future psychohistorians will likely refer to the year 2020 as a key data point when analyzing the tendencies of human behavior in the face of a common collective threat. Months roll by and fly off the calendar, yet the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc and obstruct our usual way of life. For the first time since the 1918-1919 Spanish flu outbreak facemasks have become a widespread everyday item. Unsurprisingly, holidays and recreational activities have dropped down in priorities lists, as the words “lockdown” and “quarantine” hang like a Damoclean sword over every instance of planned activity. Countless events all over the globe – concerts, festivals, etc. have been cancelled due to health considerations. So, even if you had the desire and the opportunity to satisfy those gushing adventurous needs, the available options been rather uninspiring. And yet, as the saying goes – he who seeks finds…something!
So how about this – a music festival on a virgin site in the Balkan Mountains, surrounded by peaks, valleys, rivers, driving along curvy roads that priovide a sensation of rafting? On a location so pristine and untouched that the organizers are forced to put the GPS coordinates in the official contact page so people can find it? Without Wi-Fi? Where decorations and festival attire are viewed not only as essential, but to a sense mandatory? Oh, and there’s a camping site!
Do I have your attention yet?
Upon entering the rather compact, but surprisingly spacious festival site, you’re suddenly teleported to a different world. A world you never thought could co-exist in the same mundane & predictable reality that tends to curb some of the overflowing enthusiasm we carry throughout our childhood. A world of wonder, verve and spirit. Another breath in and you feel an almost forgotten sense of playfulness wash over softly your body & mind to cover you with its gentle blanket. This unexpected relaxation exposes another feeling that has remained intact even after years of the characteristic indifference that besets upon reaching adulthood – a state of presence within the moment, unburdened with the bag of concerns and doubts we usually carry around. You stand up straighter, noticeably feeling more alert, but surprisingly loose at the same time. The glinting eyes radiate a lively assuredness that has usurped your habitual headspace, culminating in light, devious on your face.
Could it really be?
After all this time…
THE FIRE BURNS STILL!
This ensuing transition has tapped into thoughts and feelings so far beyond the spectrum of daily life, that it leaves you struggling to adapt. Your eyes frantically probe to distinguish familiar shapes of objects or apparel to provide your brain the necessary data for composing an accurate representation of the surroundings. Alas, it proves to be an impossible task. For the first time ever you’re able to sympathize with the stories of the great explorers stumbling through distant lands in the far corners of the globe. You tread carefully… The scenery is strange and ethereal – like some weird amalgam of Harry Potter, Burning Man and a congregation for a religion that doesn’t even exist yet (but most definitely will in the future)…
The colorful robes, dresses and other weird & stylish garments create a divergent visual bazaar, transforming your initial curiosity into an unmistakable sense of wonder. The air brims with a dazzling atmosphere of originality, excitement and pizazz. A sultry smell of bonfires creeps into the nostrils and pleads a convincing case to an expectant and restless gut. Yet all of this might just as well constitute a disjointed combination of odd details if it wasn’t for the glue, which tied it all together – the music! It emanates a sense of vibrancy and togetherness never experienced before,
But enough with the teasing descriptions – is the place I’m referring to real or just a scrapped chapter of some shitty teenage fanfiction storyline that was written with sticky fingers?
My friends, this place is more vivid and exciting than all the fancy word combos I can come up within a lifetime. And it’s` exactly the reason why I want try to describe it anyway – good vibes can sometimes be hard to come by, especially in tumultuous times like ours.
Situated deep in the reaches of the Balkan Mountains near Sevlievo, Bulgaria, the Bedouin Forest Residence hosts the aptly named “Lost Gipsy Land” festival. The Bedouin complex itself provides a variety of different services to suit any traveler’s needs. The residence is located in a hilly and almost virgin site, surrounded by several small villages. It’s a beautiful and mesmerizing area that deserves to be thoroughly explored on its own.My personal experience of the festival included a stay in a traditional house in one of the villages, a van and some mountain bikes to explore the surroundings. The swerving roads & lush scenery offer enough adventure on their own, but if you really want to hit the trails, there are several routes, which offer plenty of challenge.
