Love is in the Gili Air ……
My Trip To Paradise
This is a story which, even if I had forever, I couldn’t begin to tell the whole of. I met so many incredible people and had such an incredible time that and I’m not really sure where to start with the distillation of this experience into a piece with a beginning, middle and end.
Those of us who came to the Air Festival spent days in a paradise well suited to those seeking more soothing thrills— meaning really good times without the potential for overwhelm that comes with extended romps in urban techno society or days spent within densely packed festival grounds.
Organized by special souls for special souls, the Air Festival’s origins are actually pretty casual and unpretentious: according to Festival co-founder and social media maven, Kelly Ariella, the original posse met on Bali in 2013— they were all worldly underground dj-sorts and found the local club scene lacking: “….we kept hanging out and realized we all had a similar interest in bringing something. To Bali.. We were craving an underground scene and we were all after the same thing so we decided fuck it … Let’s do it.”
The “it” has included not only the Air Festival, but many club-nights deep in the concrete jungles of Legian and Seminyak, as well as one-offs in locations even more obscure than Gili Air. There was something very family about how the crew all related to each other— everyone wanting to make sure each member had an equal say, were heard and recognized. Not to mention that during the festival, when they weren’t playing out-of-this-world DJ sets, they could be found serving behind the bar, fixing speakers, adjusting deco, fetching drinks for artists sweating behind the DJ booth and doing all the things that good, humble hosts do.
Air Festival 2016 offered diverse programming and created a strong sense of belonging amongst its attendees. Headliners from around the globe— names like Sonja Moonear, Sammy Dee, DeWalta, Azimute played alongside super refined Indonesian DJs such as Trigan Young, Dark Bark, Fingerprint, as well as members of Air Festival’s core founding crew— Walker Barnard, Sylvie Forêt, Dr. Kessler, Tiago Oudman, Sucré Salé. Part of what made the festival feel more grounded and intimate was the apparent connection and commitment to the island and local culture— months prior to the festival, organizers were on Gili Air building relationships with local authorities and business owners and paying close attention to what they could do to give back.
Walker Barnard, whose long history in the dance music business includes releases on underground staples such as Serialism, Vakant and even Big Dada, had an interesting take on how it all went down: “In many ways, the Air Festival was an experiment in radical inclusivity. So many people participated in a really personal way— from the people on the dancefloor, to all the volunteers who came from all over the world and lent their incredible skills to this endeavor. It was like, yes yes yes come on down! Do your thing! Thank you! Damn people worked hard! And of course it was a massive learning experience. There were a few crucial things that slipped through the cracks. We used way more plastic than we had intended, for instance. But now we know and will do better next year.”
So how did I end up dropping everything and going to the Air Festival?
Every day I receive hundreds of press releases to my inbox… more than i can possibly read. But one day I spotted a header saying: ‘Air Festival on Gili Air’… I did not even have to read much more than that, I was already intrigued. Having spent six weeks on Gili Air two years ago, I already knew what paradise the place was. Seriously, if your dream is to visit an island paradise, Gili Air should be at the top of your list of must-do’s. I opened the mail and read the press release, seeing the line up which was a three day program and included some of my fave artists. I had a gut feeling that this was going to be a very special experience. I contacted the PR, Cecilia, and she put me directly in touch with Catherine, a co-founder of Air Festival (also known as Sylvie Forêt), and we got to chatting. We spoke for a long time about many things. It just seemed right, after chatting to Catherine on Skype, it triple confirmed for me that the people organising this festival were beautiful people and so right there we decided it would be good to invite Meoko out to witness the action. It was obvious from first sight that the organisers were creating something special music-wise on such an incredible island, and we just had to be part of this. At this stage I also became quite aware of the uniqueness of this experience, and that it would be very hard to separate my work identity from the person I am, and that I was about to embark on a very special adventure where I might be able to shed my professional attire, and just be. I was probably right. Or was I?
I Embark On An Adventure
I was so very excited when I knew plans were becoming more concrete. Indonesia is an extremely special and spiritual place. The local people are so friendly and helpful. The food is amazing and all in all it’s pretty cheap for westerners to come and get a taste of true paradise and island life.
You don’t really need any vaccinations to visit Gili Air and you also don’t need a visa coming from the UK, you just pay the equivalent of 20 Pounds on entering the airport and you will receive a 30 day visa. Nationals holding passport from most countries and territories are eligible to do so. Cheap flights are available from Berlin to Bali at around 600 Euros. There’s some amazing accommodation on the island. I stayed at Island View, the site where air festival was held. I decided to stay on here another week after the festival as the bungalows are lovely. You can expect to pay around 400,000 rupiah for a night including breakfast and double bed so for two people it works out very cheap. There’s also a new place opening up called Captain Coconuts. Iit has a pool and an organic cafe called Coco Loco, only sets you back 200.000 Rupees a night with breakfast. It is all natural, surrounded by palm trees and all made of natural materials. Run by Resa and his wife Belinda from Sydney this place is really good for big social groups as it has nine beds on each wing with its own locker. It is not a dorm but a very upmarket bamboo lodge. The resort also has some private bungalows.
