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72 Hours at LIB

Thursday

As the first night approached on Thursday, we gathered around the Sacred Fire right outside the Beacon for the opening ceremony celebration. Here we commenced the start of the festival with an indigenous invocation to honor the land and pay respect to the ancestors of the space we stood. The acknowledgment of LIB as more than party was felt and the emphasis of a transformational experience was central. The elders who guided the ceremony spoke upon the importance of what the gathering was really all about in reflection of our ancient future where the spirit, magic and healing was to be felt deeper in essence beneath all the outward entertainment. It was apparent from the opening ceremony that this year was intended to be more than just about principles, but about creating a container for engagement and change.

The leaders strongly expressed how LIB should be internalized as a catalyst for helping to heal ourselves and the planet during these critical times. From the talks and workshops to the incredible art and music presented with a strong message of intention; intention to take the full spectrum of magic, love and consciousness experienced at LIB outside of the festival grounds and spread it throughout our communities. This celebration of life was paramount and awareness heightened as the weekend commenced.

As the sun set, the first musical experience began with mystical folktronic group Yaima performing at the Beacon stage. When the opening ceremony finished and gatherers filtered into the Beacon to hear the majestic sounds played by male member Masaru Hegasa and the heart piercing vocals of Pepper Proud, it was not long before the transcendental seduction was induced. The beautiful smiling faces and barefoot sensation of dancing on carpeted ground brought forth a deep heart opening, leaving us in feelings of exuberance and uplifted by the powerful undistorted vibrations. The Beacon space offered a intimate experience with close knit sound while still spacious and open with a high canopy as air flowed through from all directions. The freedom to expand, breathe and let go was essential to the Compass point as the interior was filled with many additions including cushions, plants, and an elixir bar. The decorative colors of green and blue were soothing and to immerse in and felt pleasantly natural. As Yaima’s set came to a close and the sun was over the horizon, a blissful atmosphere was flowing and the transformation had begun.

Later that night,  Saqi’s first set of the weekend cultivated a spirit of good vibes within the cozy Community Lodge stage. Saqi’s unique blend of old world acoustic instrumentation and and earthy beats infused the Craft with life on Thursday night. Accompanied by his brother and KR3TURE who offered an exceptional live flavor, Saqi played off his debut album, Quest’s End as well as unreleased material he’s made in recent months. Moving live vocal performances by Sasha Rose added some feminine medicine and were beautifully interspersed with upbeat remixes of Autograph and Biggie Smalls.

Friday

Friday kicked off with a full day of workshops, talks, music and exploration of the creative spaces that were spread out over the large site. In the morning, we started our flow heading to the Landing point of the Compass and attending the workshop at the Grid space titled “The Creative Process” with David Satori (of Beats Antique/Dirtwire). This was an incredibly inspiring offering for all artists, musicians and creators of some medium.  To listen, view and understand the process of doing creative work from someone highly recognized like David Satori who has years of experience was inspiring and eye opening. He broke down 7 key elements to the creative process and elebroted on from a professional stand point. He also displayed his personal music production process that he’s found success in and wats to get out of blocks when things aren’t flowing. After the workshop, many attendees were engaging with questions and felt a boost of confidence to get there own creative juices out in the world based off this informative lesson.

As the winds carried us onward with inspiration, the next stop on Friday was attending two talks within the realms of plant medicine as well as our introduction to the Craft area of the Compass. This interactive space was the home of earth alchemy, which included the Botanical Studies, Paleo Arts, the Witch’s Hut apothecary and the Community Lodge tree shaded stage. The first talk we attended was titled Becoming An Herbalist and taught by Special Blackthorn, who has long worked in plant alchemy with the organization, Potionarium. Her flowering spirit and delightful demeanor offered a sweet sensation to all who graced her presence. She spoke upon some of her favorite herbs as well as spread a plethora of knowledge surrounding plant medicine of all kinds. She was also the host of the natural healing space called the Witch’s Hut where she was nested all weekend, offering her herbal potions and tinctures to all who came in for a visit. She created a truly nourishing space to be and one where you could feel pure. It was here that she set up her own apothecary with mason jars filled with macerating medicine and fresh herbs from wall to wall.