The festival takes place over the course of a weekend – Friday to Sunday. As mentioned, you can choose to camp literally 5 minutes from the main site or find accommodations in one of the neighboring villages. The choices range from rustic traditional homes to comfortable hotel rooms with panoramic windows and other luxuries. Bear in mind however, that staying outside the camping site will likely mean that you are >10 kilometres away from the festival, as it is located in a remote area. The organizers have addressed this issue by setting up several shuttle bus routes, which make rounds between the villages, so it’s not a big deal, but nevertheless should be taken into consideration.
Finally – the theme. The concept behind Lost Gipsy Land is to create a free-spirited, artistic & entertaining atmosphere, allowing people to express themselves fully under the starry mountain sky. Dressing up is actively encouraged and is a huge contributing factor to the overall sense of enchantment that radiates throughout the place.
Before I give a full first-person description of what the eye of the storm looked like, I want to address the decisive factor behind the success of the whole venture – the music. It represents an intriguing mix of deep house, melodic techno & other subgenres of electronic music, supremely blended with oriental, ethno, tribal, etc. Trying to describe it any further would be a futile exercise of categorization. Music (and art in general) is so fundamental to our civilization, because it is not understood through logic or reasoning, it is experienced. It’s a universal language that binds us together and helps us transcend some of the barriers of traditional verbal communication. It is magical. And it certainly was the decisive factor behind the whole Lost Gipsy Land experience. To get a better idea of the hypnotic ambiance. check out the playlist at the end of the article to get a better idea of what the magic sounds like!
Several DJs took to the stage and each one pledged their own contribution to the festival melting pot. Some leaned towards a deep, progressive house sound, while others beamed powerful melodic waves. Whatever the case, there was a common theme present throughout, creating a continuous, homogenous sound with oriental, wavy, tribal and even sorcerous vibe.The fluid, dynamic melodies brought a sense of life, of occasion, that something special, even supernatural was taking place. Supplemented by the decorations, the costumes and intangible feeling of pleasantness permeating throughout the whole place, the masterpiece of the whole festival composition became evident. This synergy of visual, auditory and introspective stimulation transformed what was basically a meadow in a mountainous area into a magical oasis, where harmony reigned supreme.
No auditory account would be complete without a special mention of the headliner and one of the architects behind Lost Gipsy Land – Diass. My first exposure to his supernatural DJ powers came courtesy of an appearance he made at a popular venue at one of the coastal Bulgarian cities. His performance that night made an immediate impression on me and actually became the reason for the whole endeavor of going to the festival. Being the headliner only served to further heighten my expectations, since the previous gig completely blew me away. All the other DJs made sure to set the stage accordingly and propelled the anticipation hype to an even greater degree.
But what if all this unnecessary and even silly excitement came crumbling from the reality of an underwhelming performance?
I’m writing these words with all my heart – this bad man was on another fucking level! His selection, the way he controlled the flow and the tempo of the musical performance, it was like I was watching a play or a movie. He told a story through his music. I haven’t seen too many live DJ performances, but I’m no rookie either. The guy was just a different animal, man… Even his outfit was bonkers – he was dressed in some wavy robe that gave him the appearance of being the Grand Wizard of this magicoreligious vibe community, this VibeArmy. By witnessing his set, I finally understood how much skill & effort was required to be a proper DJ – and that’s really the biggest compliment I can give.
Down the Rabbit Hole
So far I’ve tried to relay the general information about the Lost Gipsy Land festival in an objective and somewhat detached style. My intention was to provide reasonable & logical arguments detailing why I enjoyed the festival as much as I did. So, to summarize everything thus far as impartially as I possibly can, the reasons for my positive experience are as follows:
Location – Great
Organization – Superb
Music – Amazing
Atmosphere – Insane
However, while these objective factors are the ingredients for a tremendous subjective experience, I feel that trying to prove their legitimacy only takes away from the feeling of effortlessness that permeated throughout the whole event. You can read 10 books on how to drive a car, but until you get in and actually drive it around, you won’t learn a goddamn thing! Furthermore, everyone has different tastes, values, opinions, etc., so instead of engaging in some pointless exercise to establish “facts” or “truth”, I’ll retell my own personal experience, specifically how I perceived everything in the heat of the moment.
It’s full of subjectivism and exaggeration, but it accurately reflects the jovial emotional imprint that was created on that weekend. I continue to carry it to this day, even as the carpet of dead autumn leaves continues to spread beneath our feet. Regardless of your feelings towards these ramblings however, always reserve the right of final judgement to your own intuition – visit the damn festival and experience this vibe tsunami for yourself!
