sharing his painful grin with the beautiful people of Ozora.
Rain began to fall as we headed for shelter under the dome. Somewhat stuck beneath the dome as the storm intensified the company was at least stellar, as we bumped into Jossie Telch (Mexico) & Bayawaka (Israel).
Dinner time was spent in a bustling food stall, watching fellow Ozorians run across open planes back to their tents or nearby structures. I’ve even seen storms in Ozora before, but nothing like this. Roads became muddy obstacles, as we ventured to the artibarn.
We spent the evening engaging in some of the interactive workshops that were taking place in this dynamic space. Extensive visual mapping covered the building, and covers almost every other building across the festival now too. It’s almost unfathomable how many projectors this must take to achieve. The incredible focus on the visual arts at Ozora is simply unparalleled.
Saturday 3 August, at 2am in the morning we headed back to Budapest on a shuttle transfer, checked into an Airbnb, and spent the next few days recovering before the journey home to Cape Town, South Africa.
This edition of Ozora Festival was whimsically unpredictable, and the perfect reminder to let go, and be in the present moment. The experience is a sacred product of circumstance, driven by the clear vision of the Ozora crew and illuminated by YOU, the ones who energize this valley each year, and make this a sustainable reality.
Photos by: Laszlo Kun, Peter Nemeshazi, Peter Szoke, Wieloch Media
Words by: Troy Evason