The fifth incarnation of the Marrakech electronic event delivered on its reputation as an elegant, artful and international affair.
First, a few things you will not find at Oasis Festival: long lines for anything, over-aggressive security, price-gouging on drinks, garbage on the ground or a stagnant lineup featuring everyone who always plays at every other festival you ever go to.
Things you will find at Oasis Festival include, but are not limited to, traditional Moroccan tea service, hookah, a large bronze camel, Yasiin Bey (the former Mos Def) playing on a patio-sized stage by the pool, several other pools, free-roaming cats, an impeccable sound system, and a friendly and very well-dressed crowd of local Moroccans and international attendees, from Northern Africa, Europe, the States and beyond, descending upon Marrakech to enjoy some of the scene's best and most beloved artists playing alongside an immaculately selected crew of rising artists repping Morocco’s burgeoning electronic scene. Also: clean porta-potties.
In its four previous incarnations, Oasis Festival has developed a reputation for being very cool, very chic, very music-forward and very much an adventure into a country still largely unexplored by most American electronic fans. Oasis is not the easiest festival to get to – you have to invest in an international flight, schlep across the Atlantic and combat your jetlag – but anyone who’s ever been has said with great zeal that the effort is worth it.
And this past weekend at the luxe Fellah Hotel in Marrakech – an enchanting metropolis at the base of the Atlas mountains – the fifth incarnation Oasis delivered on its promise, gracefully walking a line between the familiar and the exotic, and offering the roughly 5,400 attendees both lessons in local culture that felt authentic along with the festival amenities most appreciated by frequent travelers on the well-worn worldwide dance circuit.
With performances by Seth Troxler, Ame b2b Dixon, Four Tet, Walshy Fire, Loco Dice and more, the lineup was an embarrassment of riches that had attendees dancing until dawn each day. These are the best sets we saw at Oasis Festival 2019.
Moodymann Stays Eclectic
The lineup at Oasis was stacked from the jump, with Theo Parrish, Moodymann and Four Tet all scheduled for Friday night shows on the main stage. While all three delivered, with Parish digging deep into his vinyl crates for a jazzy, deconstructed set that simmered, heated up and then cooled back down again, it was Moodymann who really lifted the crowd into the stratosphere, playing a soulful two-hour set that spanned soul, funk, house, gospel and techno and brought flourishes including a sample of Earth Wind & Fire's enduring "September," a song whose "dancing in September" lyric felt especially resonant. It was during this show that the Oasis crowd demonstrated itself to the kind of blessed one that really, truly dances, with everyone from the pit to the fringes getting down in the balmy evening heat as the moon waxed above. Afterward, the always-beloved Four Tet arrived onstage for a nearly four-hour set that balanced his predilection for techno and pop music.
Park Hye Jin Brings the Seoul
Hailing from Seoul, producer Park Hye Jin created a vibe at once both dense and dreamy with her Sunday night set on the intimate Mirage stage. Playing from the nexus of a kaleidoscopic light show and singing moodily over over her beats, Jin exemplified how her home country is currently delivering some of the scene’s most interesting producers, with fellow countrywoman Peggy Gou and Korean-American Yaeji also hot right now.
Chromeo Stays Bonafide
If you were alive and dancing during the blog house era, Chromeo no doubt occupies a special place in your heart. It was thus a thrill to see Dave-1 and P-Funk on such an intimate stage during their Saturday night set, with the beloved Brooklyn duo delivered all their funk vibes, and both smiling widely as they did it. It was a feel-good set all the way through, but the affair really peaked when they dropped their 2008 classic “Bonafide Lovin’,” with everyone singing and swirling under the Moroccan full moon.
Issam Demonstrates His Star Power
Dressed kind of like Zorro and sounding a bit like Future, Moroccan hip-hop artist Issam delivered what was easily one of the weekend’s best sets on the intimate Mbari stage. (The area was essentially a veranda cleared of the patio furniture to make room for dancing, with a thoughtful visual art/music/fashion installation from the Morocco’s Music of Contemporary African Art Al Maaden and Paris collective Art Comes First happening inside.) Rhyming in Arabic and performing from atop the decks, the 26-year-old Casablanca native was all swagger and charisma, delivering rhymes above some of the most hypnotically complex beats we’ve heard in a minute. Already an Internet star, Issam deserves to break into the big time worldwide, and soon.
Or:la Gets Relentless
The Irish producer’s Sunday night set was of the variety that grabbed you by the collar and didn’t let go for a full two hours. Born Orlagh Dooley, the artist blazed through her techno, house and bass productions, delivering a simultaneously nuanced and thrilling set that had Oasis attendees spinning, twirling, whirling and head-banging throughout the grassy dance floor.
Optimo Lives Up to Its Reputation
Optimo’s reputation preceded their Saturday night set on the Bamboo stage, with some of the most in-the-know dance heads calling the Glasgow duo one the best acts in the game. Happily, this turned out not to be hyperbole. Taking turns back and forth on the decks, Optimo’s Twitch and Jonnie Wilkes delivered a playful set that spanned techno, house, tribal and classic rock, with the duo sampling The Door’s “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” lifting off with Barbatuques' 2005 classic "Baianá," dipping into Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and closing with Slayer’s “Angel of Death,” which, by the time we all got there, made perfect sense.
Amine K Reps for Morocco
Having played all five years of Oasis, Moroccan prodcuer Amine K is a legend at both the festival and the country's electronic scene at large. For his Sunday night Oasis stage set, he played his strain of elevated and driving, desert tech house that will sound familiar to anyone who's been to Burning Man. The packed crowd went commensurately wild for the home country hero, and with good reason.