I took another look at my shoes. They seemed to be the only remaining anchor to my previous Universe, which I could claim to recognize with certainty. Reality had warped to a point where self-identification was no longer a banal instantaneous task – I was wearing a giant, smoked & dirty straw sombrero bought from a genuine gypsy flea market known as “Bitaka”. I also decided to put together my own custom outfit. In light of this high purpose, I bought some woolly fabric and had brought it to a tailor who fashioned a surprisingly good & comfy poncho. The finishing touches on my RPG character came courtesy of some hippie second-hand (broken) sunglasses and a bandana that I received for free when buying some astro-turf football shoes years before – randomness at its best!
What was the end result of this bizarre combination? I’d morphed into some kind of groovy shaman-outlaw-forest-spirit-phantom-bo(ogie)geyman. Mysterious. Weird. And above all – F-U-N-K-Y (pronounced as FONKEH). The circumstance of my concealed identity gave me a strange sense of security that in this celebration of life I was attending all self-imposed restrictions could be completely abandoned and I had a license to go absolutely berserk.
Which is exactly what happened.
The festival site was divided into two main parts – a stage where the DJs were situated with a dancefloor of around 30 meters stretching in front of it. Beyond the dancefloor there were tables/lounges for sitting, a bar, food kiosks, table football, etc. Basically, the whole space was divided into a dance-zone and chill-zone, with some amazing supplementary activities occupying the buffer between.
Outstanding among these was a brilliant fire twirling performance. The dancers appeared as mythical beings reminding me of the multi-limbed Shiva, as their sulky and skillful movements created the illusion of multiple limbs and shapeshifting bodies. Hypnotic, enchanting and wholly mesmerizing. The most intriguing part is that all of this took place in the background of the dance-zone, so as to prevent clashes with people’s desire to dance and move around freely, which highlighted the principle idea behind the whole concept.
I stuck to the same formula for both nights of the festival – spend the first 20 minutes after entering in the chill-zone to soak up some good vibes from the enriched atmosphere, followed by grabbing a second large gin & tonic and heading straight for the dance-zone where the carnage took place,
Dancing has never been my forte, but I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s a terrific way to express yourself, like hurling different colors of paint on a white canvas, mashing them together and siphoning your intellectual and/or emotional current through your hands. However, most places I’ve ever been to in my life where dancing was part of the agenda have been stuffy, pretentious clubs or rowdy, tense discos, giving of the feeling of a gladiator arena or a zoo. Dancing was definitely a key part of the agenda at these places, but it was either put in service to bolstering social status or allowing animalistic urges to surface courtesy of alcohol intoxication.
Pantheon of Vibes
The whole mise-en-scène of Lost Gipsy Land was diametrically opposed to the above description. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the colorful diversity, which emanated from that group of people gathered high up into the Balkans was like a wild, rare flower that you stop to watch for a minute or two when you’re out hiking. Except that this curious fascination lasted for days.
Within the eye of the storm I was surrounded by wizards, witches, princesses, priests, imams, sultans,, viziers, empresses, apsaras, nymphs and all kinds of mystical phantasms. We were united by the sensation of having left our fears and doubts somewhere far behind and were able to dissolve into a seamless, heterogeneous groovy flow. People with all sorts of movements, garments, style and physical appearance were enjoying themselves and dancing, each allowing their innate creative potential to flow out freely. Some were simply listening to the music with their eyes closed. Others had transformed into mythical chimeras – twirling graciously through the air with scarves, turbans, large wooden fans and countless unspeakable accessories similar to shifting waves in a carnival sea.
At the forefront of this esoteric community was a caste, which served as a nobility of sorts – the VibeKings. The VibeKings were the most skilled and prominent dancers of the festival, setting the tone with their ritualistic movements. They waved their hands through the air, as if giving blessings to all around, creating geometrical patterns and spreading (preaching) the vibe. One group stood out in particular. The costumes of these guys solved the mystery of how characters of the Streetfighter videogame would appear if transplanted into the Lord of the Rings universe. Their movements were insane – hovering around each other in perfect synchrony with the music and wobbling their hands as if casting spells. They were leading the VibeArmy of disciples all the way into the promised land.
They were Apostles of the VibeGods. Harbingers of Flair. Progenitors of Motion.
