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Shambhala Music Festival 2016 – An Immersive, Powerfully Visceral Experience Built By You

Shambhala Music Festival 2016 – An Immersive, Powerfully Visceral Experience Built By You

Here’s a really great article that my friend Ben Empey wrote on Shambhala Music Festival.

Shambhala Music Festival – An Immersive, Powerfully Visceral Experience Built By You

Written By: Ben Empey

August 5-8

No other festival connects attendees to the exquisite vibrations of unique, eclectic electronic music quite like Shambhala Music Festival.  It is a truly transformational festival that is designed to be an open environment, allowing attendees to comfortably explore not just their surroundings, art, and music, but more fundamentally, themselves.

Shambhala’s nineteenth edition is Canada’s premier transformational festival.  The festival is curated in the same fashion as many great literary anthologies – not every single style of music or every artist is represented, but seminal musicians, art, and abundant styles of music from across the globe are represented to great effect.

In 1994, Rick and Sue Bundschuh purchased the 500-acre Salmo River Ranch in 1994 to live a lush “quiet life in the country” with their three children, an envisioned quiet life which evolved quickly as the family became engaged in the local art and music scene within the Kootenay region of British Columbia.  The first event held at the ranch in 1998 was “UPLIFT”, an intimate affair that expanded greatly over time as people realized that having fun can also involve respect for others and the environment.  That movement has grown over the years to include over 2000 “Shambassadors”, volunteers that show up every year to create lasting community infrastructure, alongside several thousand more staff and volunteers. Shambhala becomes the largest city in the Kootenays for an entire week.  With so many people embracing a culture of love and self expression, Shambhala’s environment feels authentically real and familial in a purely organic way.  Festival organizers actively discourage sponsorship, eschewing all advertising and understanding that advertisements and branding distracts attendees from the experience itself – it’s uncanny wandering the festival site and seeing literally no advertisements seeking to earn a buck from attendees – which is quite refreshing.  Instead of functioning off of advertising revenues, Shambhala is powered by the collective dynamism of human collectivity.


Organizers have never had to cater to the whims of sponsors; thus, the ethos of Shambhala has always been dictated by the attendees and organizers themselves.  Music bumps from six captivatingly unique stages. And my, my, my, the music! The overall music programming is nothing short of exceptional.  Becoming tastemakers within the industry can’t be taught overnight – it’s learned from nearly a decade and a half of producing, and it’s clear Shambhala’s crew has a true passion for quality sound and engaging aesthetics.

The variety of genres on tap are, quite frankly, astounding in their scope. Music throughout the weekend is expertly curated – after 14 years of organizing some of the most talented musicians in the world, it’s nearly impossible to not develop great taste regarding sound. The general focus is on bass music, but the overall bookings feature sounds that hit you in the center of your body, soul, and mind – visceral electricity through speakers that compels the body to move and the mind to imagine.  The variety of the genre on display is outstanding – from An-Ten-Nae’s spiritually textured playa-esque nuance to Getter’s playful 8-bit inspired trappy dub to Opiuo’s melodic glitchy brilliance; almost all forms of bass music are on display at Shambhala.  Local natives Datisk and Excision are sure to whip up Shambhala’s weekend warriors into a frenzy, special performances considering both artists credit Shambhala as major influences in the history of their careers. International act and Boysnoize record label boss Boys Noize and the energetic dubstep b2b Caspa & Rusko will be given the same special opportunity – to take the crowd on a journey through their personal interpretations of textured sound.  Drum and Bass is represented well too, with acts like the master of frenetic DnB TC playing sets for the crowds to get truly rowdy and bodies moving.

Breaky funky party jams, the music de jour, are also on point to keep the crowd shaking their asses at the function all weekend long.  Dirtybird mainstay Justin Martin will be on hand to drop his resonantly funky breaky deliciousness that’s defined the Dirtybird sound, as well as several sets from D.C. geniuses Fort Knox Five, who entrance audiences by seamlessly blending a plethora of electronic genres to create wonderful sonic experiences.

House and garage, as they should be, are equally represented at Shambhala.  Chicago house legend Felix Da Housecat is set to perform his unique blend of house, techno, and acid, while up and coming vocal house purveyors Gorgon City (whose performance at Coachella in 2015 with Jennifer Hudson remains as stand out as they come), are set to perform a live set which should not be missed. AlunaGeorge brings her lovely blend of classic lyrically based garage/house fusion, and SNBRN will certainly bring that vibey neo-house love to the dance floor tool.

Hip hop and turntablism isn’t dead either – Charlie 2na, Cut Chemist, and a 5 ½ hour hip hop showcase will be featured, as well as arguably the most famous percussionist in the world, Questlove.  Hip hop heads will appreciate those skilled performances from some of the most iconic turntablists and MCs in the history of American music.


Off the beaten path genre pioneers Beats Antique, featuring David Satori and Tommy Sidecar, is a deliberately considerate booking as a treat for attendees who are aware of the magic of desert driven wizard sounds. The M Machine, driven by introspective, progressive house, will be filling the grounds with weird lovely vibes throughout the night.  And who can forget Gaslamp Killer – so different and ecclectic that his stage name itself is derived from his history of playing such different music that he “killed” dancefloors in the Gaslamp district of San Diego by emptying them.  One of this writer’s favorite type of weirdness indeed!

Festival regulars Marshmello, Mija, Green Velvet, Emancipator, Snails, and Keys n Krates round out the lineup, and will play their standard fare for fest goers enjoyment. Organizers have done their homework, booking Burning Man stand out and Sol Selecta boss Sabo for a 4:30am, 3 ½  hour extended Sunday sunrise set to round out the festival and bring balance after the weekend, as well as Destructo simultaneously playing “Sunrise Sermon” – decisions that show the thought and consideration put into booking each artist and setting up each time slot with a specific intent.


Shambhala is so much more than a simple music festival. Humans have danced around fires whilst banging on percussion for millennia trying to ascertain the meaning of life and relate to one another, and the celebration that is Shambhala is no different. After producing a festival that stays in a permanent location for so long, there’s less concern about infrastructure working properly, which allows the family to focus on programming instead of schematics.  By being able to focus on programming and allowing the community to build what they want, Shambhala has become an anthology of underground music’s progression into the popular consciousness.  It’s apparent that organizers are passionate and knowledgeable, but also care deeply about the experience of attendees.   And there’s really not much else you can ask from a festival weekend than having fun and letting yourself know that it’s ok to be part of an open, accepting, loving community of real people.   

Date: August 5 – 8, Salmo, Canada


Check out the lineup below:


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