Baja Beach Fest
When Ozuna and Mark B sang “El día está pa’ playa y arena, la vamos a pasar muy bien” in 2016, they very well may have been foreseeing the launch of the Baja Beach Fest two years later. After a remarkable inaugural year, Baja Beach Fest is back for its sophomore year, celebrating the Latin community, beach vibes, and young Latin trap/reggaeton music, with headliners including the aforementioned Ozuna, along with Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, among others. The first and only festival of its kind – Baja Beach Fest Fest is held on the sand of the oceanfront resort of Rosarito, creating an all-encompassing experience of music and coastal feels. It was imagined into existence by two friends, Chris Den Uijl and Aaron Ampudia, and dedicated to the local community who wanted to bring the world’s most streamed artists together for a weekend of music.
Few genres have reached the global audience of musica urbana, also known as “urbano” (Spanish-language urban music). With seven of the ten most-viewed music videos on YouTube in 2018 coming from Latin artists, and artists like Bad Bunny entering the American mainstream, urbano’s dominance reflects rapidly changing American demographics. So, when 15,000 revelers first descended on Rosarito’s glistening beaches for the inaugural festival, it was more than just a celebration of the world’s best reggaeton, dembow, and Latin trap acts (including Bad Bunny, Farruko, Yandel, Bryant Myers, DJ Kass, Sergio E, and more), it was the culmination of a new cultural revolution that’s been brewing since reggaeton took over the world in 2004.Read more
Though Baja Beach Fest is primarily a music festival, it’s also an intimate and immersive experience, in which the town of Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico literally becomes the foundation for the festival. “Everything that is a part of this event is within walking distance, including lodging, food, and the numerous after parties.” says festival co-founder Chris Den Uijl. “The moment you get off the highway, and arrive into the city, you’ve entered Baja Beach Fest..”
Baja Beach Fest is the culmination of a long term vision that festival founders Den Uijl and Ampudia have had to slowly help bring Rosarito back from an overwhelming economic downturn.
In 2009 the confluence of a recession in the US, the H1N1 flu pandemic, and the sensationalized media frenzy about cartel violence combined into a perfect storm that devastated the local economy. Rosarito’s tourism dropped 98%.” says Ampudia, festival co-founder, and co-owner of Papas and Beer, the storied Rosarito beach club that started it all. “Papas and Beer’s business fell by 95%. And this mom & pop establishment that my parents started 35 years ago was going to go out of business,” he recalls. As a first-generation American with parents from Ensenada, Ampudia’s deep connection to his roots tethered him to his family business.
A eureka moment led him down a path that planted the seeds for the world’s first true musica urbana beach festival. “I was 17 years old, living in San Diego, and decided to create a Facebook event for a club night at Papas. I rented four buses and convinced high school friends to come down for free, to show them that parts of Mexico were safe” And even though only 25 of the 200 who RSVP’ed showed up, he kept at it and within 1 year, Ampudia single-handedly helped re-established Americans’ trust in Rosarito’s beach tourism, eventually bringing 20 buses per week down from San Diego. This kind of drive, innovation, and a meager initial marketing budget of $1,000 brought his family business back from the brink of bankruptcy into a new era that directly led to the creation of Baja Beach Fest.
In 2016, Ampudia’s path crossed with Den Uijl, who convinced him to book Lil Jon for a spring break show. “It was the first time Papas and Beer ever sold out in advance.” Ampudia says. The partnership was immediately sealed and the two have been throwing music events ever since.
Den Uijl’s first introduction to Latin culture was through his stepmom, who is from Guadalajara. Says Den Uiljl, “In my house, Reggaeton was the music we listened to the most. And when I first met Aaron, we formed an instant bond, having both grown up in Latin households on the border, with families who loved music.” Den Uijl came to the table with extensive live production experience, having been a part of award-winning experiential teams for Nike, The US Open of Surfing, and more. After these projects he shifted his focus to his first love, music. COLLECTIV PRESENTS, his current venture, produces 35-50 live music events per month in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Madison, Milwaukee, and Rosarito Beach.
The combination of Ampudia’s drive and Den Uijl’s event production experience made for a flawless first year for Baja Beach Fest. “We felt the reggaeton and Latin trap fanbase really wanted something like this, because it didn’t exist anywhere,” Ampudia says about their inaugural year. “It was amazing to see and feel the fan excitement, and it went off without a hitch.”
“This event was built for the people. We’ve been listening to our loyal community from the beginning and always doing our best to let the fans curate the artists they want to see.” adds Den Uijl. The beach setting has also been a selling point for the talent. “Artists like Bad Bunny and Farruko said they felt at home in Rosarito, which is exactly what we wanted –– a welcoming affair for both the artists and the fans.” he says.
Looking forward, the founders say the sky’s the limit. “We had 15,000 attendees last year, and expect about 25,000 per day this year. But this is just the beginning. We’re setting our sights on other beaches and prime locations to expand the festival and bring the playa vibes to other communities.” Den Uijl says.
With Baja Beach Fest sure to be the biggest exclusively Latin trap and reggaeton festival in North America, it’s no wonder artists like Bad Bunny claim it as one of their favorite destinations, while others like Cardi B promise to deliver a special, Latin-centric set for the occasion. Rounding out the stellar lineup, artists like J Balvin, Ozuna, Alex Rose, De La Ghetto, DJ Luian and more will keep you perreando all weekend. So get your passports in order, porque vamos a la playa.