The Source, Marrakech
Oasis’ second year saw the festival up sticks to The Source Music Resort: a hotel-cum-concert venue located a couple of miles outside of Marrakech in between the airport and the walled old city.
The landscape surrounding the new venue is pretty unassuming, largely comprised of vacant lots earmarked for development and skeletal half-constructed hotel complexes. From a distance The Source’s terracotta walls blend in to the haze rising from the ground. However, stepping in to the festival on Friday afternoon we couldn’t have been confronted with a more different scene- a picturesque network of paths flanked on either side by towering cacti and delicately manicured exotic fauna dotted with shady enclaves where the assembled early-doors crew lounged away from the sun.
The weekend’s lineup was split across two stages – The Desert Oasis, an ornate wooden booth opening out on to the pool, and The Arena, a sunken concrete amphitheatre. We headed to the latter first where Jennifer Cardini was warming up a receptive crowd with various shades of rubbery techno and house. As the site began to fill up we weaved our way back to the Desert Oasis to catch Electric Minds boss Dolan Bergin perform an impressive turn, aided by the impressive array of speakers at the wings of the stage.
One of Oasis Fesitval’s most commendable features was its sound. While at UK festivals even top-end setups can be rendered toothless by heavy-handed licensing restrictions, Oasis’ Funktion-Ones had no such problem, emitting a satisfyingly hefty bottom-end without steamrolling the finer details.
With a lineup so weighted towards Western European and American DJs we’d been expecting to encounter a predominantly anglophone crowd, and though it seemed the majority of dancers hailed from either the UK, US or France there was a pleasingly international feel to the festival- according to a post from the organisers people had travelled from over 30 different countries to attend. Perhaps more importantly, there was also a solid local contingent from Marrakech, and those we chatted to spoke positively about Oasis and the rapid proliferation of festivals in Morocco.
Prior to Midland‘s set we ducked out to explore the site further. Oasis’ vibe is one of unabashed luxury, and alongside the usual festival fare there was also a champagne bar, a Jack Daniels-sponsored blackjack table and a miniature souk-style traders area. The branding was overt but it was by no means obnoxious, and the touches of Moroccan décor were executed with enough subtlety so as not to render them chintzy.
The Arena was packed at this point for Amine K but ultimately we opted to head back to catch Midland and were rewarded for doing so, finding him dropping his signature mix of lush house and buoyant polyrhythms. The remainder of the night was spent bouncing between Hunee‘s equally joyous workout and Prins Thomas‘ slightly headier digressions.
Having spent the next day exploring the city’s labyrinthine Medina, we got back to The Source shortly after midnight, just in time to catch Maya Jane Coles‘ pendulous opener. It seemed like most of Saturday’s sold-out crowd had converged on the pool to see her, and though the area immediately facing the booth didn’t quite afford enough room for everyone- an issue that would crop up several times over the course of the weekend during more popular acts- there were plenty of people happily dancing away in the shallows.
Over at The Arena The Black Madonna played one of the stand-out sets of the weekend. Seemingly reluctant to linger on one track for more than a few minutes, she deftly cut through a broad selection of classics, even appearing to throw a couple of spinbacks in for good measure. George Fitzgerald and Leon Vynehall were on equally playful form, dropping Masters at Work‘s See-Line Woman remix and then later Stardust to a mixture of good-natured groans and cheers.
Sunday rolled around with what was undoubtedly the strongest lineup of the weekend: Motor City Drum Ensemble and Massimiliano Pagliara‘s masterful early-evening set set an ebullient tone for the festival’s final night, flowing perfectly into the feel-good combination of Steffi, Dexter and Virginia, which climaxed in a belting rendition of well-loved Ostgut cut Yours. Objekt was up next, opening with Bintus’ wigged-out version of Sensational and Kruton’s You In The Right Spot before launching in to a barelling two-hour assault replete with novel selections and razor-sharp mixing.
Owing to a change in set times Helena Hauff was moved to the Desert Oasis, and though stylistically perhaps not the best fit for a poolside set, the Hamburg-based selector didn’t seem phased in the least, delivering her trademark mix of acid, techno and EBM with characteristic finesse. Similarly, while Jeff Mills might ostensibly have seemed a questionable choice to soundtrack the finale to Oasis Festival’s sun-soaked idyll, his searing 909-driven closing set felt poignant, a fitting end to an event that prioritized credibility over accessibility.
Oasis Festival is a pretty enticing proposition even before you take in to account its proximity to one of the world’s most vibrant and historic cities. Its indulgent atmosphere might not appeal to those who prefer a bit of grit with their festival experience, but with impeccable programming, perfect weather and the benefit of a site purpose-built for events of its type, Oasis set a high benchmark for Morocco’s burgeoning festival scene.