Written by Daniel Duffin
Photos by The Confluence Group
Being just a toddler in age, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Vujaday, but the oh-so-stacked lineup of DJs and glowing reviews from last year’s revelers drew me in. Stepping off of the plane from Miami to Barbados, you’re greeted by the friendliest Caribbean sun on your face and the softest breeze, along with a welcoming fruit soda from the airport welcome crew. I was quickly blown away by the organization and efficiency of the Vujaday Team.
Every day they hosted two glorious parties. A day party, beachside with charming and soft decorations and that feel-good vibe that would keep you dancing and laughing with friends old and new. It was at these parties every day I learned just how intimate the attendees were going to be. Still like a well-kept secret, it was easy to get to know almost everyone in the crowd, share a delicious cocktail, and dip your feet in the water when they were sore from dancing. Days curated by the likes of Pony, Soul Clap, and Whitney were made more than memorable with impromptu fire performances by the festival goers and the locals joining the festival and breaking it down once the infectious songs couldn’t be resisted anymore.
These parties went into sunset every night, and mother nature delivered in a spectacular way. She would provide organic mists when the dancefloor got sweaty, and shine bright when the music was booming. Each of the venues had multiple bars, and multiple options for food to fuel your needs beyond anything anyone could ask. Fresh catches, coconuts with tiny bottles of the local Mount Gay Rum, and surprise visits from local monkeys were the cherry on top.
Once the sun kissed the ocean goodbye each night, everyone made their ways to dinners and post games. The beauty of it being such a tight and intimate festival was that you were likely to have run into your favorite artists and DJs on the dancefloor and the energy and star power was buzzing.
The night venues also changed, showcasing a different memorable location on the island, from an old plantation, to a gorgeous cliff that overlooked the Atlantic. These parties typically went until 4 in the morning with the majority of the crowd staying until the very last moment. Shoes off and sand between your toes, it was hard not to groove into the night. Once again, if you were tired, Vujaday had your back with lounge areas and pools to dip into if the urge struck, giving you the most luxurious feelings of being taken care of by the festival gods.
But, what we all came for, was the music! What can’t be said?
Everyone’s anxious and ready, and a gorgeous opening night was graced with heavy hitters Jeremy Olander and Sasha taking us on a melodic journey and welcome. The big man DJ Tennis took the stage to close it out and he delivered in a way that was only comparable to an adrenaline shot to the heart. I watched people on the way out the door turn around and run back into the dance floor because it was so irresistible.
A gorgeous and funky beach party was led by Pony who was live on the microphone while they played and led the way for Soul Clap to swoon you into the sunsets. Soft in the right ways, and definitely booty shaking when you needed it. That night took everyone to the Bellevue Plantation where the much-awaited set from Moodyman lit the place on fire. People were there to dance into the early morning and the vibe was untouchable.
Today was a special day because there were two day parties to attend, I was at the Tiki bar which was unassuming from the street, but walked right up into the water with monkeys and local vendors spread out for exploration. Toronto Djs kicked off the party, followed by Arman & Baynon who led a gentle tribal entry into the afternoon that woke everyone up again beautifully. Dastan closed the party with a quick rain shower that drenched everyone dancing in the sand. Mother nature was definitely on our side. It was a softer but energetic lead into one of the wildest nights of the week.
That night, the Desert Hearts duo Mikey Lion & Lee Reynolds caused a small riot. Every person was getting down, even if you didn’t dance you were up and going. Simon Jain jumped in and out of the set at the end, leading the way for Damian Lazarous to blow the roof off the place. Once Damian came on, it got a bit moodier, but in the best of ways.
Today’s day party started out as a chilled-out house set with more Toronto talent. Kian was truly memorable, taking everyone’s hangover and lack of sleep and turning them inside out for fan favorite Whitney. The venue was pristine with turf right up to the sand, white cabanas, beach couches (which I didn’t know where a thing), and local artists painting faces in funky tribal blue and gold. It was a beautiful segue into the next party. Just before everyone was wrapping up and the final hour of the day party was upon us, the other half of the festival crowd showed up. They’d been aboard a real-life pirate ship that was captained by Yokoo himself, with a wooden plank and all. Once the whole Vujaday crowd came together it was a real party into the night.
