Where are you spending your New Year’s? MeanwhileinKenya is going to the ocean to join a bunch of afronauts, merrymakers, creators, movers and shakers for Kilifi New Year. The event is a two-day creative explosion of music and tropical beach culture on the gorgeous banks of Kilifi Creek. Performers from around Africa and the world will come together to put on a unique, technicolour show to celebrate the intersection between African and World electronic music. There are also pop-ups by some of our favourite brands, such as Bongosawa. Most tickets are pre-booked but it is still possible to get some at the gate so if you don’t have a plan, come!
We talked to Liam Brickhill, one of the producers and a true festival pro who has worked with festivals such as Bushfire, Rocking the Daisies, Book Cafe Harare. Liam provides a unique insight into the thoughts and hard work behind the festival that will likely make you even more eager to join!
Tell us a little bit about the background/history of the festival and the team behind it?
LB: There is a long history of one-night parties featuring DJs on Kenya’s coast. This is something we’re aware of, and this culture of parties over the festive season is where we started as an event, back in 2012. But we also like to do things a little differently, to push boundaries and make space for new ideas and ways of expression. So what we’re trying to introduce to this history of parties is a more festival culture. Ours is a multi-day event, with music starting on the afternoon of the 31st and running all the way to the morning of the 2nd of January. We encourage people to come early, to camp here during the festival, to explore the community and surrounding areas, and also to open themselves up to a festival space and culture: the normal rules don’t apply here. We want people to talk to each other, make new friends, and revel in our handmade playground, all while enjoying the wildest party you’ll find anywhere on the coast. Perhaps that sounds similar to the festival cultures you might find in Europe and Southern Africa, and that’s true. There is a also particular magic in Kenya, something very special to offer, and a rich platform for expressing what’s unique about us.
Our team has built up over the last four years on a foundation of friendship, a mutual appreciation of the excitement of re-working an idea into something new and exciting, and constantly reinventing ourselves and pushing ourselves to do it bigger and better. We’re united in our determination to do great things together, and we all believe in the idea of Kilifi New Year festival.
What do you guys do the rest of the year?
LB: We throw our energies into Distant Relatives Eco Lodge and backpackers! This place is also something we’re very passionate about. It’s a place to stay, sure, and it’s a lodge and backpackers, but it’s also an experimental model of living and a message of hope. We use lots of natural materials in our building, we have a functioning permaculture garden on site, grey water systems set up for our showers, only compost toilets on site etc. We try to live in natural synergy with the world around us, and that translates to an eco friendly way of operating, and also a people-friendly way of doing things. We love our community, and we’re very much a part of it. We also throw events at Distant Relatives throughout the year, and next year we’re working on expanding our operations to an eco lodge in Nairobi as well, which is hugely exciting!
We have seen that preparation has been going on for a while now. When do you start preparations?
LB: Though we’re a relatively small event, a boutique festival, there’s a huge amount of work that goes into the event and that means starting things off as early as possible in the year. Working on the event theme, building our line-up of performers and designing our festival site are things we work on through the year. Momentum starts building quite seriously from mid-year, and by November our team is on site and at work.
What kind of crowd does the festival attract?
LB: The largest chunk of our crowd would be Kenyans and Kenyan residents. What we’re doing here speaks to Nu Nairobi and the youth culture of our country. It’s a fully diverse crowd, and that’s something we’re very proud of. Not only will you meet fellow Kenyans here, but we are also building a reputation in the region and internationally. People come from Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, and this year some people are even flying all the way from London and South Africa just for our event. The most amazing thing for us is the multicultural nature of this event. Great things happen when you bring a diverse crowd together. This is a place where all feel welcome, a place where we’re all distant relatives, regardless of age, religion, beliefs, skin colour. Pamoja!
If it’s possible to say with this great lineup – any particular highlights this year? Artists, but also other special details maybe in the decoration or programme?
LB: Yes, we’ve made a conscious decision not to have one particular ‘headliner’, as there are so many acts on our line-up who are legends and headliners in their own right. We got a taste of Seth Schwarz last year, and we loved him so we asked him back for round 2. It’s hugely exciting to have an international DJ of Be Svendsen’s quality on the line-up as well – here’s someone who has played at massive events around the world, and we’re proud to bring him to Kenya. Best of all are our Kenyan acts, powerhouses all! We want to bring the best of the world to Kenya, and show the world the best of Kenya’s electronic performers at this event.
We put a huge amount of effort into the little details at this event, and without spoiling the surprise we must say that the decor and lighting way surpasses anything we’ve done before. The main stage has an ‘Octopus Garden’ theme, and our artists have handcrafted a mindblowing interpretation of that theme. Along with lights, lasers and art installations, we’re creating something noone will have seen before. And using virtually almost all natural and recycled materials! We will have our traditional burn down on the beach on the second night. That’s an experience not to be missed!
A final and definite highlight that brings all this together is the sound: for the first time in Kenya, a Funktion-One soundsystem will be used. This is the best of the best, world renowned, second to none.
How should one prepare for the two days? What to expect, what to bring, what to remember?
LB: First of all, open your mind to the experience! You’re going to a two-day festival full of beautiful souls and people to meet, an amazing festival site to explore, and world class music. So be ready to soak it all in! Expect of a fully stocked bar with the coldest beers on the coast, food stalls on site serving a variety of snacks and main meals catering to all tastes, and a marketplace full of goodies. We encourage people to camp, so bring your camping gear! It gets very hot in the daytime, so hats and sunglasses are a must. You’re going to want to swim in the creek in the heat of the day, so don’t forget your swimming and beach gear! Remember to play hard, but tread lightly. Love the people you meet, and love the land you’re on: don’t litter, use our bins. Try to bring biodegradable soaps, shampoo and toothpaste if you can. And finally, just cut loose. You’re here for a party. Enjoy yourself. Express yourself.
Why should someone who hasn’t made their mind up about New Year come to Kilifi?
LB: Do something different. Treat yourself! You want a wild party on new year’s eve? Well, we’ve sure got you covered, but we go above and beyond in creating an event that is both exuberant and intimate. We put handcrafted touches into an experience you will never, ever forget. As Lonely Planet put it in their review of the venue: “If you need a reason to visit Kilifi, this is it.” Karibu!
What is the best thing about working with this festival?
LB: It’s incredibly hard work, but with shared goals there’s an amazing camaraderie within all the different teams that put this festival together. To be able to work at creating a beautiful, unique festival and at the same time make lifelong friends: that’s priceless. That, and feeling the incredible energy and enjoyment in the crowd when the two nights peak are both winning feelings.
Get in the mood with the festival’s playlist on Soundcloud:
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Pre-event ticket sales have now CLOSED. This means that if you don’t yet have a ticket, you will have to purchase yours at the door when you arrive at the festival. Door sales will be made in CASH ONLY, and only Kenyan Shillings.