Words and photos by Ingrid Land – Ingrid Land Photography
After Burning Man, Shambhala Music Festival is, to me, the most fulfilling and thrilling experience in the life of a photographer. It’s one of a kind. The four-day event, occurring every first weekend of August, is held on a 500-acre ranch farm, nestled in the pristine valley of the Kootenays by the Salmo River.
Shambhala has been going on strong for 19 years, shaping the West Coast music scene, and becoming one of the most notorious electronic music festivals in the world. The festival sets itself apart in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it is built on the hard work of local artists and fueled by the power of community who together create a special feeling of symbiosis.
Family-run and sponsor-free event, Shambhala is also a world leader when it comes to harm reduction, providing drug testing and ongoing support to the attendees with the help of medical and security staff on-site, including non-profit group AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society (ANKORS).
Shambhala is remarkably unique — once you enter the farm, you understand why. The festival ground’s set-up is similar to that of a carnival: lights strung from tree to tree, toys scattered around to play with, art stands that beg to be ogled, and at the center, a blossoming garden bursting with giant sunflowers and other plant life. At Shambhala, there is something magical about the land, the art, the people, the music. All these elements peacefully coexist in a symbiotic relationship of visual and audio bliss.
This year was my second time attending Shambhala. It was incontestably the best music experience I have had in many years. The festival has consistently produced some of the most awe-inducing lineups in the world, a sheer quality and breadth of talent, and this year was no exception.
From throbbing bass music, crunchy or groovy house, old school hip-hop, glitch-hop, world bass, electronic music or deep dubstep, Shambhala has something for everyone. It provides a wide array of some of the planet’s greatest DJ’s and producers, who perform from an open and deep place of heartland and homeland.
With one the best sounds system in the industry, PK Sound, the stages are designed to stimulate your ears, tickle your brain and move your body.
Shambhala is a place where both festival-goers and DJ’s get astounded by the high caliber performance of the sound.
According to Jim Vanderhost, Videographer (Rebel Cause Films), “one cannot truly understand the sheer power of bass music until they have immersed themselves in the cocoon of bass enveloping the air itself at Shambhala. From five directions, with more diversity than the wind, PK bins emanate bass with a force and depth that causes every single atom on the farm to spin and shake loose its earthen frailty. The hidden potential of the molecular structure of all living things seems to be shaken free by the zenith of this bass bubble, as one is joyously forced to live, for a few days at least, closer to their true nature as an interwoven tapestry of vibrating particles held together by laws and belief. Despite this onslaught that spins every proton and neutron on the farm in all possible directions, you can and will have some of the clearest, most enlightening conversations of your life, a testament to the mixing skill of PK’s best techs. They are the technical foundation for the transcendental culture.”
PK is remarkable because music plays the way it is meant to be heard. It takes control of your body, fusing you to the beat of the sound, magnified and intensified like two atoms vibrating around one another attracted like protons and electrons.
Undeniably, the soul of Shambhala dwells in its stages: the Pagoda, the Fractal Forest, Grove, Living Room, the Village, and the Amphitheatre. Each of them are independently run by their own stage directors and tastemakers of the Canadian music scene. They create the heartbeat and unmatched eccentricity, which makes Shambhala so vibrant and special. Each year the stages overflow with talent, to the point where each of them could realistically be their own festival.
This year, at The Living Room, known as the “chill” stage, one of Shambhala’s favourite artists of all time, “DJ Ease” AKA Nightmares On Wax conveyed his raw artistic freedom style with a subtle blend of soul and hip hop. Later on, the Fort Knox Five diffused their infectious grooves fused with funk, reggae, hip-hop and prime time 4/4 beats and breaks on this picturesque beach side oasis stage.
The stage also welcomed Shambhala’s returning West coast artists El Papachango, Sabo, An-Ten-Nae of Dimond Saints, and Dirtwire, who left the audience stunned with a sense of some mystical rooted dance floor experience.
On the main stage, The Pagoda, considered as one of the best audiovisual productions on the planet, Justin Martin played his brand of melodic house music. Live performances by Beats Antique blew everyone’s mind with their carnival-flavoured bass grooves, and Autograf’s live set, who featured super tight production alongside live instrumentation.
Another big act of the festival was orchestrated by Boys Noize, who played his unique style of analog gritty techno.
In the enchanted Fractal Forest, prominent New Zealand producer Opiuo, performed his brand of glitch-hop during a phenomenal live set, followed by world’s best turntablism, Cut Chemist, Z-Trip, Featurecast and A-Skillz, and Skratch Bastid, who played in the heart of this burnt-out old-growth cedar tree stump, surrounded by a 360 degree immersive and interactive environment. Subsequently, Godfather of House Music. Felix Da Housecat, laid out a master class in modern house DJ-ing and in perfect flow conveyed to the “La La Land” Chicago House sound rooted producer Green Velvet.