As this opened us up to the healing magic that was abundant in the Craft point this year, we transitioned over the Community Lodge area where renown permaculture activist and long time herbalist Penny Livingston engaged attendees in her outdoor talk titled “Regenerative Herbalism”.  Her ethos and direction was geared around the methods and mindset needed maintain awareness in the face of the pharmaceutical and environmental destruction. Being a permaculture herbalist, she holds a strong message of healing the earth. Penny expressed points that emphasized regeneration, such as working with plant cycles to continue them, growing and foraging medicine as well as working to transform land by creating medicinal gardens in their place. She also focused on the magical qualities of herbs and stated how just sitting with them for a while to gain the energetic understanding is as impotent as the physical effects. Towards the end of the worship, we are all basked in the sunlight of the day and at ease from the refreshing breeze and shady space. Now that afternoon was approaching on our first full day of LIB, we were feeling down to earth and ready to embrace some music. Highlights from the first full night of music were the dusty sunset dance parties hosted by Armin Miran at the Favela Bar and Ecuadorean electronica artist Nicola Cruz at the Lightning Stage.

Saturday

Saturday brought us lots of music experiences that we’re memorable and diverse including the psychedelic bass extravaganza at the Thunder Stage with incredibly potent sets by Spacegaisha, Plantrae,  Kayla Scintilla and Hedflux. A  tribal take over and Crossroads including 4 hour ethnic-dance journey by Sabo and to top it off, the exceptional late night world fusion performances at the Beacon with Stallamara followed by Dirtwire at the Grand Artique.

One outstanding offering was Porangui’s multi-instrumental live shamanic sound journey that captivated attendees into a vibrational trance induced by a strong intensional power. Channeling through on the spot voice and instrumental abilities, the midday performance from this one-man orchestra began as a moving meditation on the power of music and ended as a vibrant cross-cultural dance party. Speaking from the heart, in English and Spanish, Porangui performed songs by looping his voice with hand drums, guitar, didgeridoo and a dozen other percussion instruments. Playing for the Water and earth spirits, his explanation of how sound can heal and breathe life into world was incredibly moving and medicine for the body, mind and spirit.

Sunday

The last day of the gathering was essential for leaving us in a state of empowering bliss to be inspired as we returned back to our homes and communities the following day. In the morning we visited the Learning Kitchen to indulge in some delicious nourishment as well as learned some informative knowledge into health, food and diet. We sat in for a workshop titled “Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet”, with Magda Freedom Rod who explained some key insights surrounding nutrition, superfoods and vitamin rich ingredients to implement into your daily diet. As always, she also demonstrated a few simple recipes for us to try at home.

After our uplifting and health boosting time at the Learning Kitchen, we carried on to the Beacon for a panel discussion and talk that truly impacted our lives in positive way. The panel titled “A Legacy of Empowerment:  Monitoring the Movement” consisted of four established earth activists and highly influential speakers, including Penny Livingston, Starhawk, Paul Stamets and James Stark. Hosted by Ayana Young, for over 1 hour they took turn answering questions and speaking upon some of the most pressing questions today in regards to how to become active, empowered and get involved to help heal the earth.

A couple questions discussed were on subjects such as “How to take the first step?” and “what are some essential ways that they find important to become actively empowered?” Penny’s responses raised awareness around finding mentorship in your community and how it first take’s a foremost desire to help others before the transformative work can flow through. Starhwalk stressed the importance of leadership and how a selfless attitude to be of service is key. James and Paul brought up the rebuilding the village model as well as the need for a revolution in the ecology of consciousness. Over all, the responses and input from each member brought to attention a deep insight on the great shift that is occurring right now on this planet and offered incredible ideas and working methods to take to heart so the all attendees can start to incorporate them. The push for empowerment, leadership and social action is needed more than ever before and after this inspiring panel, we felt that we had an abundance of methods to take the plunge.

