Albania’s first international music festival pinned the country to the electronic map. Working in close collaboration with the local community and Albanian government, the organisers have taken a carefully considered approach to bringing electronic music to the shores of Dhërmi.
Chosen for: Sustainability and Innovation.
Kala Festival is the brainchild of UK-based event organisers Mainstage Festivals. The first edition took place in 2018, and promotion leading up to the event kept the location a secret – at first. The organisers promised a new festival in an “undiscovered paradise beach” location. An aerial video was released, along with images of stretches of sand and sun-drenched cliffs. The location, it turns out, was Dhërmi on the Albanian Riviera and Gjipe Beach, which is a short boat ride away.
The festival’s inaugural edition marked the first time Albania had hosted an international music festival. In a press talk, government officials made it clear they were opening Albania up to tourism in a bid to boost the economy, and electronic music was welcome in the area. Albania contains stunning historical sites, but, the government said at the time, they weren’t sure what to do with them. In working directly with Mainstage, it was ensured that Kala Festival would not only boost the economy but benefit the local community by creating jobs onsite and driving travellers to its businesses.
Locals were hired to work at the event, and on the grounds, there was a celebratory feel. From the first edition, the event felt like a welcome cultural exchange and locals not only worked at the festival but enjoyed the music. Selections during Kala's debut mostly leaned into Balearic and disco, but there was space for breakbeat, funk and techno too. Kala’s debut was a success, helping to position Albania as a new festival destination that could rival the likes of Croatia. On the last day, festival-goers all received a text. It announced that Prime Minister Edi Rama had gifted each person a can of Albanian beer for their attendance.
Fast forward to 2022 and Kala Festival has brought to life the vision the government had for the country. Other festivals have followed since, such as ION – which made its debut in 2022 – Anjunadeep presents: Explorations, and Inner State.
Albania is still a relatively new festival destination, but Kala Festival has succeeded in pinning it to the electronic map. While destination festivals have caused concerns for its local impact – such as events in Ibiza and Croatia – Mainstage are adamant on working with the local municipality to create sustainable tourism in the area. The pair are taking measures, such as including accommodation in every ticket, to avoid overinflated rates for locals during the festival week.
Kala Festival takes place in Dhërmi, Albania, on 31 May to 7 June 2023.