September is upon us in Ibiza! As the scorching August temperatures ease and a few precious inches of sunbathing space emerge on the island’s beaches, one can almost hear the palpable sigh of relief as Ibiza natives join savvy tourists to enjoy the white isle at its best and finally let their hair down. The summer cycle enters its final stage, a time for relaxation, contemplation and, with closing parties just around the corner, celebration.
It’s been a year of mixed fortunes across the island with fierce competition amongst promoters once more resulting in some surprising casualties on Ibiza’s club circuit. Yet as always in Ibiza, it’s the parties with real substance behind them that prosper. The Zoo Project, a weekly gathering in an old zoo that has become one of the white isle’s most popular outdoor fiestas with crowds of thousands dancing under the sunshine and stars, typifies this.
Swerving the superstar DJs and billboard hype altogether, The Zoo Project is perhaps the last bastion of the Ibiza underground. A musical ethos that gives up-and-coming artists the chance to perform alongside some of electronic music’s true pioneers coupled with magical performance and an overwhelming sense of joy and togetherness makes for one of the most refreshing concepts to have hit the white isle in the last decade. Like sunset at Café Del Mar, Monday afternoons at DC10 or kicking back with the party people at Salinas beach, getting wild at The Zoo Project on Saturdays is an Ibiza rite of passage.
This is soulful partying, people coming together as one to create culture. The Mandala Garden, the Zoo’s fourth arena, best epitomizes this vision of conscious clubbing. Circling the vibrant hand-painted mandala at its centre with murals along its walls and stalls offering everything from tarot reading to sushi and massage, The Mandala Garden is a haven of peace. Since opening last summer, its dreamy enclaves have been providing live meditative and ethnic music, art therapy and healing vibrations, visual and artistic performance and lots of love for lost ravers in some of the most blissful surroundings to be found on the island.
A typical Saturday in The Mandala Garden sees huddles of party people taking time out to enjoy the sacred circle and mantra singing, sharing a vibrational energy that not only reinforces the sense of unity that the Zoo is founded on but also takes individuals on their own inner journey. In September Kundalini Yoga teacher Viriam Kaur will join the circle introducing her Kundalini Yoga mantra chanting, taking people on a journey of deep healing. As Viriam herself puts it, ‘Mantra is the language of consciousness. We live in a sea of vibrational energy – when we chant, we tune into different levels of consciousness.”In addition to the meditative and healing practices, a variety of live music is on offer each week with well-known local artists such as Saigo and Bahramji performing Indian ragas and talas.
The spiritual vibe represents a welcome return of Ibiza’s hippy roots to the island’s clubbing scene. Arguably the highlight of any Saturday spent in The Mandala Garden is the sacred drumming circle with the same team of musicians behind the magical sunset sessions at Benirras beach. With no head or tail, the drum circle, like all sacred circles, offers equality, an opportunity to connect with others and oneself by sharing the rhythm and forming a group consciousness. The sacred circles signify the same message as The Zoo Project itself – unity, wholeness and infinity, a place where everybody is equal. It’s a concept all too scarce in many of Ibiza’s discotheques today.
Indeed a back to the roots mentality is reflected through much of what The Zoo Project do, from the open-air venue to the vintage furniture and reclaimed materials that comprise the décor, there’s a discernable old-school Ibiza feeling from the moment you walk through the gates. Yet above else, it is perhaps the music policy that is most striking in this respect, both retrospective but forward thinking.
This year has already seen the likes of Jovonn, Roy Davis Jr., Ron Trent, A Guy Called Gerald and Nightmares On Wax perform at the Zoo, introducing the artists who helped make electronic music what it is today to a whole new generation of clubbers. With such varied rising talent as FunkinEven, Francis Inferno Orchestra and Maribou State performing alongside established talent, it’s easy to see why The Zoo Project is rapidly gaining a reputation for one of the most interesting musical programs on the island. Highlights still to feature this year include Cristi Cons, Monika Kruse, Matt Tolfrey and Giles Smith.
September looks set to be a fantastic finale for The Zoo Project. With some stellar line-ups still to come and a grand closing party on Saturday 27th September, we highly recommend checking out at least one of the final parties on their Ibiza calendar. Yet perhaps most exciting of all for The Zoo Project promoters is this month’s highly anticipated UK festival from 12th-14th September in Donington Park. The back to the roots revolution is spreading and with the likes of Groove Armada, Sasha, James Zabiela, Steve Lawler, Mike Skinner, Shy FX and Breach featuring amongst over 100 DJs, we hope it spreads far and wide!
The Zoo Project runs every Saturday until 27th September from 16.30. The Zoo Project Festival takes place on 12th – 14th September in Donington Park, UK.