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