Defected Croatia: A Blueprint for Responsible and Inclusive Partying

Rob Engle

5 min read

Defected Croatia: A Blueprint for Responsible and Inclusive Partying

Merely a decade ago, Tisno was a quaint town on the idyllic and vibrant Croatian coast. Situated at the narrow strait separating the island of Murter from the mainland, the municipality of Tisno—approximately an hour by car from the country’s second-largest city, Split—is home to just over 3,000 permanent residents. The town boasts an alluring rocky landscape carpeted with pines and olive trees, nestled alongside crystal-blue, sea-urchin-packed waters (don’t go within your shoes) within view of the nearby Dalmatian islands.

In recent years, this Adriatic gem has sparkled even brighter, beckoning music lovers from around the world. Today, Tisno hosts a continuous carousel of internationally acclaimed (boutique) festivals throughout the summer—including SuncéBeat, Love International, and Dimensions—where the number of weekly ticket holders often eclipses the town's permanent population.

Tisno's ascent into a globally renowned dance music destination is no accident. It’s due, in large part, to August’s annual flagship gathering from one of house music's most respected brands, Defected Records.

Almost every house-head on earth knows the name Defected. In 2022, the London-based label, founded by industry titan Simon Dunmore, celebrated its 23rd anniversary and sixth time returning to The Garden Resort for its summertime pièce de résistance, Defected Croatia.

The musical juggernaut that is Defected Records is perhaps best known for its expertly curated catalog of house heaters and classics, collection of tastemaking sub-labels encompassing the breadth of house music, and stable of artists ranging from the most legendary to the most in-demand.

But Defected has struck gold in Croatia by curating an atmosphere that inverts the very elements of its global success, fostering intimacy, coziness, and a small, self-sustaining community born and raised under the proud banner of house music.

Most dance music fans have likely seen Defected's slogan, "In Our House We Are All Equal,” plastered across nearly every element of the label’s marketing, from merch to digital graphics to social media. For Defected, equality isn’t corporate lip service. It’s an ethos that permeates every moment of the 5,000-person festival.

Defected

Defected Croatia eschews hierarchy of all kinds. There is no VIP. There are no headliners in the traditional sense. Just a constant drumbeat of house, techno, and disco for six days and seven nights — every day from the moment the party kicks off at the main site (The Garden Resort) in the afternoon until the next day’s sunrise comes splitting through pines at the iconic Barbarella’s Discotheque (the official afterparty location).

This year, the self-described week of "house hedonism” saw Vintage Culture, Danny Tenaglia, Honey Dijon, Jayda G, Louie Vega, LP Giobbi and more than 100 other established and up-and-coming artists grace its stages and boat parties.

The pure cache of these names might typically conjure images of colossal festival stages and shoulder-to-shoulder, sardine-like crowds. But the secret sauce of Defected Croatia is the intimate, inclusive community it fosters and the somewhat blurred lines between fans and artists.

Defected Radio Show Hosted by Sam Divine & Simon Dunmore - Live From Defected Croatia 2022

At any time, on a never-overly-crowded, never-pushy dancefloor, festivalgoers can find themselves moving and grooving next to Natasha Diggs, being summoned onto a boat party by Melvo Baptiste, snapping a selfie with Simon Dunmore by the merch tent, or casually standing in line for food next to any number house music legends. One might even find themselves kicking it with Defected dancers, DJs, and off-the-clock bartenders at the beachside after-after party, as the sun begins to creep higher into the sky.

But wherever you find yourself at Defected, rest assured that you’ll be immersed in a diverse, close-knit community of responsible partiers and music lovers who, above all, are looking out for the well-being and safety of one another.

Defected’s various imprints (Glitterbox, Classic Music Company, Faith, Sondela, to name a few) provide a structure and natural flow to the week. These imprints rotate hosting takeovers of the Garden Resort's four stages (Main Stage, Beach Stage, Olive Grove, and Press Play) and Barbarella’s (about a 20-minute drive from the main site).

This year, Thursday kicked off with a bright and energetic bang with Defected residents Sam Divine and Gorgon City lighting up the Main Stage, while Glitterbox’s Dave Lee ZR offered a late-night disco masterclass to an eager crowd. By Friday, the festival was in full swing. Amsterdam-based PIV Records, founded by DJ and producer Prunk, took fans on all night soulful house journey at the Olive Grove, ending with an astounding six way “B2B2B2B2B2B” sunrise set from the entire PIV artist lineup.

Saturday saw one of week's highlights: the first-ever day-an-night takeover of Barbarella’s—all in praise and celebration of the birth place of techno, Detroit. Detroit's DJ Holographic and Rimarkable (Defected Radio Show host) offered two beautifully intense, rhythmic sets paying homage to their native city, the birthplace of Motown and techno music. Sunday was a kaleidoscopic, glitter-fueled dream with the Glitterbox takeover of Defected’s Main Stage, featuring soulful house masters Kiddy Smile and Bob Sinclar.

The final nights were some of the biggest. On Monday, Classic Music Company took control of the Main Stage. Bulgarian DJ KiNK stunned the crowd with a set that included including live keyboard, synths, and digital air drums. The performance was bookended by sets from globally renowned artists Honey Dijon and Luke Solomon. They were riding the wave of the release of Beyoncé Renaissance, for which the long-time business partners and friends co-produced two tracks. The final day, the festival chartered a boat party featuring some of Defected 2022’s “Unsung Heroes,” winners of the label's competition to give up-and-coming a yearlong residency.

As the week wrapped in Tisno, the energy remained high. There was a pervasive atmosphere that, for many, the this was less of a “goodbye” and more of a "see you later.” And as the DJs took to the decks for the festival’s final sets, a single word was rolling off everyone’s tongues: “magic."

It’s clear: Defected Croatia isn’t just a facilitator of sonic hedonism but of freedom and unadulterated creativity. Like clockwork every year, it creates the physical, logistical, and psychological safety for true authenticity and adventure, calling to mind the words of Frankie Knuckles: “I am definitely in the right place doing the right things. These are the rewards.”