Event Review + Gallery: Tropical Pressure @ Mt. Pleasant Eco Park (Porthtowan, Cornwall; Friday 15th To Sunday 17th July 2022)

Sunsets, swimming and sound systems.

Tropical Pressure, set on a cliff on the coast of Cornwall, returned after a covid hiatus in full blossom. This year the ecologically ethical festival managed to supply a wholesome, colourful and conscious curation of diverse music celebrating many musical traditions.

Spread out across 4 stages, the main arena has a backdrop of the Cornish coast and seas that you’re welcome to frequent for a quick swim.  The festival boasts a large stage in the centre of the celebrations, then an intimate and wholesome bandstand-esque Amphitheatre stage showcasing the best of the traditionally acoustic and smaller acts. Then the epic Fandangos and finally the Jupiters Yard  somewhat lead into one another, and open after 10:30pm, so at first one might miss noticing there is even a venue tucked inside – however at night the maze of barns lead you from one room to a larger, to an even larger warehouse sized room with plinths to dance on, and a oceanic decor, and large sound system stacks tucked in each corner. At night these rooms come alive, tucked away and booming. Before evening falls, there is often a notably beautiful sunset that has many people heading to the hills to watch.

Friday played host to artists from Latin America, meaning for me one of my favourite styles of music was prominent: cumbia. First represented by Yeamanjo, who much like some of our favourite global DJs, he blends rich traditional sounds from the rainforests and afro-latin communities with seriously infectious beats. Whilst he opened the Main Arena, he also played 12-1am tucked away at Fandangos, where the serious disco groovers went to dance. He was later that evening followed by DJ FIFI who brings a harder house and techno edge to her global beats. Whilst the main areas were closed by the epic 8 piece band La Cumbia Chicharra who played through some classic cumbias, as well as their popular tracks such as ‘La Weá’, which brought the arena to its feet with convivial dancing.

Saturday introduced us to the African serving of music with many highlights. For me the opportunity to see and hear Hailu Mergia, the legendary pioneer of Ethiopian keyboard, play through some of the most recognisable sounds from North East Africa, was an honour. Hearing ‘Wede Harer Guzo’ felt like a collective moment of peace and appreciation. One man, one keyboard can demand the romanticised attention of an entire festival.

I’m going to make a side note to Saturday for a moment to mention the presence of key characters in the piano field. Hailu, representing the notable and characteristic Ethiopian keys, Dele Sosimi the keyboard player at the forefront, go afrobeat music from Nigeria, and the Bangladeshi British piano player Kishon Khan who has fronted many a big band, and pushed cubanboard around the globe and back. The representation of pioneering piano players was on point.

Back to Saturday’s line up – the Amphitheatre positively exploded with its trademark mixture of feel good reggae, rock, and anything that grooves: Stunflower once again managed to create a space of shared rhythms and happiness. Whilst Fandangos boasted perhaps my favourite selection of the festival from the powerhouse duo Village Cuts well known for their superior ability to find and reimagine irritable tracks from all over the world, who played directly after mega collector Duncan Brooker, it was indeed BCUC headlining the Main Arena that exemplified the energy and excitement of the festival. From the first beat they performed with peak 250% (excuse the use of dramatic hyperbole, but trust me, it’s warranted in this case) energy. Their blend of Bantu and Urhu music styles from South Africa, complete with throat cries, bird-like whilst trance-like cyclical phrasing, voiced with the power of a whole continent. As the sun set behind them, not one person could stand still, many even looked as if they were in shock. They ended their set by speeding up their songs, to an explosively ending segment of live African traditionally-played drum and bass rhythms – much to the sheer outcry of joy and pleasure from an ecstatic audience.

On Sunday we travelled across continents to celebrate Island life. Where the aforementioned Kishon Khan played with his revered Cubafrobeat collaboration of African and Cuban music – in which Dele Sosimi joined the band. Watching two luminaries in their rifled sit side by side was indeed a special moment. Although there was a change in the line up meaning some people sadly missed parts of his set: for me a personal favourite will always be seeing the humble Kiko Bun bring his contemporary ska and reggae sounds to the main arena, playing alongside a band he was obviously humbled to be playing with. On the Amphitheatre stage exploded with Matondology, a free styling, jazz collective fronted by maestro Mulele Matondo, who enjoyed a packed arena, all following his direction in dancing and singing along. The DJ stage was graced by the legend Prince Fatty – but for me it was the brothers from the Netherlands that stole Sunday: The Mauskovic Dance Band. They were introduced as the last headliners by the festival owner who heartwarmingly said, “It is all of you, with your happiness and love that make this festival,” and continued to introduce the band as ‘cosmic analogue disco’ plus all the other styles. Their smooth alluring grooves, in perfect rhythm with one another – I believe most of the band members are brothers, they certainly explore an analogue cosmic, psychedelic disco energy, leaving the festival with a warm wholesome feeling.

The attention to details that ensured a limited negative impact on the natural world, from no plastic cups – and mug trees, every cable tie used was second hand. A major factor is every food vendor served only plant based menus. A more regular precaution is compostable loos, offering frequent shuttle buses to minimise the use of cars and many other thoughtful steps.

Tropical Pressure is a family centred, small and intimate festival that has promised to limit expansion to keep this community vibe alive. After day one, it felt you may have seen everyone in attendance – creating a vibrant, safe, happy hub tucked away from the world in a whimsical celebration of music.

[justified_image_grid ng_gallery=381]