One half of British dancefloor dominators, Basement Jaxx, soaked up the spirit of Sri Lanka at Electric Peacock Festival last December. This is how it went down...
Electric Peacock Festival, Sri Lanka
Felix: “Sri Lanka is a great place. People are very warm, friendly and switched on (apparently it's the second most literate country in Asia, behind Japan). The Sinhalese have a great attitude, which probably stems from a culture where two-thirds of the population are Buddhist. There is an air of "It's ok, life is what it is"; an acceptance, tolerance and calmness, which comes as a refreshing change from the riots in the UK.
“I arrive two days before the shows, with my tour manager, Biff, an expert in festivals, the dance world, planetary travel and with an open intergalactic attitude. We'd chosen to get there early and chill a couple of hundred miles south of Colombo, where we un-jetlag a bit and manage to see a box fish, looking like E.T. and the size of a big baby (in the sea). This is my second visit here. Last time, I had a two-week holiday with my girlfriend's family, we travelled around and got to see some jungle (elephants and huge monitor lizards) and amazing Kandy dancers doing very dope traditional dance. This triggered the idea to get London Sinhalese drummers and dancers to open for the Jaxx London Somerset House live show a couple of years ago.
“The drive to Colombo sees hours of dark, green wet and sunny jungle, on a smooth road with no traffic, until we get to the city itself. On arrival, we check out a market and a couple of Buddhist temples (where I get very confused by statues and icons from several religions. There is a massive overlap between Hinduism, buddhism and Shinto. Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion). Anyway, this is DJ Mag, yeah? Next stop the festival...
“This is the second year running for the Electric Peacock Festival, which takes place on a stage on a Naval base road, next to a lighthouse and on a beach. I am told people find the concept of paying money to go and hear someone playing music (particularly DJing) an alien concept. Luckily, lots of people show up, throw shapes and the whole thing goes swimmingly. They love it. Starting out with dub reggae (they have a big love for dub, apparently) Asian-tinged house stuff, more house and dubstep, it's game on. Great vibe, with a real openness and un-jaded, un-cynical energy. I enjoy playing more to crowds who are less "knowing" about what is and isn't cool. People waste such a lot of energy on that stuff and don't seem to make themselves any happier.
“Nihaal (Radio 1) plays after me. He and his Mrs have Sri Lankan roots, which goes down well, so I take my shoes off and have a dance in the sand.
“Clearly, the Electric Crew has a great attitude, with a genuine love of dance culture, complete with the involvement of local visual artists. The scene is pretty new and they've got a chance to create something really good. Talking to locals there and in India, I've told them not to put “The West” on such a pedestal. The vibe here is great, there's an energy and excitement — please don't get sucked up into the homogenous Global Corporate Entertainment Machine and become greedy. Make it your own thing. I want to be downloading Sri Lankan trax on Beatport.”
Columbo Night Races, Columbo, Sri Lanka
“The next night sees me DJing on the side of the road, next to the Colombo Night Races, with about eight hours of racing around the centre (they'd been doing the trials the night before, so I'd hardly slept). The organisers are originally a little embarrassed about the set-up for the DJ, which has to be moved due to the Prime Minister having dinner. Anyway, I give it a crack, which ends up with a load of local kids raving in a little area. There's a great vibe, which I love until it is shut down (they are worried it was turning into a riot), so I play a choir version of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' to calm them down, then 'Where's Your Head At?' and leave. What a great trip!”
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