The most eclectic of all the stages, The Amphitheatre, “The Amp”, ran a gamut of bass-driven music, from trap to future bass, funk, glitch, world bass and more. It welcomed European super-producers Troyboi, Sam Gellaitry and Stwo who absolutely crushed all expectations of what hybrid hip hop, RnB, and club music have become. This year marked the continuation of the AMP’s heavy reign, attracting some of the best up and coming artists the world has to offer.
The Village stage, featuring tree forts interconnected by catwalks and bridges surrounding the dance floor, known for its loud, thundering bass music. hosted a few U.K. heavyweights drum & bass and Dubstep artists like Roni Size, Caspa and Rusko, Andy C. Once again, PK Sound rigs operated to the best of their advantage, making the crowd jump.
Other acts performed by local BC artists SKII TOUR, The Funk Hunters, The Librarian, JPOD and Mat The Alien, gathered crowds rivaling any other performance of the weekend. The energy exuded from the fans born at the core of the vibrancy of human connection is something inexpressibly magical.
Ultimately, my favorite stage of this year was once again The Grove. Presenting a vibe unlike any stage, The Grove is surrounded by Mother Nature’s finest old-growth forest. It is a magical place where you find natural solace, a welcoming dance floor surrounded by towering cedar trees, lush pathways, creative art installations and interactive chill zones.
Throughout the weekend, the Grove hosted an array of live bands and artists from around the globe such as Hermitude, Emancipator, Five Alarm Funk, XXYYXX, Shigeto, Truth, and The Russ Liquid Test. They overflowed the crowd with deep world beat sounds, down-tempo, glitch-hop, psychedelic dub, all pumped through a pristine Funktion-1 sound system.
The highlight of The Grove, and of my entire festival, was CloZee’s masterpiece. With her unique style, CloZee remarkably combined an exclusive mix of world beats, trip-hop, glitch-hop, powerful basslines, funky off beat percussion, world instruments and emotional cinematic sounds, with her contagious French energy.
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview CloZee while she was performing at Shambhala for the first time.
Ingrid Land: What motivated you to follow a career as female DJ music producer?
CloZee: My passion for music, concerts, festivals, and most of all sharing with people. Music is one of the most powerful and beautiful things in this crazy world. I worked a lot to be able to do music for a living.
Your style is distinctive, atypical from French / European DJ artists. How did you manage to get your name out in the Glitch hop community, which led you to be nominated the ‘Best International Newcomer of 2013’ at the UK Glitch-Hop Award?
When I was a teenager, I spent hours every day listening to the music on YouTube, Myspace and Soundcloud to discover new artists. I found The Glitch Mob, Amon Tobin, Koan Sound, edIT, The Flashbulb, etc. It was the beginning of my journey with « glitch » music. I was very interested by this unpredictable powerful genre.
Although, I don’t think we can say that I’m a “glitch hop » artist. I’m making various kinds of music. I’m not trying to fit in one genre. I just make the music that I’m feeling at the moment.
You have been influenced by edIT, Bonobo, The Widdler and Amon Tobin before you started producing at the age of 16. Who are your inspirations now?
They are still the same and will be forever. But now I am very inspired by artists like Imagined Herbal Flows, Axel Thesleff, Jumo, Grey Killer, Thriftworks, Truth, 20syl and more.
Do you collaborate with fellow artists? Can you describe your creative process?
I haven’t done a lot of collaborations yet. I will do more in the near future. My most recent one is ‘Soul Search’ with VOLO, released in August.
Most of the time we are inspired by each other’s music, so we send ideas back and forth until we have the finished song. The process is very different with every artist though.
What is the most important thing you hope listeners take away from your music?
The emotion behind it. I always put a part of me in each of my song.
You are now performing all over the world, including in US and Canada. What differentiates these festivals from the ones in Europe? How was your experience at Shambhala?
In Electronic Music, the scene is very different. In France and Europe we have a lot of Drum&Bass, Hardcore, Techno, Trance, Hardtek…
For example, at a festival in France that has various styles of electronic music, the Trance, Hardcore and Techno stages would be the biggest ones. Bass Music would be the smallest stage. In North America, it’s the opposite. Genres like trap, glitch-hop, psydub, chill trap, future bass, future beats are way more popular in Canada and the US.
Shambhala was phenomenal. It’s so awesome to go to this *dream* festival for the first time and go there to PLAY… it was so unexpected and magical. Playing on Funktion One was a super awesome experience too! Even the people on the side of the stages (backstage) had funktion one speakers to dance to! They do the job properly at The Grove / Shambhala.
Each one of these amazing stages is a reflection of the communal spirit and devotion that has made the Shambhalove such a potent resource. While the festival scene continues to grow in leaps and bounds, Shambhala remains a special gathering on so many levels, and there are many reasons why people call Shambhala “home.”
On August 11-14, 2017, Shambhala Music Festival will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. The 12,000 tickets, released on September 1st, 2016, sold out in record time, less than 24 hours after the ticket sales was launched.
The 20th Anniversary will be a momentous event, to say the least.
CloZee website: http://clozeemusic.com/