Oasis was the first electronic music festival in Marrakech. Launched three years ago, it's perhaps the best-known event of its kind in the whole of Morocco, a country where running events is tough—and not always for the reasons you might expect. MOGA Festival, an event held in the coastal city of Essaouira, was postponed partly due to the filming of Game Of Thrones. But despite certain obstacles, there's clearly an appetite for festivals. A good portion of the crowd at Oasis were European tourists, but there were also plenty of Moroccans. Most were affluent, but they nevertheless pointed to a swelling interest in underground electronic music. There also seems to be a growing swathe of local talent. Sunday night's programming was partially handled by Moroko Loko, a Marrakech crew run by one of the scene's patriarchs, Amine K. That said, Oasis was primarily about the big-name guests, from Solomun and Richie Hawtin to Marcel Dettmann and KiNK. The lineup, combined with the festival's hassle-free setting and proximity to a world-renowned metropolis, made Oasis an impressive offering.
Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
Oasis takes place at The Source, a plush resort filled with giant aloe vera plants and fragrant herbs. The site is perfectly primed for Instagram. The smaller stage, where I saw Kornél Kovács, was a mini-amphitheatre sunken beneath beds of cacti and palm trees. Kovács personifies the wacky vibe of the Studio Barnhus crew. He bounced around the DJ booth with an infectious energy, dropping fun but functional bangers to an appreciative crowd. Every record he played seemed to have something interesting to say. A lot of the best moments turned out to be, after a bit of research, unreleased tracks from Studio Barnhus associates. (Your Planet Is Next's "Youngman," an acid banger with silly samples, was just one example.) Towards the end of his set, he played a track with a synth line that seemed to rise upward forever. As the floor cheered, Kovács removed his hat and danced even harder. It was the high point of a job well done.
Oasis's poolside main stage was a remarkably comfortable place for a party, but the music during the day didn't always suit the setting. Before sunset, the crowd lounged and splashed around on inflatables while an incongruously beefy soundtrack blared. But as night fell the stage hit critical mass. Marcellus Pittman, Young Marco and Daniel Avery all took the mood up a gear. Avery played after Charlotte De Witte, a Belgian DJ specialising in big-room tech house, and the London DJ's selections were energetic and filled with plenty of personality. The opening track, his own "Naive Response," set the tone. Later, he dropped what turned out to be an unreleased Surgeon remix of one of his own tracks, which gives you a good idea of the techno vibe he dipped into. The open-mindedness of the crowd, who rolled with every curveball thrown at them, was one of the key reasons that Oasis worked so well.
Call Super's performance was a reflection of the turquoise jacket he wore: neat, stylish and with a certain unusual flare. His set was all about quick-fire stylistic contrasts. In the first 20 minutes, I heard spacey techno, breaks, IDM and house. This was stitched together with an arsenal of DJ techniques—long blends, neat fader flicks, subtle EQ shifts—all perfectly executed and deployed at just the right moment. It was the sound of a DJ on top of his game. The peak came with an excellent run of festival-primed music. Davina's "Don't You Want It," Aaron-Carl's "Wallshaker" and some killer two-step from UK garage don Large Joints. Call Super has confessed his love of Laurent Garnier in interviews. As he dropped the dub of Layo & Bushwacka's "Love Story," a track Garnier use to hammer at London club The End, the similarities of their style and eclecticism came fully into focus. During the final moments, I noticed a burly security guard dancing and fist pumping to some bizarre broken techno. It was one of my favourite images of the weekend.
Dr. Rubinstein has a rare knack for making hard techno seem fun. Much of her set was reminiscent of ravey Plus 8 records from the '90s. The music was raw, acid-y and fast, and it was often hard to guess if her tracks were brand new or 20 years old. It wasn't to everyone's tastes, but those who locked in experienced a DJ with a deservedly growing reputation. These were the kinds of tunes you might hear in a dingy Berlin club, so to hear them at a classy holiday resort in Morocco felt exciting. Backstage, DJ Stingray confessed that her performance was so good that he felt nervous following her. He had no need to be. The Detroit star delivered one of the sets of the weekend, rounding off a fantastic run of music on Saturday.
Oasis wasn't free of issues. Maceo Plex and Mike Servito both failed to show. Nicolas Jaar filled in for the former on Saturday, providing a stylistically varied and unconventional DJ set. He played live on Sunday, and continued his idiosyncratic approach. After a few minutes of atmospheric drone, he segued into "No," a plodding Spanish language song about the Chilean referendum. It's not the kind of thing that screams "party," but the crowd lapped it up. The ebb and flow that followed defined his performance. He'd raise the tempo over the course of 20 minutes before dismantling the beats into an ambient soundscape. Honestly, I found it a little dull in places compared to the energetic house and disco that came before. But as I looked around, I realised I was the only one not feeling it. As the set wore on, "Space Is Only Noise" and "Three Sides Of Nazareth" gained warm responses. Whatever my opinion, there was no denying the set was a success.
Photo credits /
Andrew J Rauner - Lead, Kornél Kovács, Daniel Avery, Nicolas Jaar, Young Marco, Pool, Beanbag
Ded Agency - Call Super, Dr. Rubinstein, Crowd, Glenn Underground, Axel Boman & Jackmaster
Solovov Photography - Juice, Thris Tian, KiNK