It’s fair to say I arrived at Oasis Festival with an open mind. Sure I had done my research on what looked to be a well curated lineup and I knew there would be a plethora of little experiences and installations to peruse, but overall my aim was to immerse myself in the festival and see what it had to offer. Alongside my three trusty travel companions I arrived three days before proceedings began in Marrakech. In order not to disappoint my mum I engaged in the compulsory touristic duties, a little trip to the Jamaa el Fna here, a quiet stroll through the gardens of Marrakech there, even some opportunistic photos with a live snake to show my now 87 year old granny. While thoroughly enjoyable, these tidbits were mere hor d’oeuvres in advance of the festival itself. Funny sunglasses were acquired at the local artisanal market, traditional Moroccan wares were purchased and stockpiled as preparations were finalised for our bow at the Source Music Resort and Spa.
When the big day arrived we were 4 of the most well prepared ravers on the continent of Africa, and with our dodgy glasses firmly ensconced on our already sunburnt noses we hopped on one of the many free transports to the festival site and descended on the oasis. Having already made quite an international group of friends at our hotel (we even had our own Whatsapp group, no less) it’s fair to say expectations were at an all time high. Not ones to lose the head too early, we eased ourselves into the groove with a little Jennifer Cardini in what would become my favourite part of the venue, the Arena. A natural amphitheatre, reminiscent of Ibiza’s Zoo project (the much loved seal pit) it would go on to be the location for many memorable moments throughout the festival. Circoloco favourite Cardini effortlessly glided from tech to progressive in her distinctive style, providing the perfect introduction for many of the arriving festivaliers as the sun set on the first day of the festival. This would also be the first occasion where we caught Rampa’s new delight Necessity which turned out to be somewhat of a festival anthem.
It was then the turn of local hero Amine K, a man who has had a huge influence over the Moroccan underground scene in recent years. He took to Arena stage with his usual confidence and unleashed what was easily one of the most memorable sets of the festival, his deep tech weapons creating a tribal atmosphere and bringing a smile to locals and international visitors alike. After showcasing a few of my akward grooves in the Arena, it was time for our first foray to the Oasis Stage where Midland was already showcasing some of the raw talent which made him thee breakthrough artist of 2013. The Oasis Stage proved quite a sight to behold, situated poolside and emerging from one of the resorts many buildings, it is the perfect compliment to the more tight knit Arena area.
Excellent performances from Hunee and Belfast boyos Bicep then followed as the darkness firmly descended on the Oasis and it’s many charms began to catch our eye. From well situated chillout areas (offering delights like live art painting and sisha, to a wonderful rooftop bar, the site had plenty of room for exploration). Bar a quick trip to watch the otherworldly David August do his thing, the Oasis stage proved my home for the next few hours as Innervisions head honcho Dixon took control of proceedings. Although his set proved a little downtempo for some, he did manage to keep the entire festival enraptured for the remainder of the evening before the inevitable tiredness of our not yet battle hardened feet took hold. Back to the hotel, one crappy pair of sunglasses down but undoubtedly satisfied from day one of our Oasis adventure, we said our goodnights and reaffirmed our commitment to a Yoga session the following afternoon…
Day 2 commenced with smiles all round as we once more arrived at the cultured surrounds of The Source, despite having missed Yoga (no suprises there!) we were in good spirits as UK pair Eli & Fur rocked from one tech house gem to the next on the Oasis Stage. Cuts from Latmun and Mihalis Safras kept a spritely crowd in motion as many of the late night warriors from the previous evening filtered back into our picturesque rave hotspot. BBC Radio 1 starlet B Traits was next up on our watch list, someone I was intrigued to catch for the first time. With her trademark purple hair catching the warm Moroccan sunshine, she gave an expert display of djing prowess, carefully blending her style of acid influenced tech and techno to an adoring crowd. With the sound of her new record North Shore ringing out, she received the considerable acclaim of a by now well warmed up crowd.
Although the Canadian deejay was finished for the night, this festival reviewer was just getting started with a lineup that was set to run till 8am. Mobilee man Rodriguez Jr. provided some delicious morsels of techy goodness ahead of what was for many a huge draw in Dusky. Pulling a sizeable crowd at the Oasis Stage, they did what they do best unleashing a potent combination of piano drenched house combined with teak tough tech grooves. The London boys know exactly how to create an additive hook and their set proved to be just what the doctor ordered, Oasis Festival was now in full flight, a palpable groove surrounding the resort and a wave of effortless smiles in place.
After a quick chillout it was then time for the name that seems to be first on everybody’s lips at the moment, Chicago’s finest The Black Madonna. The former Smart Bar booker was in fine form, mixing her edgy Chicago house with a number of disco records to keep things incredibly groovy in the Arena and ensure a full house in advance of Mr Vynehall B2b Mr Fitzgerald. However being the diligent festival reviewers that we are, we resisted the temptation to stay planted in the Arena and sauntered back to the Oasis Stage for a little Maya Jane Coles. We were treated to a tour de force of tech with the likes of Federico Grazzini’s remix of E-dward – Today is your Day firmly setting the tone. From then it seems we were in the thrall of this well run festival.
From George Fitz and Leon Vynehall unleashing 3 hours of house gems to Tale Of Us with their spacey techno vibes and the minimal grooves of Derrick Carter it was nonstop badassery. As I closed out the night alongside some new found friends for what can only be described as a sensory overload at Mathew Jonson, the firm satisfaction of a evening well made was beginning to sink in.
The engines proved a little tough to start on Sunday afternoon thanks to the considerable exertions of the previous night, but never ones to shy away from a party, we dusted ourselves off, donned our fake Ray-Boons and returned to the fray just in time to catch Motor City Drum Ensemble do his thing. Alongside the likes of Butch and Steffi, he proved to be one of this publications favourites as the weekend came to a close, introducing various sonic delights to a somewhat slow moving crowd (initially). It was then left to the legends to close Oasis out for one final evening. Booka Shade arrived in style and delivered a typically robust performance, blending some of their new productions with unforgettable classics like Body Language and In White Rooms.
And then, just like that, we were in the home straight. Mano Le Tough head to head with Jeff Mills. Being Irish we couldn’t resist showing our support for one of our own and the Maeve man from Greystones didn’t disappoint, rifling through some of bombs from his new album alongside many of his man room favourites from recent years. After a quick dalliance with Detroit dance deacon Mills we had come to the conclusion of our oasis adventure.
If you hadn’t already guessed, Oasis Festival is a unique experience, when you combine a wonderful location like the Source Music Resort and Spa with a sumptuous lineup of electronic music and a dollop of local culture, you’re already on course to deliver something special. That just leaves one special shoutout to mention, the partygoers themselves, they’re what really make Oasis Festival special, it’s one of the most diverse collections of people we’ve seen at a festival, and it all contributes to an unforgettable atmosphere and a sublime melting pot of different cultures. Get it on your list for next year
Photos: Oasis Festival / Lahcen Mellal