Dust and magic

It was Binwe Ade­bayo’s first Op­pikoppi and it prob­a­bly won’t be her last

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Ihave been go­ing to mu­sic fes­ti­vals since I was 15 years old and thought I had pretty much seen it all. This year, I de­cided to em­bark on the great dust track to Op­pikoppi, ea­ger to tick it off my bucket list.

Although ev­ery­where there are signs of a so­cially awk­ward new South Africa, the fes­ti­val’s 20th an­niver­sary was true to its motto: Mu­sic First, Mu­sic Last.

It is a dream for those who, like me, be­lieve that the live per­for­mance is still the purest form of mu­sic. And with a line-up in­clud­ing Hugh Masekela, Cat Power and PHFAT, there was some­thing for every­one both on and off stage.

We slugged back our Red Bulls, changed into our thorn-re­sis­tant boots and headed up the dust path to­wards the great Koppi, a moun­tain of re­gal struc­tures, puls­ing with light and sound like Zeus’ Olym­pus.

The first day gave me the kind of crick in the neck one gets from watch­ing a ten­nis ball mov­ing back and forth across a court. The fes­ti­val was a vis­ual sen­sa­tion and the sturdy struc­tures of the stages and light­ing were metic­u­lously planned.

It’s a pity poor sound af­fected oth­er­wise awe­some per­for­mances by the No­madic Orches­tra, The Fish­wives and Cat Power.

When I wasn’t lost in an elec­tro haze at the Red Bull stage or rush­ing to the main stage for a head­line act, the day pro­vided much time for peo­ple-watch­ing, my favourite fes­ti­val hobby. I was sur­rounded by about 20 000 fel­low fes­ti­val­go­ers at any one point and there were some se­ri­ously “turnt up” young peo­ple at Op­pikoppi. Watch­ing my neigh­bours pum­mel 10 tequi­las in a row at 9am is, I as­sume, the type of break­fast that would ex­plain why my friends found a dis­mem­bered fin­ger ly­ing in some grass. I mean, peo­ple lose a lot at mu­sic fes­ti­vals – but a fin­ger ... yikes! This en­vi­ron­ment made for un­ex­pected in­ter­ac­tions, some rem­i­nis­cent of times past, like a group of Afrikaans boys jeer­ing at a black au­di­ence mem­ber dur­ing a KING. But there were moments of gen­uine race­less, class­less and age­less in­ter­ac­tions.

The trib­ute per­for­mance fea­tur­ing Arno Carstens and Hugh Masekela drew in a di­verse crowd, chant­ing their favourite songs and cel­e­brat­ing the mo­ment. Aloe Blacc’s per­for­mance of Avicii’s Wake Me Up was a poignant mo­ment, dust ris­ing as the crowd danced, a sin­gu­lar voice in the night.

Although Wolf­mother and Ed­i­tors were un­for­get­table, and also the two main rea­sons I went to Op­pikoppi, the magic was in the lit­tle de­tails. There is a quiet com­mit­ment from the “prawns” of Op­pikoppi to have a good time, even when you’re cov­ered in dust and melt­ing in the mid­day sun.


NIGHT MAGIC Fran­cois van Coke of Van Coke Kar­tel per­forms at Wes­ley’s Dome Stage at Op­pikoppi

WHAT A BLAST Hugh Masekela plays on the James Phillips Stage at Op­pikoppi

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