June 14, 2011

Waka Waka Waka! ~ Emily Casey

Waka — What?

Waka, short for Wakarusa is the arts and music centered gathering I attended on June 2-5 in Ozark, Arkansas. Nothing short of a healing experience the festival was a welcomed leap into an altered reality.

Waka festival grounds

Arriving around mid day on Thursday our crew established a lavish and quite respectable camp complete with 2 easy ups (very necessary shade), 3 tents (not that there was much sleeping), and the best neighbors anyone could ask for- a red VW bus filled with three friendly awesome people. Bonus: we posted the music schedule up in our camp site so we were all in the loop about the whens/wheres and mapped out our musical adventures each night. Ha.

As we settled in and explored the grounds the blazing heat was immediately apparent. The sun scorched down on us in the upper 90’s everyday — I swear the night has never been so short. The festival was nestled into lush green Ozark mountains contrasted by an eccentric carnival themed stage area. The epic ferris wheel helped to orientate you wherever you were and at night the wheel flashed the rainbow to the beat of the music. Talk about a light show.

The music featured at Waka is some of my favorite. Check out Cornmeal, Beats Antique, Lotus, Buckethead, EOTO, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Galactic, Delhi 2 Dublin, The New Deal, Dark Star Orchestra, My Morning Jacket, Mumford Sons, Thievery Corporation, Mountain Standard Time, The Beautiful Girls, and Wookiefoot to name just a few.


Out of all these talented artist I was most excited to see Wookiefoot. After discovering this amazing collective on a road trip this year I’ve been dying to see them live — and quite a show they put on! With guest instruments from the banjo to bagpipes Murphy and the tribe had our crowd dancing non stop with their groovy tunes.

What’s more is Wookiefoot is not just a group of musicians they are activist dedicated to service in their local community and across the globe. Wookiefoot Charities have raised over $200,000 over the past 4 years with no sign of stopping. They’ve been on missions in Thailand, India, Nepal, Bali, and South America sponsoring causes from education to organic farming. The Wookiefoot family is like no other group of artists I’ve come across — they inspire me to be the change I wish to see in the world.

Wookiefoot playing “Be Fearless and Play” (!)

We are One.

Wakarusa and festivals in general are special place where unlikely beautiful communities form. Unique circumstances bring us together to realize the one big family we are. One aspect of this is the peer to peer economic system that emerges. Trading is the most efficient and effective way of getting what you need and making allies in the process. Be it fresh fruit sangria to hats to bandu

Photo: credd

bras to jewelry it’s an exchange of energy that is more real, in my opinion than pieces of of paper. I envision a future that has a integrated system of trade of personal services and crafts. Perhaps an online banking system where we offer and trade our unique talents and gifts. Are these music gatherings a glimpse into the future? Possibly.

Wakarusa opened me up to love in a way I’d put up a wall against for many years. It was in part due to the collective nature of the experience. Each day we were all as hot as the next person — a grand sigh of pleasure and relief when you were misted by the spray bottle. Aside from the heat we all shared a deep love for the music and the spontaneity that spawns from it. Seeing and feeling the same human emotions in those around me reminded me that we are not so different from each other and in fact all share the same fundamental needs — genuine kindness. An exchange of authentic smiles or lending a helping hand, people were in touch with their instinct to care for one another.

Each night as we floated or danced from one stage to another we could hear a joyful woman’s voice announcing musicians and interacting with the crowd. At STS9 I wondered aloud “who is she” and a stranger (friend I didn’t yet know) heard me and replied “she’s us” as she mingled on through the crowd. At this moment the reality of our unity filled me altering my perception for the better.

My heart and being was warmed, refreshed, and nourished by this blessed festival community gift. I am infinitely grateful to my divine companions and the entire Waka family as well as to Pipeline Productions for amassing the Wakaursa tribe and elephant journal for giving me a place to share this miracle in progress.

Bummed you missed Waka? Catch Electric Forrest (June 30- July 3) in Rothbury, Michigan where David Telfer McConaghay will be reppin elephant journal…I may just have to join him.


Emily is passionate about creative expression, hugs, breathing, traveling, and experiencing the natural world. She plays, sings, and dances in the magical mountains of Boulder, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter.

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