It’s three in the morning. I am in Cabeza de Indio in Teopa Beach, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Careyes, Jalisco, Mexico. Meanwhile VanJee, the European DJ, plays his setlist in the middle of two lungs that beat to the rhythm of the music keeping the vibrations so high that they feed a giant heart in the centre of the stage, which, artistically, represents the infinite cycle of the circulation of blood through our body; life.
The sea is no less than 50 metres away and the sound of the waves accompanies the movement of hundreds of people who commune with each other, letting their hearts connect in sync and define a collective rhythm and a sense of well-being that is built through the senses and good vibrations.
Through pieces of art and scenographic objects that model parts of the human body and that, beyond that, symbolically represent vital elements; on the one hand, female reproduction as the basic resource of life and on the other hand, reincarnation; symbolically represented by spirals and circles that embody the non-linear cycles of our existence.
The night before, Roman Kyn presented a special show that mixes turntables with his electric guitar while giant puppets, representing the sun and the moon, dance among the audience, mimicking the same rhythmic frequency. At the entrance to the natural setting, there is a geometric composition structured with prisms that emit rays of light that reach infinity and that represent the different constellations of the zodiac.
In addition, with thousands of luminous elements placed on the floor, in the form of stardust, the Age of Aquarius is drawn; a set of common forces that move us as human beings. All the elements of this night configure the balance between reason and nature. How our bodies are connected to the cosmos and, ultimately, how it affects our emotions.
On Thursday night, the migration of birds represented the dynamism and nature of the birds that move with the change of seasons. A migrant spirit that seeks its emotional well-being and survival through the search for the perfect atmosphere and environment. If we all had the opportunity to repeat the behaviour of birds, we could always be in the true search for our happiness. Away from the resignation and conformism that generate a static way of life. With the change of seasons, the elements of nature mutate in themselves, adapting to their environment and creating, once again, an eternal cycle of nature.
The concept that changes every year is essentially due to the desire to surprise one of its founders, Lulu Luchaire, who, since she had the idea in 2016, wanted to develop a unique experience in the world for a public that values caring for children, and passion for the connection of the environment and nature.
Beyond the technical and artistic work of a festival, Ondalinda ends up being a declaration of artistic principles that is configured through layers and elements that superimpose spirituality over reason, and that does not have much to do with the entertainment industry itself.
“Ondalina has grown organically, like Careyes. We never really set out to do something big, but something special. As a business model it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a complete experience,” Lulu affirms as we walk on the beach of Tigre del Mar.
If this French woman, a resident of Los Angeles and adopted by the Careyes community, has been clear about something, it is that Ondalinda represents much more than the search for financial profitability and the construction of a lineup. In fact, it could ensure that the vast majority of its attendees are not interested in the catalogue of artists that perform during the four days of the festival, since they are really here to live a holistic and epicurean experience around a set of activities that make up a way of seeing the world and existence.
Classifying Ondalinda as a festival would not be entirely accurate. It’s a very diverse crowd. “I don’t know how to tell him, I’ve been thinking about it for six years and I still don’t know what to call it.” Festivals around the world are closely associated with youth, while here the range is really wide which gives it a different and authentic atmosphere.
“For me it is very important to always bring different types of people because you know, if it was just a festival of people with money the atmosphere would be very boring. We also have volunteers and find ways to integrate a certain number of people who don’t pay as much as others.”
Ondalinda’s audience is truly diverse. More than 50 nationalities are attending from different parts of the world, which gives it a rich mix of cultures, languages and ways of life. However, among all of them there is a meeting point in addition to Ondalinda and it is the eternal curiosity about Mexico and its powerful culture.
“They are usually different people. And I think one of the things that matters a lot to me is the preservation of culture in general. It would be a nightmare if we all speak the same language, eat the same food, wear the same clothes, or worship the same gods. I believe that Mexico is a guardian of so many cultures. We Europeans always think that we have invented the culture, but then you come to Careyes and you feel so small,” adds Lulu.
Wellness is one of the key aspects of the festival since it includes a series of experiences focused on the connection of the human being with nature and with spirituality. During the the festival, the guests have a series of options for rituals, ceremonies, yoga practices, walks and sound healings that connect and relax the body in order to be fit and have a better mindset for the night parties. This is in addition to a healthy gastronomic offering rich in local ingredients.
On the other hand, art direction is something that Ondalinda has taken very seriously since day one. That old interpretation that everything should be about technology, a thousand tons of sound and outlandish screens, is a thing of the past. For Ondalinda, experience is a set of elements that are created through how they reach our senses, bringing all kinds of sensations.
This year the festival represented its entire philosophy through symbols that, at the end of the day, generate more questions than answers. The Ouroboros, which represents the eternal cycle of nature, is the perfect basis for the conceptualisation of the Infinite Loop, which connects with our nature as human beings, and also with elements created by us such as music and its sound vibrations.
“This year we realised that everything repeats itself. We noticed that nothing is linear. This whole concept interested us a lot, and from there we developed what were the infinite loops that are the representation of the seasons. Personally, as an artist, I try to get away from the cliché and create a new perspective on things,” says Gatsby Moellhausen, creative director of Ondalinda.
And if there is something interesting in these four days of celebration, it is the very perception that attendees may have of the art presented through monumental works and scenery. Everyone draws their own conclusions. “That’s a very interesting part, because people are going to have their own interpretation of everything we do, which is also nice. It’s interesting to see how people interpret it. Sometimes they don’t know what it means, but they do know there’s something there. I have been told ‘Look, I know there is a story you want to tell me, and I like to sit down and think about it to see how I interpret it.'”
And that makes this festival concept special. How to handle some mysticism so that people can have that experience with art and feel part of it. “For each edition we have a master book in which everything is explained in writing. The people who read it understand everything more clearly and have a different relationship with art than those who prefer to interpret it on their own. So in the end people can choose.”
This entire universe tends to be multidisciplinary, since each element plays a fundamental role in the composition and configuration of each day. Spaces created between the management of spirituality integrated with the functions of technology and science. “If someone asks me what my job is, it is to connect the dots between various things through art.”
Lighting continues to be the protagonist and is a key element in the artistic and scenographic direction, which is conceptualizsd from the beginning in each edition of the festival. “Before, I thought about art first and then wondered how we were going to illuminate it; Now I think about it from the beginning, from the brainstorming and sketching. And that is what gives life to the piece, and helps you build the story. For example, on Thursday night this year, when we talked about the seasons, we had circles of light that were like conceptual thermometers, helping to show the change in temperatures.”
All the works of art are built with local artisans who contribute their different specialties to a multidisciplinary artistic product. As the years go by, Gatsby gets much closer to what he had thought in the original idea. “What I do when I’m done with the designs is work with the artists to make models before I start building in the workshop. That’s how we understand each other.”
Each and every one of the pieces is used only for one edition and although many people have wanted to buy them to have them at home, at the end of each edition there is a ritual in which they destroy all created material. The effort of hundreds of people to create symbols that cannot only be seen except by means of a drone is outstanding, but one that nevertheless achieves its goal by creating symbolic atmospheres that transform the energy of all attendees.
Ondalinda is a unique space in which we don’t find the ostentatious claims of other festivals in the region. We could conclude that, more than a music festival, it is an annual staging of an artistic concept with several statements and declarations of different points of view around art, music and love for nature. Here you will not find bland VIP spaces because the festival is designed to be four days in community and true sensory connection.
If Ondalinda were a movie, it would be a universe directed by Terry Gilliam, but nevertheless it is an imaginary brought to reality by Dr. Lulu Luchaire.
Find out more about Ondalinda here.