Live Review | Shambala Festival, August 27-30

Posted on September 9th, 2015 in Live, Reviews by .

Sidestepper-©Louise Roberts

Two Latin bands took centre stage at this year’s Shambala festival
Photo of Sidestepper by Louise Roberts, photo of the grand finale by Caroline Faruolo

This festival, whose tagline is ‘Adventures in Utopia,’ really is a colourful wonderland of fun. Held in a secret country estate in Northamptonshire, the site is the perfect size, not too big and not too small, and the punters are a sparkly mix of revellers. There are no big-name headliners here, and the festival is all the better for it. Instead of snagging a ticket based on one or two artists, punters are happy to wander and let the tides of the day wash them to any of the various stages, large and small, each one full of excellent artists. Shambala is best experienced without a plan – whatever you stumble upon is sure to be entertaining, be it a Nepalese band trying to bring back the sun on a rainy Sunday, or a interpretive dance competition in the Social Club.

Some of the weekend’s highlights included the ever-excellent CC Smugglers, singer-songwriter Will Varley, Dizraeli & The Small Gods, and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyaté. But Sidestepper and Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna were by far the standouts.

It may have been raining, but that did not slow the unstoppable force that is Pascuala Ilabaca y Fauna. A fireball of an accordionist and singer from Chile, Pascuala Ilabaca and her band Fauna lit up the stage from the very first number. Those brave enough to face the rain, dressed in proper waterproofs or a mixture of ponchos and sequins (it is Shambala after all – sequins are mandatory), were not disappointed as the talented Ilabaca sang, played and danced her way around songs influenced by everything from cumbia to Indian classical music. It was the type of performance that had you hooked from the beginning, without a moment of respite – perfect for a rainy festival Sunday.

The weather had more or less cleared up by the time Colombian band Sidestepper came onstage, who brought their signature electro-cumbia. Their super danceable Afro-Colombian sound was carried by the charismatic El Chongo, Edgardo Garcés, and Erika Muñoz, who had the crowd moving and grooving from the get-go. While Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni ba closed the stage afterwards with one of the best sets I’ve seen them do in a while, Sidestepper, with their unflagging energy might have been a better send-off for the final night of the festival.

I’m already counting down the days until next year’s festival!



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