Words & interview by Dr Stephanie Minchin (Yoga Teacher, Trainee Yoga Therapist & Clinical Psychologist) @theyogapsychologist
To the Albanians, Kala means ‘castle’; to the English it means ‘festival’. You know you’re onto something special when the festival is the first of its kind in a country and the President and the Minister for Tourism come to play (with a donation of cold beers!).
For a whole week at the end of June, a beautiful little Kala community was born on the Albanian Riviera. Despite the traditional image of boozy Brits festival-ling abroad, there were none of your classic festival faux-pas’, no dregs at dawn or mounds of litter and rowdiness. Kala was something special. Unique. Boutique. Without the pretence.
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In booking the festival you were signing up to much more than just music. Kala was an experience. From the onset, Kala made a thoroughly conscious and thoughtful effort in its planning. The booking came with a travel guide brochure, full of handy hints, transport tips and local Albanian phrases much more than any casual holiday package deal!
The Kala team impressively even secured the carbon footprint certificate to help combat climate change. Accommodation was carefully handpicked along the Albanian riviera, ranging from budget to lux, all decorated along the scenic Ionian coastline. The scenery was breathtaking, no filter needed. Crystal clear waters against a mountainous backdrop, creating an unbelievable panoramic view.
The scenes at the festival were also quite a picture. The festival vibes were beautifully boutique, with bohemian gladrag decor by the creative duo Adrienne Peterffy and Laura Peacock. Musically, the line-up was top dollar, with the festival site expanding across 4 different stages, all as decadent as their name. Splendor was as swank as it sounds, the cove was an intimate little spot and the Empire stage hosted the headliners, Moodymann, Black Madonna and Secretsundaze. You never know what to expect in a Moodymann set other than he knows how to party.
The Detroit native stuck to four to the floor dance floor cuts that lifted the crowd after Floreal’s groovy but understated warmup. Black Madonna played a powerhouse set, jumping from energetic breakbeats to soaring disco and Sunday saw the renowned Secretsundaze duo James Priestley and Giles Smith bringing in the vibes until dawn. The whole musical programming was a treat to the ears, with other big names including Roy Ayers for the finest in funk, soul and jazz, king of Balearic beats Alfredo and Korean born electronic DJ Peggy Gou, as well as Jan Schulte, Brian Not Brain, Nick The Record and John Gomez.
Kala’s programme extended beyond the music to offer a whole range of optional wellness activities, including free daily morning and sunset yoga on a heavenly wooden deck looking out across the ocean.
A serene space supporting the drishti gaze out to the horizon. Integrating the beauty of movement and music, the yoga classes were complimented by a sunset DJ set sharing atmospheric tracks from the likes of Fat Freddy’s Drop, Bonobo and Nightmares on Wax. These special soundscape yoga classes shared bin-aural beats in a downtempo style, bringing the conscious vibes and positive vibrations whilst saluting the sun!
There were also exclusive bookable beach massages to ease the dancing feet and, for those with a sense of adventure, additional sporting activities including kayaking and paragliding provided all the thrills.
And what else made Kala so special? The star-struck moment of sharing the Kala ferry with my favourite A-list Detroit DJ whilst the dolphins jumped across the sun-setting horizon (sounds too romantic? True story!)…. The speed boat ride to the secret beach Gjipe, for a private day party in a foresty canyon (I can still hear my dear friend’s delight echoing “Darling, I take you to paradise, total paradise”. Dreamy.)…. The 5am impromptu beach clean up of happy festival-goers clearing litter from the pebbles (eat your heart out ‘leave no trace’!)…. The fact that this was not wholly a British affair with an eclectic mix of festival folk (partying with locals offering the opportunity to get lost in translation with late night chats!)…. And the hospitality of the host country (Felemenderit’ to the generosity of the Albanian waiters, the late night dancing around the restaurants and the relentless complimentary carafs of wine).… Finally here’s a shout out to the local taxi drivers who provided a ‘choice’ selection of tunes with smiles on route to the festival site 🙂
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Kala was the perfect cocktail of music, wellness and sunshine. The festival had quality music with a unique atmosphere and total chill vibes. If you are looking for a new festival abroad, then Kala has certainly marked Albania on the map.
Kala, you shine, and have left me with the post-festival glow. The ‘forbidden fruit’, I’ve had a bite and now I want more. See you in 2019.
Q&A with Rob Searle, Director of Kala
SM: Kala 2018 was the first international music festival in Albania, what led you to chose this dreamy destination and how did you develop the festival alongside the local community?
RS: I have been visiting Dhermi for the past four years now as my partner owns a property there. I instantly fell in love with the place and have been working on producing a show there for the last few years. We worked closely with all the local businesses and have already started to plan how we can further develop our relationships to benefit the local community as much as possible.
SM: How do you maintain the conscious collective and eco-friendly ethos at Kala?
RS: We work very closely with the government to ensure that we had regular waste collections throughout the event and they employed a dedicated team of cleaners who did a brilliant job during the event. Our amazing crowd also did something you rarely witness at festivals which was to clean the entire beach of any waste as soon as the show finished at 6am. Going into 2019 we will be working on a sustainability plan for the event which will further help reduce the impact that the event has.
SM: The wellness aspect of the festival was a beautiful compliment to the music programme, what sets Kala aside from other ’boutique’ festivals?
RS: Kala offers a holiday experience whilst having a broad range of music, wellness and activities for guests to enjoy.
SM: What were the festival delights, from the DJ highlights to unexpected surprises?
RS: Roy Ayers was a definite highlight of the festival although I could not fault any of the artists across the week.
SM: How would you summarise Kala in 3 words?
RS: Paradise, Hedonism, Freedom
SM: In what way do you hope Kala 2019 will shine even brighter?
RS: We have already been planning some exciting new additions for 2019 which will all be revealed over the next few months.
Kala will return to Dhermi, on the Albanian Riviera on 12th to 19th June, 2019
For early bird sign up info, visit the Kala website.
Photo credits: Here & Now