There is something in the air a couple of hundred or thousand people breathe while lending their ears and hearts to live music. In South Africa, the concept of festivals that play host to live bands and shows has taken to local crowds like vibrations to a string.
I remember when Oppikoppi just started, a good couple of years ago near a town called Northam. It was in fact perfectly timed to harmonise with South Africa’s fresh take on political cohesion in the year 1994. At the time it was the only festival of its kind that I had ever heard of. Admittedly, I was young and vastly ignorant but the memory of realising for the first time that entire gatherings can be organised around music still excites and intrigues me.
So what have we got?
To name but a few, let’s look at the following:
- Splashy Fen
- Rocking the Daisies
- Up the Creek
- Big Blues Music Festival
If you have a keen eye for detail you’ll note one name there that stands out a bit: Earthdance. This festival is mainly a Psytrance event centered around the idea that we can and should all party for peace. If electronic tunes and hard-beaten rhythms are what you’re after, there are numerous such parties held all year ‘round although the optimal time for Trance festivals is undoubtedly summer. For a more comprehensive list of parties and handy information feel free to visit http://www.psymedia.co.za/.
Ramfest, although also open to the alternative string of electronic beats these days, is mostly cut out for well worn hard-rock loving head-bangers. They have a tendency to attract international acts and hardly ever cease to deliver a glorious time for those who make an effort to go. My mind was blown wide open, figuratively speaking, with their 2012 offering when they brought us none other than the incredible In Flames, one of my favourite bands who also happen to play loyal companion in times when I need great music for hard driving.
If you happen to be looking for a family-friendly festival that caters for a wider scope of genres, Splashy Fen held annually in the Drakensberg Mountains is a definite must-do. This festival started out as a small, surprisingly well-attended folk-rock party that has since grown so much that it owns a well-deserved spot in the priority list of music lovers in South Africa.
I started out with a mention of Oppikoppi because it is viewed as one of the vital festivals in the history of the South African music scene. Another festival that is well worth a mention is Up the Creek. Think about it, a one-band-at-a-time party that is set on a riverbank in Swellendam and promises to bring you only the very best local acts during the peak of summer. What can be better than going up where it’s wetter?
Rocking the Daisies is one of those gatherings where it is clear that the organizers were careful to think through to even the finest details. They feature all kinds of creature-comforts such as a pampering tent, wine tastings and a playground for the little ones.
One might very easily get the idea, in fact, that they got some of their ideas from the Trance scene, what with a chill-out space and a market for arts. Moreover the festival plays off in the tiny town of Darling, a place one might just want to pay a visit if ‘quaint’ and ‘historic’ are attributes that pique your interest.
If ever there was a festival with a cause, the Big Blues Music Festival is it. Kleinmond finds itself happily visited by all kinds of blues lovers whose ticket money fuel the fodder of the communal cannon. The proceeds go to schools in the area and most of the crew who work at the food and drink stalls volunteer their services. Apart from that, if you like the blues, this is for you. If you like the blues and, like me, didn’t realise that we have amazing blues musicians in South Africa then you should definitely do yourself a favour and attend the next round.
Before I go, it is worth a mention that many festivals often cater for those who are not so keen to set up their own tents. Kreef Hotel can be found at most of these gatherings and always offer a great stay at a fantastic price.