Beloved: Oregon’s Unique ”Sacred Music” Festival.

Beloved: Oregon’s Unique ”Sacred Music” Festival.

By Christian Martin

The Beloved Open-Air Sacred Art and Music Festival takes place August 12-15 in Tidewater, Oregon, about 10 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean on a hilly, forested site 2.5 hours from Eugene or Portland. This unique gathering is like the Oregon Country Fair meets Burning Man meets WOMAD as it fuses together many of the best strains of festival culture to create an event unlike any other.

Organized around a set of principles -- including eco-ethics, consent, authenticity and the cultivation of “ecstatic paths to union” -- Beloved creates a container for participants to feel honored, safe and free to explore and express themselves in community. The vehicle for these explorations is primarily music and dance, and Beloved is peerless in offering a wide range of styles from around the planet.

“We believe that the presentation of diverse expressions of sacred music at a single venue demonstrates their common origin and our shared relationship as a global community of contemporary devotees,” explains their website.

The organizers’ definition of “sacred music” is broad and inclusive of many different international styles, united by a “devotion to a source of inspiration.” A multitude of genres are represented, and the flow of music at Beloved is expertly curated and sequenced by founder Elliot Rasenick and his team, like a well-designed playlist that carries you through the day, into the evening, deep into the dark of night.

Kirtan, poetry or ecstatic dance might start things out gently, with lively gospel or zydeco coming in to pick things up as the day progresses. Late afternoon can bring afrobeat or bluegrass, with a funk band taking over as evening sets in. Then, as night descends, the DJs take over and keep the dancefloor pulsing until the dawn. An introspective and soothing set of ragas or solo kora music welcomes the sun back. Participants disperse into the woods to take a few hours break and it’s back on again!

But what do late-night bass music DJs and the Saturday night party atmosphere have to do with sacred music?

“Across the planet , for many centuries, the experience of sacred music has very often been through a dance-til-dawn ceremony,” Beloved explains. “From the Bacchae dancing with Dionysus, to the Gopis dancing with Krishna, to the Yorubas dancing with the Orixas, the communion of many devoted dance-lovers with the Presence of the Beloved has been consummated in all-night rituals”

So there you go.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the musicians -- and there are many international acts that don’t play the festie circuit, let alone regularly tour the States -- I’ve found the offerings to be very high caliber and the sequencing just right.

Another aspect that makes Beloved different than most summer festivals is the concentration of all music on to one central stage. This eliminates the need to keep track of schedules and stages, running around to catch all your favorite acts while trying to keep track of your friends. At Beloved, all the music emanates from one gorgeously-produced stage located in the heart of the festival grounds. Lay out your blanket on the grassy hill and you’ll have a homebase all weekend, without any sense of FOMO for needing to be elsewhere.

Other intentional spaces are scattered throughout the forested site, including a large, shaded yoga space, the Jade Dragon Tea Lounge, a chill-out cuddle tent anchored by a vast collection of crystals and stones, a quiet place for workshops and teachings, art installations and a gallery, and a meadow for offerings like silent disco, sound baths, QiGong lessons and interactive discussions with the musicians.

There are numerous nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered too, many of them created by the participants, and one of the joys of Beloved is stumbling upon an altar in the woods, a crew serving chai alongside a trail or the Water Temple nestled at the edge of the pond.

What else? Vendors selling handmade clothing, jewelry and gifts. Whole foods, juices, sweets and tonics (with reusable plates and utensils!). A health and well-being area for bodywork, showers and sauna. And there’s YOU, and whatever you and your friends chose to bring and contribute to the collective, unfolding experience

Over the past few summers I’ve been delighted to see many well-loved acts like The Polish Ambassador, ODESZA, Quantic, Random Rab, Vieux Farka Toure, Ernest Ranglin, The Motet, Niyaz, Les Nubians, Hamsa Lila, The Human Experience and The Desert Dwellers. Better yet, I’ve discovered new music by the likes of C.C. White, Rafe Pearlman, Yaima, DJ Anjali & The Incredible Kid, Bassekou Kouyate, Fanna Fi Allah, Lulacruza and Youssoupha Sidibe.

This year offers the strongest lineup I’ve yet seen. International sounds will arrive from Mali (Fatoumata Diawara), Ukraine (Dakhabrakha), India (Raghu Dixit), Nigeria (King Sunny Ade) and beyond. Bringing the acoustic-based roots music will be Rising Appalachia, Trevor Hall, Sara Tone, Mike Love, the Beautiful Chorus and more. And the top-shelf lineup of “Inspired EDM” includes Tipper, Ott, Subaqueous, Michael Manahan, Nicola Cruz, AtYya, JPOD, Living Light, DJ Dragonfly and Clozee. Now that’s a stacked lineup!

Of course, Beloved is more than just a music festival, and this summer features lots of yoga, devotional chanting, healing sessions, storytelling, traditional ethnic dancing and workshops on topics ranging from Indigenous Right Relationship, Embodied Herbalism, Honoring Water, Climate Change, Redefining Masculinity and more.

The emergence of intentional festivals has exploded over the past decade, and I’ve been to many different kinds up and down the West Coast. There is something extraordinarily unique about Beloved and what takes place in the coastal woods there each August. It has a spirit and open-hearted essence unlike any others. I believe this is a result of the founders holding true to their singular vision based on “a desire to dissolve the boundaries that isolate us through music, dance and play,” combined with participants willingness to be an active part of that co-creation.

It is this focus of intention -- of undertaking the same experiment in community, self-expression, expansion and devotion on the same ground year after year -- that infuses Beloved with an indescribable presence.

Founder Rasenick recently asked Michael Meade, a renowned Oregon storyteller and mythologist who leads rituals at Beloved, "With so much trouble in the world, how can we feel good about devoting all of our energy to a bliss-filled weekend of music and love for the privileged?"

Meade responded, "Despite all its wounds, the world is secretly dancing and slightly drunk on the music of the spheres. Music and song are here to retune our bodies and return us to our souls. In seeking the Beloved we become witnesses to the presence of the divine on earth and agents of a healing able to reconnect us to the living Soul of the World. It’s time to cast all our votes for dancing."

Tickets and more information at www.belovedfestival.com.

Photo: HekterVision

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