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Canadian Music Festival Profiles

Shambhala Music Festival

Salmo, BC


In Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu tradition, “Shambhala” is the name of a mythical sacred place, an expression and ethos that show organizers attempt to replicate every year at Shambhala. Set at the Salmo River Ranch in the West Kootenay mountains in British Columbia, Shambhala refuses all corporate sponsorship, creating a commercial-free zone where festivalgoers are welcomed to fly their freak flags freely. An annual Labour Day weekend get-together celebrating the underground electronic music scene, Shambhala was born in 1998, and by 2010 had built a 10,000 person guest list. The vision behind the Shambhalove originated with the Bundschuh family, who have worked together with friends — the “extended family” — to transform their 500-acre farm into a free-flowing dance floor and campsite for four days and four nights a year every August.

Described by fans as a place of connection and creativity, Shambhala promotes local art and music that bring life to the event — like the Salmo River itself, which runs through the ranch. Six uniquely themed stages, including the Fractal Forest, the Living Room, and Nebula, to name a few, are dreamt up and reproduced by six different stage directors, who mix international electronic heroes with new and upcoming artists from their own backyard to create diverse lineups. Revolutionary artists like A Tribe Called Red (2014) and Kelowna artists Excision (2014) and Stickybuds (2015) have all played the festival’s open air stages. The community-driven experience is bolstered by local coffee roasters Night Owl, organic ingredient smoothie purveyors Farm Fresh and Blaze Burgers, which are made with the cows raised on the land of the Salmo River Ranch.

Shambhala brings together a well-rounded group of international favourites, ranging from electronica icon Moby, a returning veteran as well as headliner in 2014, to critically acclaimed California artist Bassnectar, who didn’t miss a Shambhala for 12 years as of 2014. Lorin Ashton of Bassnectar maintains that Shambhala is a “one-of-a-kind experience… like its own planet for a week.” Other notable artists have included Kygo, Skrillex and Questlove.

Shambhala won Best Large Event at the International Breakspoll Awards in 2011 and 2012. While the use of alcohol and illicit drugs are not permitted, show organizers — in collaboration with the RCMP — have responded to the use of drugs in the past by offering a tent where the purity of drugs can be tested for the safety of festival attendees.