RAVE DIARIES: Wachalal Festival review

AN UPBEAT, DOWNTEMPO DREAM

It’s 6AM and behind the hooded, hypnotic DJ, the sky fills with light like a perfectly poured tequila sunrise.

Techno beats with psychedelic twists grace the air as we slide to the lake’s edge to witness dawn’s dramatic unveiling of Volcan Atitlán.

WHERE: Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
WHEN: 8-11 February 2019


Wachalal Festival is set on Guatemala’s mystical Lake Atitlán, a place described by Lonely Planet as ‘the closest thing to Eden on Earth’. This massive water-filled volcanic crater, the largest in Central America, was formed by an eruption 84,000 years ago.

Known for its incredible sacred energy, Atitlán has been home to over a dozen indigenous Maya groups for millennia. The name of this new three-day festival derives from ancient Mayan language, and means brother or brotherhood. A sense of family is definitely apparent here.

Photo: Visual Balance by Daniela Pinto

When we arrive at Wachalal Lake Lodge for the warm up session, we’re wrapped in welcome hugs, set to the sound of traditional Guatemalan marimba music.

A colourful Maya mamma serves us a bowl of soul-satisfying chicken pepian (a traditional Guatemalan dish of chicken in spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce with rice) as the crowd participates in a gleeful sing-along hip hop performance in indigenous tongue. After this we watch on as the curious opening fire ceremony invites a beautiful sunset.

Photo: Daniela Pinto


Day one closes with an uplifting ‘Wachajam’ by some of the organising family. So neat it is that I later ask if they’d rehearsed much, to which co-founder Eduardo Otxoa coolly says, “actually no, it was freestyle; we haven’t played together for four years.” I’m impressed but somehow not surprised. Each member of this crew can produce/mix/strum/tap/sing or all of the above; I’m cetain thei veins run with small musical notes.


Wachajam – Photo: Daniela Pinto

The festival intends to celebrate the practices of the native indigenous cultures here, and what we’ve witnessed so far feels authentic and special. OK, to some people my pictures might appear to depict something of a neo-hippie hell, but it honestly couldn’t have felt further than that. Loin-cloths and fire-spells aside, this was – put simply – a fun gathering of chill people. The calm before the psychedelic storm, if you like.

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INTERVIEW: Wachalal Festival family

HOW THE IDEA BECAME A REALITY

One of our first ever promo campaigns was the launch of San Pedro La Laguna‘s new water-side sleep and social spot, Wachalal Lake Lodge, in March last year. Having met the glowing souls behind this project, it’s no surprise that their journey of growth has been accelerated and awe-inspiring.

Driven by their desire to nurture the beautiful spirit of Lake Atitlan and its communities, now they’ve created the first Wachalal Festival (8-10 February 2019), featuring workshops, ceremonies and an eclectic array of musical artists from all over the world. They kindly spared the time for a quick chat to reveal more…

You’ve created something so different and special for San Pedro. How did the family form and project blossom?

Lake Atitlan has been a big part of our lives since we were kids, we´ve seen the evolution and growth of this mystical lake, and particularly San Pedro La Laguna is a town that has always felt like home.

And Wachalal was born from the idea of building a platform to reunite all our projects together, this is how Wachalal Lake Lodge came to form; its been a slow and steady process that has started to flourish in lots of ways. The lodge is a cornerstone for the artistic projects in development and helps us integrate with the local mayan community in the lake, aiming to create a sustainable way to reunite music, art, culture, enviorment and sociocultural subjects in a common space.

Read more…