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Open Letter to Back to the City

Dear Back To The City

by Ts’eliso Monaheng / 22.05.2013

Peace Back To The City,

What’s good, what it do, whoop de whoop, sharp hoezit, fede?!! I’ve been wondering what you guys have been up to in the past three weeks since the, um, “BIGGEST HIP HOP GATHERING IN AFRICA” happened. At least I know one thing, the email you promised would, “take 20mins to answer” still hasn’t arrived in my inbox. But TIA, isn’t it? For all we know, the mail could still be entangled in the bits of fibre optic cable somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Ja ne, technology!

You guys were kind enough to offer Mahala some free tickets; that was awesome. It enabled me to go and cover the gig on their behalf; I took some pictures and wrote a fairly favourable review of the event. Did you see it? I should also commend you on keeping a hip hop festival going for seven years. Which is incredible in its own right. “It’s the biggest they’ve had this year, well done to Osmic and his people!” Commented one reveller who, through further prodding, I discovered had been to a couple of your events in past years.

As I noted in my review:

“This was my first Back To The City. I harboured no expectations; I’d heard of the infamous sound, the organisers’ favouritism regarding artists who get booked and their less-than-savoury attitude towards some of the other performers. But that was not my focus; the main stage hardly impresses at any other festivals anyway. The meaty parts exist on the fringes, on the walkways which turn into fashion showcases and impromptu street dance sessions; the weed peddlers and buyers who provide a modicum of ‘freedom’, if only for the night. In those respects, the festival’s pros far outweighed the social media bitching which swarmed the organisers throughout Saturday and Sunday.”


A lot of shit happens in seven years. Co-founding partners leave; artists develop animosity towards your ‘brand’ – you know, that kinda stuff. What this means to me as a consumer of South African rap music is that I catch the rumours circulating behind your guys’ backs. I detest having to be subjected to gossip; it’s bullshit, and takes away from what we should all be pre-occupied with: creating, consuming, reading and writing about good music. Hence why I asked you those questions and sprinkled a dash of my vested interest in all music from elsewhere on the African Continent. Those questions were aimed at clearing out the stench of closeted bones and such.

Just to refresh your memory, I did send you two more e-mails: the first to the lady to whom I’d been directed, and the second to the address I’d come into contact with initially (backtothecity2013@gmail.com). While my attempt at communication with the former failed, the latter yielded a result. But like that tired old phrase ‘beating about the bush’, the response kept ‘running around in circles’.
“Your questions will be answered soonest” was the earnest response. Very swift, I must say, like gently telling a child to sit the fuck down!

So yo, here are those questions. Perhaps you’ll pay attention now.

When did BTTC start out, and whose brainchild was it?

Was there any legislation imposed by the city (noise levels, etc) that you had to observe? What other challenges went into putting a festival of that magnitude together? (As far as I’m aware, it started out as a free event. Is this true?)

I would suppose sponsors weren’t very keen to come on board initially. Were there any early adopters?

line up

What lessons were learnt going into the second year of BTTC?

Some people then broke away, most notably Dominique Soma. What were her reasons? And DJ Kenzhero, why did he stop being involved?

What is the criterion for an artist to get onto BTTC? Having a look at this year’s line-up, what value do Infa and Pitch Black Afro add to the festival? I am not aware of either artists having released music recently.

Do you have a per-province quota? From a brisk look through the line-up, the artists are mainly based in Johannesburg; bar from Abdus (Durban) and Maxhoseni, were there any efforts made to reach out to artists from elsewhere in the country? Eastern Cape? Bloem?

What strategic partnerships has BTTC formed?

Are there any efforts to form a network with similar-themed festivals across the African continent? Have there been any attempts to book artists from elsewhere on the continent?

Do you think the current model of operation is sustainable?

What other fringe events happen concurrently with BTTC?

And then I did forget to put the following two questions in there:

Youngsta has been having quite a good year. Don’t you rate it would’ve been dope to put him on?

Khuli Chana was visibly absent from the bill. Was this an oversight on your part? Double booking? Payment… ah, just messing with you!

Alrighty then, peace!

Back to the City

* All images Ts’eliso Monaheng

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  1. zo says:

    Just an aside, but does an artist have to have new material to be featured at a festival? I.e Infa and Pitch.

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  2. Ts'eliso says:

    Not necessarily, but I think there were artists who are more ‘current’ who deserved to be on the bill.

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  3. JayTip says:

    Like it, I feel like BTTC need to address these. And the issue of Sound is forever letting this festival down, BTTC is a gathering of all Jozi’s cool kids

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  4. Natty says:

    I think BTTC truly is the biggest hiphop festival in South Africa. I’ve only ever missed one year and it’s been great to see it grow from strength to strength. However I think Osmic needs to listen to the countless number of people who try to advise him against having 40 plus artists on stage in one day. It leads to frustration from artists due t time constraints and such a disorganised flow on stage. Just as you are getting into an act, it’s time for them to get off. A disgruntled T from the V tweeted after being forced off stage after one song: “@TumiMolekane: I would never cuss or disrespect Osmic but his product is garbage”
    I think 10 to 15 worthy headline acts would do just fine. He needs to concentrate on pulling off a quality production instead of putting all his people on.

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