We were lucky enough to head out to Marrakech over the weekend for Oasis Festival – an assembly of top-tier names in electronic music hosted at a private spa resort offset from the centre of the capital.
Masterfully programmed and hosted in a truly idyllic setting, the impressive line-up is accentuated by the uniqueness of the surroundings. Sets from Marcellus Pittman, Nicolas Jaar, Dr. Rubenstein and Willow all stood out. Still reeling in the afterglow and praying for some more of that North African heat, we put together five key takeaways from our experience.
Locals are a huge part of the festival's community
The fear with any festival outside of the UK and Europe is that the local community will be overlooked for a somewhat sterile weekend of cultural tourism and exotic fascination. This year, there was a distinct vibration that Oasis satisfies a homegrown hunger for a party of this sort. Also, local food businesses and drinks vendors make up the bulk of the festival’s sellers (special mention to the burgers from Nomad, a restaurant from heart of the medina who had a stall). While wealthy Europeans certainly make up a proportion of the crowd, much of the energy is brought by a more local crowd who, despite the lack of North African talent on the bill, are out in force to enjoy one of the standout electronic music line-ups of the summer.
Nicolas Jaar is (still) a master
Nicolas Jaar won this year’s Oasis. After ably stepping in to replace Maceo Plex at the last minute, his DJ set felt more like a expertly curated DJ Kicks-esque ride through the influences that make up his rich sound: afrobeat into ambient, slo-mo house into a pulsating ten minute hardcore cut… all tied together with his expert sampling and editing. Then, the following night, he unloaded the hardware and wove a spacey ambient interlude into No from 2016’s Sirens, his breathy Spanish baritone adding to the moody, hypnotic atmosphere. His set finished with crowds chanting “Nic-o-las! Nic-o-las!” – it’s always odd when something so enigmatic gets a superstar response. But across two nights, he’d earned it.
You'd be hard pushed to find a more picturesque location than The Source
The Source – a hotel complex of groves and wonderfully scented cactus plant life – sits among a labyrinth of paths that connect the two stages. It’s a small site and it feels intimate, but it’s surprisingly easy to lose yourself there. The sunsets are remarkable, particularly when soundtracked by the immaculate selections of Young Marco (Friday) or the globetrotting treasures of Auntie Flo (Sunday). It’s also extremely Instagram-friendly – there’s a lot of that going on – with a certain feeling of luxury that sometimes breeds an atmosphere directly opposed to the grittiness some ravers might look for in an electronic music event. Naturally, it’s a little harder to let loose when you feel like you’re in some kind of paradise.
Leave enough time to see the city
Now this probably seems rudimentary – it would be a weird shout to go all the way to Morocco and stick to the luxury resort where the festival takes place. But either getting to Marrakech a day or two early or taking it easy on one night of the festival to allow for a full day’s exploring after is heavily advised. Find a succulent paradise at Majorelle Garden or muscle through the crowds at the old town for cheap tagine, occasional snakes and beautiful architecture. The festival’s website provided a lot of information about respectfulness in terms of clothing and alcohol consumption which was extremely helpful.
It's pretty, but you can still find some doof-doof
Despite the attractive views and pristine, beautiful audiences – rougher edged sounds felt very much like the order of the day this year. Standouts come in the form of the melodic nocturnes of Dr Rubinstein, the expertly mixed broken beats of Call Super, Karenn’s fierce live improvisations and DJ Stingray’s pounding two hour electro close-out on Saturday. This isn’t to say there was a drought of variation – Marcellus Pittman’s effortless glide through gospel house and foundational Detroit sounds was an ideal ease into Sunday’s homestretch and the subtle shades of Willow’s set proved to be an understated highlight. But we were refreshed to find the tougher excursions among the paradisal location.