By Zoe Christodoulides
Escapism: what does it mean to you? Indulging in a little escapism gives one the chance to step outside the norm, seek a pleasant distraction or, even, engage in a little otherworldly fantasy. This time last year, music loving crowds in the capital were urged to leave the daily grind behind, hit an unassuming dirt road curiously marked with bananas and immerse themselves in a party zone away from normality.
Twelve months on, the occasion has taken on new otherworldly dimensions: think of forest magic accentuated by a tantalising dose of creative madness as the same crowds are beckoned to get their groove on this Saturday in an old Athalassa park army camp while the sun sets over the Nicosia skyline. And it’s the usual suspect that fiercely calls out to his followers, as the now iconic afro-haired gorilla has begun to leave his characteristically boisterous marks around town, and an offbeat homage to the curved yellow fruit begins to take over local sensibilities once again.
The character is none other than El Presidente, a larger than life creature meant to be an ex-revolutionary and creator of the delightfully obscure Afro Banana Republic (ABR). For some, the whole occasion can be deemed ‘escapism’, others might liken it to a parallel reality, but many simply render it a fantastic excuse to let their hair down and succumb to enticing rhythms under the moonlight.
For the past two years, a random spot of land in Ayious Trimithias just outside the capital has been practically trembling from the pounding force of uninhibited dancing feet. Bang in the middle of a barren landscape, the area was adorned with offbeat artwork as musicians from near and far gave locals the chance to let loose and have fun. And it’s this idea of ‘fun’ that rendered the event quite an antithesis to what most people are used to here in Cyprus. No pretences or judgements in the party zone: just an occasion to delight the senses and give people a reason to rejoice.
Last year, the dance area was packed with individuals of all ages united by a common love for creativity and good music. The plan was for the event to take on bigger and better proportions as time went by, and if popularity is anything to go by, the team have outdone themselves. Brainchild of the event – DJ Cotsios o Pikadillis – has certainly surpassed his expectations as this year’s occasion has already got hundreds of jaws wagging in anticipation.
Set in what is known as Colony 361, it revolves around an alternative scene that’s not just about music and not just about art; it revolves around a sense of community. And why have the organisers chosen an abandoned army camp as the centre of all the action? “Our concept this year is all about regenerated space,” enthuses Cotsios. “ABR is all about influencing society in new ways and now we’re taking an old space and breathing life into it. Our question is: why do we need army camps in the first place?” With the ABR now having established itself as a non-profit cultural organisation, the aim is to leave a mark on local society and facilitate the growth of an alternative scene that embraces new ideas, innovative ways of thinking and a more liberal mind-set.
The idea of something ‘alternative’ is certainly nothing new for Cyprus, with just about every young talent these days scrambling to create parties and events that attempt to be crowned as more quirky and novel than the rest. But what the Afro Banana Republic team have done certainly isn’t commonplace. The unique character of this particular event has been facilitated by a passionate artistic group comprised of a hot pot of talents ranging from designers and film producers to architects, musicians and sculptors. Even chefs are there in the mix. “The whole idea isn’t just about a night out, but about embracing a whole creative experience,” Cotsios insists. “You know, for people to start thinking in new ways.”
First inspired by community events abroad, it’s all about developing an internationally recognised creative scene, establishing a good rapport and working relationship with artists abroad, encouraging local talent to exchange ideas, while raising the profile of our Cypriot talents. In tough times of crisis, the organisers hope that events like these will project a great alternative scene that appeals to foreigners too.
With the music undoubtedly standing as the main highlight of the event, audiences will be pricking their ears to the sounds of live bands and DJs, with Afrobeat, funk, soul, hip hop, underground disco, electronic tunes and more. But the action is taking on new dimensions this year as three different stages will give partygoers the chance to get their groove on in any way they choose, be it in the woods, camp or the so called ‘box’ disco floor.
“It’s all quite magical; there’ll be a walk involved, games, interactive installations and sculptures on the way,” says Cotsios. “I don’t want to give it all away but there’s even a dress up room this year.”
Fun aside, this year’s line-up includes great home-grown talent mixed in with some excellent picks from abroad. Expect some of the best known local musicians/DJs including Cotsios o Picadillis himself, Koulla P Katsikoronou, Tony Cusack, Mr Fox, John Pipkas, Giorgos Sisamos and Simply Nick. Then there’s a highly impressive list from abroad with great names to wet the appetite like Ed Davenport, Mr Ties, Teknon Brutus, Turmspringer, Yoko Neco and Jimmy Jib. That’s not to forget the live bands that will be working their magic, namely Cassus Belli and Afro Banana band.
And as the music plays, crowds can ogle at 3D visuals, fashion designs, animation, and even, edible art. As one of the best nights of the year fast approaches, only one question remains: are you ready to go totally bananas?
Afro Banana Republic Festival
International and local DJs unite for an event in the forest inspired by creativity. September 14. Athalassa Park, Nicosia district.Doors open 5pm. Music starts 6pm until late.€12. www.afrobananarepublic.com or visit the facebook page: TheAfroBananaRepublic (specific directions to the event will be made available on the facebook page)