Coco Loco Organic Cafe and Accomodation
Indonesia is just such a magical country in itself. It’s a very spiritual place and you can feel that in the air everywhere you go. I’ve been to Indonesia once before and on my return I just thought “I’m home.” I have a real strong connection with the country. It truly is the land of magic. Thanks to the efforts of people like the Air Festival crew and other like-minded souls, there is now a real little scene taking off here especially in Bali and you can find many international artists playing in Bali on a weekly basis. One club to check out if you visiting Bali is Koh, the club founded by local UK hero, Ben Pound, along with OZ darlings Dan Baartz and James Taylor. I traveled around Indonesia two years ago, and I knew when I left I had unfinished business with this place. There is just so much to explore. I know I will return as many times as I can. To get the festival was a trip in itself. From Bali, you have to take a boat to get to the Gili islands. It is only one hour and a half to get there. There were different points of departure, also depending on which package the party-goers choose to book. I got in from Padangbai, which is a two-hours drive from the airport and costs about 400,000 Rupiah. There heaps of taxis when you come out of Denpasar airport. It is worth bartering and thus not paying more than 400,000. I arrived on the Wednesday to indonesia and then took the taxi to Padangbai where one of the ports are and the boats leave for the gilis … I spent two nights there before heading off for the wild adventure and to experience Air Festival
The boat trip was very scenic, and I already spotted the first people who were going to share the same moments with me.
The festival ran over three days from Friday to Sunday. It took place on the beach at a place called Island View, under the stars. The Air stage, the main dancefloor, was located on Island View, and set right on the paradisical sunset beach. You were literally dancing on the sand with the sea water. The DJ box was set up in a beautiful wooden carving of a local boat. During day and night time, this was the place to be. Every night exploded with incredible energy. Friday through Sunday the energy kept getting bigger and bigger.
My first thought when I got there was: “This is going to be a wild three days.” And it was not only me. Every artist I spoke to or overheard speaking was in awe. I remember after the first night there were a bunch of artists by the pool after the Friday night, and they almost missed their plane but did not have a care in the world. It’s like everyone just forgets everything when they get here and gets instantly sucked into the Gili Air paradise.
I travelled here in my own but I never felt alone once, the people whether working at the festival or partying are all so friendly. I was feeling a bit unwell on the first day but was determined not to let that stop me experience the paradise and quality music that air festival provided. All artists and the air festival team including myself were put up in a resort called grand sunset, about a hundred metres from the festival site. It’s a really cute resort an infinity pool and a few steps away from the sea. So going back to being ill, I was sitting outside trying to fight my fever when the girl who was in the bungalow next to me asked if I was having a good time. I explained I was a little under the weather to which she replied her friend was a Norse that was travelling with her and she would send her to see me. This girl started walking towards me and it was crazy as it was a friend of mine that I met in London almost ten years ago when I started throwing parties. She had moved back to Australia and we had since lost contact so that was an amazing synchronicity. We ended up traveling together for a couple of weeks after the festival finished….
In total it was around two thousand revellers who had carefully planned their trips around the event and seemed to pour in out of no where, mainly French and German travellers but also an international colourful party crowd that seemed to be dancing at Burning Man one day, at Gili Air the next.
One of the musical founders of the Gili Air festival which took place in Indonesia this May, takes on the responsibility to deliver an advanced electronic tapestry for the most beautiful scenery a party reveller can imagine. With this lengthy set, recorded live during the event, Sylvie Forêt explores countless possibilities within a wide ranging spectrum of reduced yet gripping records. Hailing from New York and having played places like Bar25, Club der Visionäre and dividing her time between Indonesia and Berlin, she knows her trick or two to get and keep the crowd going, and her mix reflects that skill: Whilst one gets pretty close to the mind-blowing, almost life-changing experience (again), sinking into the hypnotic, her slightly breaky grooves create a specific bumpy party atmosphere. One can literally see all those barefeet people bopping along on the sunsetty beach to this fine tunage. Set on a tiny island called Gili Air – Air meaning wate
in the local language –, the festival is a progressive attempt to integrate local communities into an event concept which is set to become a steady fix point in any advanced traveller’s diary.
Photo Credits : Coconutt Connection
Other Photo Credits: Nicole Venter
By: Nicole Venter