Has Tulum Ruined It’s Own Dance Music Scene?
Copal smoke swirls beyond towering palm trees towards a star-pierced sky. Mayan healers, musicians and dancers ascend barefoot from all four corners of Cenote Dos Ojos, the indigenous jungle grounds hosting 11th edition of Day Zero, Tulum’s long-standing festival founded by Damian Lazarus.
From a spaceship-like booth made of fragmented mirrors, South African amapiano duo Major League DJz heat the decks up to boiling point, before sets from the likes of Major Lazer Soundsystem, NYC house champion Danny Tenaglia, Turkish-Italian rising DJ and producer Carlita and Tel Aviv duo Red Axes follow.
The Mayans erupt into a groove that sweeps a wave of ‘Tuluminatis’ (international Instagram and TikTok influencers, contoured to the gods in high-definition looks) from snapping selfies for the metaverse onto the dancefloor and into Day Zero’s world.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, Tulum was an untouched paradise for hippies and nude bohemians set on miles of opalescent sand, turquoise waters and backed by a Mayan fortress. The first time I laid eyes on it, there were beachfront hammocks that went for $10 a night, and leaving a quesadilla on your towel was a license for a local monkey to steal. There was no wi-fi, and only a handful of working lights, bongos ’round a fire and a taco stand on the main drag.
Fast forward a decade, Tulum has transformed from a backpacker’s beach to the new Ibiza. The monkeys have been forced out, and Tulum’s magic has been put into foreboding extinction.
The history of Tulum’s lawlessness is lengthy to say the fucking least, and profit has always reigned over moral principles. This was illustrated at length in The Cut’s harrowing expos Who Killed Tulum back in 2019. In 2023 you have a rising drug war seeping in and club owners that have paid cartels three times to secure ownership of land that was most likely stolen from Mayans, some of which might even be working on that same land. You have gargantuan global parties like Afterlife and Tomorrowland linking up with the local Zamna Festival in the heart of the Tulum jungle. They give half-assed nods to the Mayans by projecting 3D visuals of a man in ceremonial make-up wearing a skirt of vines and shooting lasers to the moon. Sure, they promote punters to use biodegradable glitter, drink from agave straws and bring their own pocket ashtrays. Yet they completely disregard how setting up elaborate soundsystems across three stages, thousands of feet worth of scaffolding, and monumental sound and light production (powered by more generators) will impact the environment.
Not only was Day Zero claiming to shine a light on local talent and the riches of the Mayans, but it was implementing ground-breaking sustainability measures with Petgas. a Mexican company that transforms plastic waste into fuel. All alongside a local and international line-up and on the sacred land, Cenote Dos Ojo.
“It was inevitable that the change was coming to Tulum. But someone needs to do something to show festival organisers, promoters and club owners how it can be done positively and how to respect nature while educating party people from around the world about the roots of this beautiful culture that is so close to my heart. If I was ever going to throw parties here, I made a promise to be loyal to this land, and I’ve stuck to that. Day Zero will not leave a space without the land looking even better than it did before we arrived on it,” Damian Lazarus, creator of Day Zero, DJ, producer and label boss at Crosstown Rebels, explains.
“As Mayans, we gather around to dance out trauma, heartbreak, anger, and happiness. We kill our ego dancing in drum circles. That’s what I want the crowd to experience at Day Zero. “