 

Bringing ‘Andes-Step’ to the USA

An Interview with Nicola Cruz

Nicola Cruz is an eclectic international producer born in France of South American descent.  He has established himself as an underground icon of South America’s electronic music movement. By bridging local soundscapes from the mountains and jungles with deep latin flavored rhythms and bass heavy beats, Nicola Cruz is bringing the Andean soundscape to dance floors worldwide.

This summer Nicola performed at several popular West Coast musical festivals, including Beloved Festival in Oregon and Symbiosis Gathering in California. We were fortunate enough to meet with Nicola before his set at Symbiosis.  We delved right into his thoughts on why the South American sound has caught our attention in the U.S. and abroad.

He thinks that the “American music scene has lots of different crowds but [he] feels the response has been nice. The American listeners always show [him] a lot of love at shows, which always feels good.” His music “lacks talking but emphasizes unique samples and rhythms from [his] South American roots,” which he believes is becoming more popular in the US.

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Nicola Cruz’s music offers a beautiful balance of sounds, drawing from a verity of sources that reflect his passion for Andean culture and the landscapes, rituals and rhythms that raised him.  His vibrant mix of organic samples and deep rhythms, topped with smooth seamless melodies creates a soundscape for listeners to simultaneously journey into and move the body through.

He feels that the sonic qualities of his music is not just deeply reflective of the world he comes from, but also a personal practice of self-expression.  Thus his music is an example of his own personality, the greater identity of Andean culture and South America at large.

Ultimately, his sound and practice “came natural for [him] while living in Quito. Living there, you are really exposed to music from the mountains (Andes), the coast and the jungle. The mix of environments in Ecuador creates an interesting contrast of sub-cultures and through their soundscapes takes listeners on a whole trip from the jungle to the coast to the mountains.”

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He explained, “I really like to take music from around the country that I find through parties I attend or on vinyl records as well as natural environments, etc. Whatever I can sample from really, At the same time however, I love to record live instruments to create more sounds that I compose organically.”

We wondered if any traditional Andean Music or indigenous instruments inspired his music, but he responded, “not really, only some percussion“. Furthermore, “for me, studying the folklore and folk music is kind of a new thing. When I say that I mean in last 5 years but still I find it to be a new addition in my production. “

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The defining theme for us at Breaking Borders during our Symbiosis coverage was whether festival culture functions as a was to ‘break down borders,’ by bringing people together as one, regardless of cultural differences.  His response was simply, “yeah, well, several years I’ve been playing festivals world-wide so that’s integration right there.”  He symbolizes a new wave of artists who are breaking borders and defying cultural boxes and is the perfect example of an artist who does not fit into a single genre and is difficult to label.

He continued, “I’m known for playing everywhere from large disco clubs to smaller spaces that are more rustic and traditional, there are no limits.” This resonated with us and validated our understanding that the music of Nicola Cruz is an essential reflection of himself and his culture. A reflection which should be heard as personal musical expression, one that blurs genre lines, and returns the focus to the celebration of diversity without judgement of difference.

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We were curious what the future holds for Nicola Cruz and if any new tours, projects or any collabs are on the horizon. He replied, “I will continue to be active internationally with shows coming up in Mexico, Brazil and then back to the U.S for New Years in Los Angeles.” Additionally, “there will also be new compositions since if I don’t have that, I don’t have anything. As for upcoming  collaborations, they are secret right now but I can tell you that I am always working with others.”

As a final question, we asked Nicola if he recommended any global festivals in South America that are similar to Symbiosis. He told us that “Nomad festival in Chile is a good one coming up next year. It contains a strong global fusion element and is always looking to collaborate with people from around the world through volunteering, performance, etc.

