By Ricardo Hubbs
For years, the Shambhala Music Festival was the Kootenay's little secret.
The event was born of the unique art and culture of the region 14 years ago. About 500 people attended the first Shambhala in 1998 on the Salmo River Ranch near Salmo, and that number has grown to about 10,000 people annually, making it the largest city in the West Kootenay for five days out of the year.
Now it seems the secret is out.
On Friday, March 4, in London, England, Shambhala was named best large festival at the 10th annual Breakspoll International Breakbeat Awards (www.breakspoll.com).
Shambhala was one of the smaller events in the best large event category, up against festivals like Burning Man in the U.S. (over 50,000 attendees) and the U.K.'s infamous Glastonbury (over 150,000 attendees).
"It was such an honour to even be nominated for an award in this category," said Christine Hunter, Shambhala talent manager. "I ‘tweeted’ that (sentiment) out seconds before the award was announced. And all of a sudden the reply came, 'Forget the nomination, you just won it.’”
(Shambhala Twitter, www.twitter.com/shambhala_mf).
Shambhala's award was received by Simon Shackleton, whose DJ name is Elite Force. Shackleton won awards for best producer and best record label for U&A Recordings. The awards ceremony was accompanied by a night of electronic music from some of the biggest names in the breakbeat genre at Cable in London.
"One of the six stages at Shambhala is predominantly breakbeats, and each stage has its own unique sound," said Brittany Gilchrist, Shambhala social media manager.
"We've been called a breakbeat festival, a dubstep festival — who knows what genre we'll be labeled with in the next few years? What Shambhala really is, is a collection of different sounds. But breakbeats are one thing that has remained constant throughout the nine years I've attended.”
Breakbeats are the root of how a lot of people got into electronic music, said Gilchrist. As a result, a lot of the credit for the award should go to Rich-e-Rich and Fractal Media/The Fractal Forest Stage.
“They've been creating the 'funkiest place on Earth' for 13 years,” she said.
The festival has already been experiencing it's strongest year of sales on record and is over half sold out – even though the talent lineup for 2011 will not be released until March 14.
International attendance has been on the rise in recent years, with many traveling from the U.S., U.K. and Australia (among other countries) to the Kootenays to experience one of the top electronic music festivals in Canada.
Now that Shambhala has been voted the world's best large breakbeat event, those numbers may increase further in the years to come.