Dancefloors are a spiritual experience. Having music as a catalyst to create bonds between like minded people, finding a common language (even if it’s just the body language expressed as a dance) to share ideas and visions, resonating in the present moment to the same sounds. But when one turns down the city noise and distracting frequencies, with no GSM signal on site, then adds spiritual practices in a place that brings you closer to nature than you’ve ever been, all this transforms into a therapy for the mind, body and soul.
WAHA Festival doesn’t promise to be the perfect festival, yet it offers a space for people to reconnect with nature, to discover their humanity, in all its inherent flaws. In the heart of the Romanian wilderness, where the whispers of beech trees mingle with the laughter of kindred spirits, the WAHA festival found its rhythm once more in 2023. Spread on a 250,0000 square meters, it was a combined effort from a 20 people permanent crew and another 100 builders and artists to offer the best experience for close to 5,000 Wahalicians.
For filling out the story in a proper way, we sat down and talk with Tudor Chiliman, one of the WAHA fathers, who revealed a few bits of the WAHA spirit as well as some plans for the future editions.
After a hiatus that stretched four years, the festival was not merely a resurrection but a profound metamorphosis. “We took a 4 years break to reorganise, reinspire and take a step back and see what we were actually doing. A longer than expected break due to covid but had the time to gather lots of energy and motivation to make a memorable edition. You could say it’s a rebirth, made more mature and defined.”, Tudor shared.
This year’s theme, Roots, connected to the first chakra, where grounding and building a strong relationship with the Earth stands, resonated deeply with the festival-goers, embodying a primal need for connection and grounding. In the flickering light of campfires, amidst the tribal dance, a realisation dawned – what they craved were the basics, a communion with Earth and each other. The ‘roots’ theme became a vessel for this craving, a reminder that simplicity held the key. It was more than a theme; it was a return to a simpler, truer existence.
“The theme came out of the realisation that what we need are actually the basics, the tribal dance around the fire, made in full connection with the Earth and each other. The break made people realise what they were missing or maybe they’ve actually realised it at Waha, that was my perception at least of the nicest vibe ever. The first-timers have just discovered it, the others have joyously and actively rediscovered it, so yeah many things made it special – definitely through the feeling of community and the simplicity of how all of us made this sunny boom happen.”
We’ve been always exploring different themes in past editions so we will continue doing this in the future also.
For sure, WAHA is more than just a music festival: it’s a vision, a dream of a self-sustained community living in harmony with Earth. Yet, there are organiser gaps between the dream and reality. A Waha Town, built and inhabited by a community of like minded people, sharing resources, sharing the same energy, the same passion for music, the same love for Planet Earth, remains an enticing mirage, a utopia tantalisingly out of reach. “Utopia is even to find a group of five friends to inhabit a house for a year…we share this dream but it comes with so many issues that we prefer making a temporary community of this kind, which we hope will keep attracting people with same principles and goals, having though a big impact on the whole.”
Like every previous edition, the energy was focused around the stages, envisioned by Tudor and a handful of international crews, erected using mainly what Mother Nature offers and inspires. The stages at WAHA were not mere constructions; they were living, breathing entities that echoed the pulse of the festival: “I’ve been doing the Deep/Beech Stage ever since it came into existence 9 years ago and there has never been an exact plan, but mainly a concept and a spontaneous play with pine sticks at the location. This year for example I’ve also designed the Polyfloora shade structure and a crew from Cluj came and made the stage. The Live and Fungee were done by a crew from Sighisoara (Sighi Crew) who took their inspiration from Leonardo Da Vinci’s helicopter design and some other clean geometric shapes to cover the big stage without many poles. The Aural and Treep stages have been inspired by my visions and have been done by other small teams, bringing their own ideas into reality. To answer your question, I make the master plan of the whole festival construction wise and creative, but there’s few crews with whom we collaborate to bring in their projects and make this plan be Waha. There is an international crew usually, so ideas do mix and new stuff is always there, we just have to watch the budget without shattering our dreams. And yes, always from nature.“
People do go through lots of realisations and revelations at Waha so anyone can eventually be waha’d.
Then came the Wahalicians, the humans that brought life to these stages. What does it take to be a Wahalician? “Well, an open heart and a nice vibe I might add, although I’ve seen changes, too. People do go through lots of realisations and revelations at Waha so anyone can eventually be waha’d.” And disconnecting from the digital world contributed to this. “The hardcore tiktokers can probably go look for it on another hill further away but mainly people are enjoying it to the max: they go on airplane mode taking pictures or videos, but not posting and checking comments and likes. It’s a relief for all of us who know how to take few days off everything except ourselves. Many people are actually looking for this.”
Aside from the visual art installations, the mindful centered workshops, the kids area, the music was the element that set the tone for WAHA. Placed in the heart of Romania, one may think it’s all about the local flavoured house music. Well, actually no: “There was little minimal been played actually, the new/old breed of analog Techno, House and Electro being in at the moment with a larger variety of music and directions. We’ve had a different approach in booking at the Beech Stage so we could deliver a more mature and diverse sound to go out of the minimal. But you could say the Deep/Beech stage attracts the most people.”
Memorable moments? Too many to mention. Yet, a few stand out. “Rhadoo’s 12h closing set with Cote making visuals with lasers and people gone mad dancing the last dance all laughing and goosebumping, Partizan inviting everybody on the stage and Jane Fitz’s set, from what I’ve been told. … And of course the shamanic ceremony on the festival opening evening, with its drummers procession ending in a huge dance around the bonfire at the Tribal Village next to the river. Oh, and the meteor shower every night…”
WAHA is not merely a music festival; it was a spiritual journey, a communion of souls, and a testament to the power of simplicity and community. As the echoes of laughter and beats faded into the night, WAHA 2023 remained etched in the hearts of those who had experienced its magic, a testament to the enduring spirit of connection and celebration.
What to expect in the future? “There are many points we can improve, as always. Some stages need breaks daytime, more art and performers of many kinds that would make things more interactive, more crazy installations, more light shows, maybe set a ticket number limit so we won’t be surprised by a huge crowd next time cause people did enjoy a lesser crowd than last edition. And more trippy stuff :))”
Kay Ross was there, armed with his loyal lenses. As usual, he captured the joy and happiness of this human gathering, like no one else. All photo credits (except the stage photo gallery) go to Karim 🤗