Saturday’s venue was the most anticipated of all, because this was the 14 hour party. They’d begun the music before the day party even finished, and were going well through sunrise. I arrived to the Bob Moses boys crooning into the microphone while the party was in full swing. The beauty of the festival was it’s intimate size, you’d see your favorite Djs dancing in the crowd, and nobody was making a deal out of it. Everyone was perfectly comfortable. The venue was on a Cliffside and overlooked the Atlantic ocean, with sunrise coming up right behind the DJ booth. Everyone took their sunglasses off and reveled in the coming of the new day.
Admittedly I missed the day party today in favor of checking out some of the island partners of the festival. They offered a Catamaran ride, full with DJ booth and See Doo Jetski access and open bar. How could you say no? Five hours on the sapphire waters with sun in your face and amazing music curated by the festival’s DJs who joined you on the boat. It was the perfect solar charge to my batteries to push through into the last dances.
Interview with Lee Burridge:
Sunday evening’s party was highlighted by Lee Burridge, who brought sweet and innocent joy into the crowd. He’s in it for the right reasons and people can tell. Definitely the top show of the week. I caught up with him after the show for a quick chat about what he thought.
You started an amazing thing with the ADID series, creating beautiful environments and thoughtful curation of artists over the years. Inspirations from that definitely were felt on the island over the week. Do you see an official collaboration in the future?
We always love a collaboration and I love the guys who go out this on. So, you never know!
Seeing a relatively intimate festival like this in a similarly beautiful place, what’s it likewatching grow from year one last year up until now?
I’m proud of the effort their team puts into such a boutique festival. Each day moving the stage to a different venue isn’t easy. These festivals are always the best in their first few years as they are so innocent. I think the growth has been minimal actually but not in a bad way. It’s been super fun with a really lovely crowd.
You cut your teeth around two decades ago playing in Thailand at full moon parties. Those grew from word of mouth into a spectacle within itself. Do you ever feel nostalgic with these types of island events? Can they even be compared?
It’s actually longer and we pretty much started the full moon events in Thailand haha. It was 1991. Wow! I’m old. It’s hard to compare them though as Thailand wasn’t a festival or even organized to make money. Not for us at least. It was just a free event that anyone lucky enough to hear about it might go to. I mean, yes, it’s on a beach but it’s kind of where the similarity ends. It was a different time all together though. More innocent with no social media, phones, star dj’s etc. Just myself and friends playing music for months in a remote location. It was great but what we do now is also amazing in a totally different way.
When you prepare for a set like the one you threw down on Sunday night, what sort ofemotions are you looking to give a crowd that’s been celebrating for five days straight?
I didn’t prepare haha. I wanted to feel the general energy of the crowd and take a musical ride with them. I do love making people smile though.
With your busy tour schedule, do you think it’s important to take time and actually mingle inthe crowd? You notoriously can’t stop dancing on stage, do you still get down with the fanson the floor?
I was there before my set dancing to Yokoo and after, dancing to Danny. I occasionally jump down during my own set but these days everyone pulls out their phone and it kind of kills the vibe in that part of the floor.
Last week you were in Miami, and after this you’re headed to Coachella. What are you mostexcited for now that we’ve rounded the corner into festival season properly?
Burning man of course
What song do you brush your teeth to lately?
Anything by Cardi B or Yokoo’s new album if I want a good long brush with flossing and water picking.
The close to it all was Mr. Danny Tenaglia, who took everyone on musical tour, from techno, to Detroit funky house music. It was a celebration on all accounts and a perfect nightcap. For those in the know however, the after party continued at the plantation where you could watch local horses run in the fields while the DJs spun well into the morning and the festival was brought to a close.
Overall, what can’t be said? The island was magical, the locals friendly, the music on point. There were no incidents with people getting into arguments, or too intoxicated. They’ve created an amazing track record so far and I’ve already marked my calendar for Vujaday 2020. You’re doing yourself a disservice to not experience this rare musical intimacy in what is normally an overcrowded and oversold world.