Sparkford Hall, Somerset
Set in an idyllic, rustic country estate complete with an orchard, wild walled garden, swimming pool and three llamas, KALLIDA is a party for 400 people in a Georgian manor house. It’s in equal parts a love letter to rave culture past and present, a showcase for an impressive range of visual art installations, and a celebration of East African electronic music emerging from Uganda via the Nyege Nyege crew. Overall, it’s one of the best parties you can attend on the festival circuit.
The house itself is arranged across two floors, with the main room decked out like a futuristic plant nursery; green shoots extend from their cages, illuminated by red fluorescent tube lighting. The sound system in this particular space is something to behold, transforming the room into the festival’s go-to with its snarling, engine-like power. An early highlight in this space is DEBONAIR on the Friday night, who takes full advantage of the sound system to fill the room with bass-y, stuttering techno. Kampire heads up the decks with a fast-moving set on the Saturday, and an excursion of rolling jungle from Sully soundtracks the festival’s finale.
Downstairs, in a basement where DJs perform to a crowd clustered around a centrally located cage, things are grimier, sweatier, harder and frequently sillier, with acts like Teki Latex and DJ Bus Replacement Service representing the more playful end of dance music. The spectrum of club styles represented (from the Off Me Nut label takeover in the basement, to dreamy Italo and throwback 90s pop in the coach house adjacent to the main building) feels important, with the festival’s bookings marking itself out as a party that’s far removed from the po-faced techno purist session.
With dappled sunlight to rest beneath, and interactive installations to be immersed in, the daylight hours are equally as enjoyable as KALLIDA’s night programme. It’s certainly quite difficult to not have a good time whilst leaping around to UK garage classics at a Saturday afternoon pool party. And as for surprises, the biggest moments of the weekend are from the live stage outside.
Otim Alpha on Saturday evening sprints through a glorious set of frenetic, but rhythmically delicate, material that blends traditional Acholi Larakaraka wedding songs from Uganda with electronic tones and textures. Aba Shanti-I brings a visibly horizontal Sunday afternoon crowd back to life with rumbling dub, and Maisha’s free-flowing, euphoric jazz rounds off the schedule of live performances in an impressive manner.
KALLIDA’s vision and creative direction is uniquely its own. Across four days, the festival proved itself to be an absolutely essential party, programmed with a love for the music and meticulous attention to detail.