All of this jamboree was novel for me and my friends. I’d never before tried to express myself through dancing. However, I was drawn to participate in the ensuing mass ritual and eagerly threw myself in as hard as I could. Dressed in full war gear, I became a vessel through which the vibe of the whole festival was able to manifest. I felt compelled, obligated to totally surrender to the occasion. I tuned in to the music and started conjuring my own spells.
My body was separated into quadrants, each of which was equipped with its own set of gyroscopes. It was like driving a car with an all-wheel drive, with each limb bestowed independence to move in any direction. I was jumping, hurling, leaning and morphing into whatever I thought the rhythm of the music demanded. I was a magical apparition o my own, a shadow dervish. Time was meaningless. All that mattered was listening to the beat and responding to its call.
I felt like a genuine shaman partaking in a ceremony. Left, right, left, up, down, spin, spin again backwards, use your knees, lower your back – I was acting on orders received from an invisible command center. Everyone around me was completely absorbed into the execution of this sensory spectacle. I wanted to go as far as I possibly could and duly challenged the VibeKings to several dance battles of skill and grace. Ultimately though, I was overwhelmed surreal movements, as they went on to cement their status of prophets of this ritualistic convergence
Nevertheless, me and my friends had experienced and epiphany and plunged ourselves straight into the deep end. We continued dancing feverishly, only pausing occasionally to exchange a few words or grab a drink. By the end of the festival we had become genuine pilgrims of this newly found religion of vibes. Naturally, there is still some way to go until we obtain the effortlessness and guile of some of our more experienced tribesmen, but this event has marked our formal initiation into the higher mysteries of conjuring and spreading vibes.
The seemingly innocuous activity of dancing sent us on an introspective expedition to conquer previously uncharted territories. We had to overcome some of our personal insecurities & inhibitions to fully appreciate the occasion and earn our stripes at the underestimated skill of having fun – by becoming the VibeConquistadors of Flow. Instead of communicating through writing or talking, we transmitted thoughts & emotions through the movements of our bodies. The giant sombrero was like an antenna, which collected the emotional state of the whole event – a sense of freedom, fluidity and symphony.
Dancing is a microcosm of Life itself – the rhythm can change, the movements can be vibrant and sprightly to reflect the euphoric occasions of our lives or slow & heavy, burdened by the dark, gloomy landscapes that occasionally take roots in our minds. Rather than becoming prisoners of any particular moment however, we never stop changing. We continue to move, to partake in the experience of living through the good, bad, ugly & strange we encounter on our path.
The transient, uncertain nature of our existence should serve to highlight that our time is way too limited to waste it with concerns for trivial and irrelevant matters. Instead, I believe we should cherish the opportunity we have been given and let ourselves be amazed, shocked, bewildered and confused, to explore and discover the forces that drive us, to get lost and find our way back again. Constantly moving, turning, shifting, spinning and changing pace, never staying still for too long at any given place. A biological supernova, infused with the overwhelming abundance of the Universe and powered by the dance of Life.
The fire burns
The Lost Gipsy Land festival was an amazing experience for me. It’s an awesome event on a wonderful location, brimming with joyful people and fantastic music. If you’re still unsure of whether this whole masquerade actually happened, roll up the sleeves of your sweater, sip some tea and check out the officcial aftermovie below↓ or the gallery for some eye-catching photos. Tickets for the 2021 edition of the festival are already on sale.
I’ll see for you there,
First of His name
Disciple of Joy
N.B. The entirety of this content is not in any way the subject of sponsorship, endorsement, commission, review, editing or approval of the organizers, performers and/or participants of the festival. It is a subjective reflection of my personal opinions and experience published independently and should not be interpreted otherwis
The playlist is collaborative, so if you know similar tracks feel free to add them!
Really groovy that I got to a point in life, where I can use this word into an original text. It’s the little things… ↑
Such as kayaking, equestrianism, guided tours and more; ↑
The region is referred to as the “Tinted Stone” in Bulgarian; ↑
Sure enough, our own attempt at “hitting the trails” resulted in a twisted rear derailleur on one of the bikes; ↑
The excellent acoustics of the stage and wall of trees surrounding the camp site allow for a steady & uninterrupted sleep regardless of the proximity between the two; ↑
Since mountain tourism is popular in the region there are plenty of hotels and guest houses scattered in the neighboring villages; ↑
Volunteers are encouraged to provide a suitable English translation; ↑
Bafflingly, this sometimes leads to people from refraining from dancing altogether, in an effort to push forward a more “serious” image of themselves. ↑