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Quest: The best South East Asian festival you've never heard of

Celebrating its fifth edition this November, Quest Festival in Vietnam is leading the charge in a new movement of grassroots music festivals in the region

  • Luke James
  • 2 October 2015
Quest: The best South East Asian festival you've never heard of

Electronic music fans in Southeast Asia are truly living in a golden age. There was a time when ZoukOut, Singapore’s longest running and most established festival, was the only major event flying the flag for dance lovers in the region. In recent years though, savvy event organizers and investors have identified the potential of the region and it seems every few weeks there’s an announcement of another new festival.

Multi day events like Wonderfruit and Clockenflap have seen the crossover appeal of electronic acts while EDM specific festivals like Djakarta Warehouse Project have satisfied regional interests in dance music, and now international franchises like Ultra are clamouring to claim territory in the region.

But amongst these marquee festivals there are smaller festivals that are deserving of wider exposure. One of these hidden gems is the decidedly more intimate Quest Festival, returning again to Ba Vi, a bucolic locale just 40 minutes from the frenetic pace of Hanoi. Originally conceived as a camping trip, the first edition of Quest Festival began as a gathering of friends that quickly ballooned into around 250 people and from there the festival has grown into an entity of its own. Three years and five iterations on, Quest has steadily grown in scale and ambition and now is able to accommodate up to 3,000 revelers across a three-day celebration of music, dance, adventure and freedom of expression.

There is less of an emphasis on securing whichever globe conquering headline acts are currently doing the rounds and more focus is put on creating an engaging overall festival experience, which is not to say that the lineup is anything to be sneezed at. In the past, the festival has hosted Chicago house maestro Alton Miller and also the recently crowned UK DMC champ JFB. This year’s headliner is UK nu-disco legend Mighty Mouse, along with an expansive collection of another 80 DJs and live bands, representing the best talent within Vietnam and the Southeast Asian region as a whole.

Ultimately this is where Quest excels. It exists both as an immersive festival experience and a showcase of the breadth of talent within Vietnam but it has not been without its challenges. The idea of a multi day music and arts festival is a new concept to local audiences, so creating an environment that is engaging and relevant to expats, visitors and a Vietnamese audience has been a continual focus. Navigating the complicated layers of bureaucracy and staying abreast of ‘taxes’ to the appropriate bodies in Vietnam has also presented challenges but the event has now evolved beyond being a three day party in the hinterlands into an event of significance, now well recognized for its contribution to the region’s cultural calendar.

For the organizers though, the recognition is not as important as the ethos behind the festival.

“There’s something about a community festival that creates amazing moments like nothing else. Quest is our chance to bring to Vietnam something new,” says festival director Jeremy Wellard. “Getting out of the city and into a beautiful natural setting lets us strip back all the everyday chaos, noise and intensity of Hanoi and find something peaceful, emotional and creative.”

It is through retaining a clear focus of the principles it was founded upon that Quest has been able to retain its community feel and as the festival has evolved, it has engaged a growing community of passionate artists, creators and collaborators to create a truly immersive experience. Attendees are invited to move beyond being spectators and become active participants in the festival, and whilst not necessary, costumes are strongly encouraged. This year’s theme of Monster Quest will see the area come to life with a host of monster inspired installations and decorations.

Indeed between a stacked musical card, a north vs south breakdancing battle, a cinema, a flea market, fire performances, workshops, live visual mapping, interactive art installations, natural adventures, games and a plethora of activities, there is no shortage of options for creativity and entertainment. Plus as the site is just 40 minutes from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, the festival makes a great jumping-off point for further exploration of Vietnam, meaning your Quest can go as long as you like.

Quest Festival runs from November 5th to November 8th, 2015 in Son Tinh Camp, Ba Vi, Vietnam.

Visit the website for more information.

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