Music festival – Oppikoppi: Dust and magic

2014-08-17 15:00

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

I have 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 aKING.

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.

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