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Celebrating Life Through Organic Electronic Vibrations

We are pleased to share our second edition of our international artist interview series for Symbiosis Gathering.  We have been fortunate to catch up with Australian bass producer Bumble who travels globally offering his unique earth-bass soundscapes. Max has performed at Symbiosis Gathering for consecutive years (2015-2016) and continues to impress festival audiences world-wide through is funky dance floor flavor. His intention for reconnecting to nature and all life on earth is beautifully reflected in his music production. We are grateful to have had a chance to ask some questions about his musical process and his experience as a cross-cultural performer. Enjoy!

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Breaking Borders: Symbiosis is a unique global gathering, what makes it special to you and how does it stand out among other similar events?

Bumble: Festival culture across the planet is thriving and the communities that inhabit these environments are engaged in everything that is on offer. Amongst the thousands of festivals I have participated in, last year’s Symbiosis Gathering was my peak experience not only from an artist’s perspective, but from a festival participant perspective. Last year I caught amazing workshops, witnessed Saul Williams do spoken word, caught a plethora of musical genres that moved me on elaborate stage design. I was dazzled by epic large artwork. and surrounded by the most colorful friendly people. Unlike some other events where FOMO (fear of missing out) on what’s happening over there in another area sometime guides my movements, at Symbiosis I always felt in the right spot at the right time. It was magic.

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Your music has become quite popular in the USA (primarily on the west coast). What’s your opinion on that? Why do you think the Australian bass scene has become so attractive here?

Sitting in my studio set deep into a national park north of Sydney, it never dawns on me in the moment that the audio ripples that are created there would fan out across the planet. But it does. I am blown away by the reality that people dig my music and the great platform that creates for the stories I want to tell. Generally speaking there are some truly talented folks in Australia making bass music and they deserve all the attention they get, and some that you have not yet heard of that will be gracing your ears soon. Aside from the talent, I think Australia and the USA have been aligned for decades and the flow back and forth of culture has been fluid during this period.

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What is the significance of your chosen artist name “Bumble”? You seem to feel strongly about the consciousness surrounding bees? How did that come about?

The alias Bumble was gifted to me by some friends during a late evening/early morning 10 years ago. It has shifted from its previous intention which defined me as a busy bee, into a platform to express my feelings about this amazing world that we live in. My respect for this planet and all its organisms, including birds, bees, humans, plants, trees and fungi’s is profound and I actively engage a positive relationship with her. Through all my projects including my bush regeneration business in Australia to the tree planting festivals we produce and the stories I tell in my music I like to help others connect with the amazing world we live together with.

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Your music contains a lot of organic instrumentation and vocals, how does it feel to fuse acoustic sounds into your intricate electronic production?

I love working with organic instruments. My musical journey saw me first playing in Punk, Hardcore and Ska bands and my first instrument that I played (although badly), the Trumpet. I went on to play a lot of guitar in a string of bands that would occasionally tour Australia. There is so much grit and form in organic instruments and I love recording and manipulating these to compliment my electronic creations. I have always written/co-written all the vocal content for the concept albums, that my good friend and actor Steven Kennedy helps mouth to tell the stories on my full length albums. These interludes form a storyline that I love sharing. I will continue to do so, stay tuned for a full length release prior to the Symbiosis Eclipse 2017.

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What’s you opinion on the independent music and art scene today, specifically within global festival culture? Do you see festival culture functioning in a way that challenges to “break down” social norms?

Independent music within the bass festival scene, is show heavy. Meaning that living from your music is dependent on playing shows often. This is great for some, not for others, and can change over time. It is how it is. And for me I cherish the opportunity that this facilitates. I love to travel and share stories and I have met many inspiring people over the years. I am impressed by the solid arts culture that has evolved on the west coast. It is unlike the rest of the world and you should be proud of the flourishing new renaissance.

