We chat to the underground guys behind Boho Baha, Farm Fest and Boogie Jama
Time Out Bahrain staff
All things bohemian with the guys behind Boho Baha, Farm Fest and more.
Bored with the local party scene? Fed up with clubs playing nothing but ‘house’ and bringing in international performers who play much of the same? The statement doesn’t sum up everyone, but if it sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
In fact Saudi American Tarik Omar and Bahraini Turkish pal Khalil Rasool had become so disillusioned with the island’s nightlife scene, they simply stopped going out, preferring instead to entertain at home on the compound where Khalil lives in Saar.
Coincidentally, many of his neighbours are artsy performing types and from jamming sessions round the pool and in Khalil and various neighbours’ gardens, the idea for Farm Fest was born.
Spread through word of mouth and social media, the first Farm Fest took place at the beginning of May with Tarik and Omar setting up a mini music festival on a friend’s farm and charging just BD3 entry for several hours of live music – the idea was to give local talent, both Bahraini and expat, a platform – but, even though they knew there were lots of people looking for an alternative to the local commercial entertainment scene, even Tarik and Khalil were surprised by the response.
“We didn’t really have a proper marketing strategy, we just knew we wanted to do something different,” said Tarik. “We didn’t want to charge a lot of money, people brought their own food and drinks and we just provided the stage and we had live music interspersed with DJ sets playing the kind of stuff we like to listen to.
“It was all pretty much word of mouth and the response was amazing with loads of people saying they had been waiting years for something like this. People just loved it and they didn’t want to go home.
“At the end of the night everyone had run out of food and drinks so Khalil and one of our friends disappeared, they’d taken what was left of the entry money after the musicians had been paid and came back with 15 boxes of pizza that they handed out to everyone who was still there.”
The success of that first event prompted the formation of Boho Baha, in celebration of everything bohemian in Bahrain, and the guys set about organising the next party.
Khalil said: “After the first one, we realised that having DJ sets didn’t really work that well so we set out to have 12 hours of live music. That may sound a lot but it went down a storm, we had live acts on stage from 3pm to 3am and everyone had a whale of a time.
“Our whole idea is to get away from the commercial side of putting on events, so it’s not about making money – though obviously we’re both working freelance so it would be nice if we could turn some profit without losing the small and intimate way of doing things – what it’s really about is giving people an alternative and tapping into what we have discovered is a huge pool of talented people all willing to get out there and perform.”
Tarik adds: “We want people to have an experience, not just a night out, not just music but the whole festival atmosphere.”
Many of the acts came together when Tarik and Khalil took part in the Bab Market, which was put on by the Ministry of Culture earlier this year as part of the Spring of Culture.
They were tasked with setting up a busking stage and needed to have a constant supply of musicians and performers over several weekends.
Khalil continues: “I was absolutely blown away by the talent that’s out there and I knew we had to do something to get them to a wider audience.”
After the first two Farm Fests came Boogie Jamma, when they took over Brazil Lounge for a night of live music constructing a makeshift stage, bringing in wall hangings, lamps and candles from home to impart that all important boho atmosphere and packing the place out.
Now they’re gearing up for the next Farm Fest which, with lots of other stuff in the pipeline, could be the last one for this year.
As with the previous two, there’ll be the musical stalwarts of The Awesome People, who play a range of styles from folk-rock to gypsy jazz, Mo and Iba with their acoustic set, Gareth and Richard, supplying bluesy folk, The Legends, a Bahraini reggae band, as well as Tomaso and the rest of the musicians who’ve been instrumental, along with Tarik and Khalil, in making the festivals happen – Ben Perry, Mary Vailamcortre, Josh Coombridge and Mo Zawayed (you may have spotted him on Arab Idol).
This time though there’ll be even more performers and the guys are looking at various side stalls too including having local artisans selling their products such as the Sharabi sisters, who’s artworks and T-shirts have recently been taking London by storm.
The date’s set for September 27 and, as always, in proper underground style, the venue will be announced on the Boho Baha Facebook page on the day in a bid to make sure it doesn’t get too crowded. But don’t worry, if you can’t make it to this one, Boho Baha will also have a stage at the next Al Dar Full Moon party, currently scheduled for October 18, and they’re putting on a reggae night featuring previously mentioned The Legends, a full-on, seven-piece reggae band, all hailing from Bahrain, at The Outpost at The Country Club, also in October.
Then there’s Bahrain Music Conference, with which they’re involved, coming up in October (we’ll be bringing you more news on that next month) and plans for a possible two-day festival in a bigger venue towards the end of the year – all of that and the guys are also travelling to festivals around the world to bring their experiences back to Bahrain.
Khalil says: “We want to provide experiences but, and I know this sounds very ambitious but you have to start somewhere, we also want to change the way people see music and entertainment. We want people to see that there’s more to life than just listening to a DJ, though there’s nothing wrong with that and we’re both rather partial to electronic music, but there’s good live music to be found in Bahrain and, judging by the reaction we’ve had so far, an awful lot of people are more than ready for it.
“Hopefully, this will catch on. We don’t want to be the only ones putting on these types of events. We’re hoping to grow a whole live music scene and encourage others to get involved too.”