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Festival culture has become very conscious of itself and is providing new stepping stones for change in the real world. Through combining arts and music with workshops and other world improving culture the festival scene has become a starting point for the change we want to see in the world. I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that the movement stops there. Our events need to surpass “leave no trace” into “leave a trace”, beyond personal development into the real world at the festival sites and at home. Festivals that put more back into the sites they inhabit and involving the participants of the festival in this improvement empowers them to take that home into their own communities at home.

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Many of your tracks and albums contain deep concepts surrounding nature consciousness. How much does the natural environment influence you and your music? What has inspired you to blend biology into a your productions?

I have always been of the bush. Spent all my time in the forest. At some point post my active direct activism era, I completed a environmental science degree, did a year conservation work in Ecuador, and since then have started my own bush regeneration business, growing this to work with 20 of my friends to deliver healthy ecosystems for the benefit of flora and fauna in national parks and council bushland around Sydney, Australia. Beyond that the positive action tree planting music festival that I co-direct, “Regrowth Festival” (www.re-gen.org.au) has grown to connect youth culture with the environment through enticing youth out through great music and entertainment and give them the opportunity to be part of a positive successful environmental project. It is amazing how the empowerment of being part of a positive project can flow on into people’s lives and can create a wave. I am of nature and therefore it feeds through into my music. I can’t help it.

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What is one “life changing” moment or realization you have had in the world since becoming an international musician?

That we are all dancing around the world in these super tight knit strong communities, and that if we choose to harness this energy locally and globally, we can change the world.

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Any new projects, tours, concepts to look forward to you?

After the North America tour finishes in Hawaii, I will follow on through into the Australian Summer. Some solid time in the studio with the new album out prior to July 2017, before Symbiosis “Eclipse Festival”. And then be looking to build a solid tour up for the 2017 in North America and beyond.

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Enchanted Forest Gathering: Menodino’s Hidden Gem

Last month, the Breaking Borders team ventured deep into the heart of Mendocino county to get the full Northern California transformational music festival experience at Enchanted Forest Gathering.

Now in its 6th year, Enchanted Forest Gathering has perfected the art of creating an environment for healing and expression. Enchanted Forest impressively maintains a family-style community while bringing in countless world class performers and state of the art production quality.

Ethos

Enchanted Forest is its very own brand of transformational music festival. Tucked away in a hidden valley, this festival encapsulated the spirit of the Nor Cal region. Kind and inviting, there was a focus on getting weird without judgment.

Colorful patterns abound, organic food stands dotted the forested river valley, while small temples were scattered throughout the campground designed for yoga and workshops. The scent of palo santo and redwood soaked the air. And vibrations of ground-shaking bass could be felt throughout camp. All senses were engaged for this gathering.

Microenvironments

To become an enchanted forest, Black Oak Ranch was filled with not just a couple stages, but dozens of microenvironements.

Small tented areas like the pillow-filled Nectar Temple offered an occasional break from the action. The bass-infused Saucy Spa served as communal showers by day and hosted after-hour DJ sets deep into the night.

Kidslandia provided a safe space for the little ones and encouraged a family atmosphere. The Branches Art Gallery was a home base for dozens of psychedelic artists. Kombucha stations instead of bars encouraged revitalization instead of intoxication. And on site marijuana dispensaries supported an environment for herbal healing.

Yoga was also a staple of Enchanted Forest. The wildly popular Yoga of Bass class even incorporated the main stage’s booming Function One speakers into it’s upbeat yoga routine!

Music

The long hot days were spent chilling by the Swimmin’ Hole stage. Most participants lounged in the small river next to the stage, taking in the liquid bass tunes of SOOHAN, SaQi, Autograf and others. Around nightfall, the crowd would add layers and wander over to the Mighty Oak Stage.

The Oak stage, Enchanted Forest’s centerpiece, had arguably the most impressive stage production we’ve even seen. Audiowaska’s creation combined carved wood and projection mapped visuals with artistic metal work and live flowers. The complimentary glow of twirling fire and mesmerizing lasers glued antendees to it late into the night.

Friday night featured variations of psychedelic trap thanks to PantryRaid and Clozee. Day two saw the stage lit up again with the earthy bass of Love and Light and Nominus, and the genreless headliners, Shpongle and The Polish Ambassador.

With just a few thousand participants, Enchanted Forest felt like a hidden gem – a secret festival specifically designed for the Mendocino community. Rarely is a festival able to combine such world class production with such an intimate and natural environment. Because of this, Enchanted Forest hardly felt like a world renowned festival, but more so a small gathering of old friends getting together to dance.

 

Lightning in a Bottle

Intro by Rourke Healey. Photos by Nick Neumann.


Over Memorial Day Weekend the Breaking Borders team kicked off the festival season by trekking down to Bradly, CA to experience Lightning in A Bottle. Taking place on the shores of a dry lakebed half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles, LIB is one of California’s premiere transformational music festivals.

This year marks Breaking Borders 4th LIB, giving us the chance to reflect on how far LIB has come and how it has kept the magic that makes it special.

For the uninitiated LIB blends the musical attractions of Coachella with the DIY spirit of Burning Man. Veteran burners with U-hauls and sprawling encampments party next weathered hippies and bros camping in their pick up trucks. Yoga enthusiasts wake up early to attend crowded classes, while house heads stumble back to camp after long nights of dancing. More than anything LIB is filled with good-looking weird people that enjoy being themselves.

At LIB there isn’t one party. For those that need to dance, the music goes all night. For the early birds that wake at sunrise for yoga, it is there. And for some, they can do it all. Yogis acknowledge their hungover participants on Saturday morning, but withhold judgment. An unconscious cloud of acceptance surrounds the entire experience.

This was LIB’s third gathering at Lake San Antonio and its largest edition since it started 16 years ago in Los Angeles. With more people came larger crowds and more traffic, but somehow the energy and feeling of a small community remained. It seems LIB has learned how to sell out without selling out.

As it grows, the spirit of LIB evolves and spreads with it. LIB effortlessly teaches newcomers how to join the vibe as it overwhelms them, consuming each with positivity, and gently forcing them to participate. The bridges were a constant chain of high fives, the campsites a breeding grounds for sharing, and the inviting nature of strangers everpresent.

The DO LaB has a knack for bringing in music you didn’t know you loved. Each stage has a distinct sound and energy – the Woogie is a house lover’s heaven; the Thunder stage is LIB’s home of bass. Watching the crowd glow to Lee Burridge’s sunset set at the Woogie on Sunday you could feel the DO LaB’s dedication to finding artists that fit each stages personality.

Highlights from the Thunder stage included the Desert Dwellers extravagant live experience, Tokimosta’s genre-less remixes and The Polish Ambassadors liquid grooves. The Lightning stage hosted many of the live ‘headliners’ this year, from Grimes to Chet Faker’s closing set. It was a hotspot for late afternoon tunes as well with Marian Hill and Lafa Taylor getting the crowd into it. And of course, the Woogie kept on doing its thing, even with a few edits to the fabled treehouse. Each day the Woogie got started early with the help of Dirtybird’s own Sascha Robotti and Justin Jay. The booty-shaking bass didn’t slow down much all weekend thanks to andhim, Four Tet and Guy Gerber’s closing late Sunday.

The LIB ethos encourages all to reflect, rejuvenate, and celebrate (and dance). By Sunday evening it seems those who got lost have been found, those experiencing LIB with love ones have grown closer and those entering alone have found a family.

Unlike other festivals you won’t find people pouring over set times or rushing to stages. Instead people wander about, popping into a particularly lively cooking lesson, pausing at the subtly profound live painting, popping into the Favela Bar for a dance party or slowing down to walk with a new friend they’ve made.

For half a century California has made itself home to conscientious hedonism. Now, in this new age of festivals, LIB sets itself apart as a worthwhile pilgrimage. Filling the golden hills with beautiful sounds and an inclusive spirit, LIB will remind you of the power of human creativity and your own self worth.