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Culture, Music

Smeared in Love

by Evan Milton / 13.08.2009

Oppikoppi 15 lived up to its moniker of “Smoorverlief” as,  possibly,  the most perfect Oppikoppi yet. Beyond the fine balance of a superbly wide-ranging line-up of artists and the impressive technical and logistics successes, it seemed that, 15 years into the monster, the audience had finally caught up to the master-plan. Never shy of hedonism here and there – it pretty much encourages a corralled community of tough-love excess – the festival has actually always been about pushing musical boundaries and ushering the festival punters into a wider experience of international music, both South African and otherwise.

Oppikoppi 2009
© bluntmag.co.za

Or,  as Oppikoppi would say,  not bothering – or needing – to explain anymore: it’s about the tunes.

This year’s tune highlights were as varied as they were sublime.

* Jazz vocalist and trombonist Siya Makuzeni (Language12, Carlo Mombelli) with a new project,  Ipi Fuze,  a mind-meltingly good fusion between free jazz and hardcore backed by half of Plum (or, to give the anoraks a better idea, one eighth of Morph Attack). The band evidenced more talent and genre-busting intelligence in the short debut set than some bands could boast across an entire career. Can’t wait for full sets and (please, please) an album.

* Ninja (the new Waddy “Max Normal” Jones incarnation) could be relaxing after tearing up the new Levi’s Bushveld stage with the mad amalgam of satirical genius and perhaps accidental perfect-timing that is Die Antwoord. Instead, he’s living the zef-rave-rock persona and pumping those techno arms to The Wedding DJs post-ironic ’80s music mix (Bon Jovi, “James Brown Is Dead”, Technotronic and the “Gummy Bears” theme tune nestle comfortably and crazily together). Then he leaps on stage. Maybe it was pre-planned, maybe not, but the next thing it’s Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” (stop. look. look again. yes. “Orinoco Flow”, in a DJ dance set.) Ninja takes the mic as though it’s obvious that the line should always have been there and, just before music’s most famously over-overdubbed chorus, he chants gentle, “Sail away, motherfuckers, sail away.” Somehow, there is something that is brilliantly, perfectly, utterly South African in this DIY mash-up that it is a moment of sheer genius, whether Ninja Jones planned it to be or not.

Oppikoppi 2009
© bluntmag.co.za

Other highlights included:

* The Sipho Gumede Stage superb sequences (courtesy ex-206 impresario DJ Bob and Party People mastermind DJ Kenzhero) which included Thandiswa, mixing music, spirituality, tribal roots and the universality of our local Women’s Day celebration; a super-tight and super-funky Kwani Experience (please will someone get them funded to tour the country!);  the boundary-pushing Farmer James and Mix ‘n Blend irrevocably proving that there’s no longer a distinction between “bands” and “DJs” when it’s done right; and 340ml playing a brilliant set,  despite using (very, very impressive) stand-ins while part of the band tours with Tumi & The Volume.

* Discovering Radio Marrabente – infectiously danceable and octogenarian jive-style from Mozambique. This mainly due to the sheer energy and giving of their show: a humbling experience after the way South African xenophobes massacred some of their country-men and women. The good news is that the band is keeping the style alive, plans are afoot for them to tour their home country – and the tour might see them slip over the border again a few times.

* Hearing aKing frontman Laudo Liebenberg unplugged at the Cuervo Black launch on the new deck overlooking the main stages – better, and with more presence and poise than the full band on one of those stages the very next night.

* Bumping into The Dirty Skirts, and nervously dragging them to see Lucky Fonz III (whose lost-boy stage whimsy is, let’s face it, a bit of an ask after a night of headline rock ‘n roll). Then feeling vindicated when the Belgian got everyone to whistle a chorus – including the aforementioned Skirts who, it must be said, whistle a damned fine whistle.

* Seeing what looked like a self-printed T-shirt proclaiming, “Ek KAN ‘apatie’ spel”. That, and a branded one: “Live and let braai”. And Battery 9 artist and rapper Huyser Burger explaining what a “girl whisperer” is.

* Having the depression of needing to leave on Monday morning somewhat eased by Piet Botha and Tidal Waves’ Jakes singing at the Kreef Hotel. This after Tidal Waves worked their usual magic on the Ramfest Stage and Piet’s Jack Hammer welcomed Vusi “The Voice” Mahlasela to join them following the sadly truncated Acoustic Africa set.

* A conversation with members of Cassette and Buckfever Underground, and friends, where someone could’ve said, “Is the Pope Catholic?” or “Do bears shit in the woods?” but said, instead, “Does Miles Keylock (Channel24, Mail & Guardian, GQ) write good music reviews?”.

* Seeing Balthazar from Belgium meeting the Swartklip township’s primary school kids for an unplugged set where, in the dust under a beating Bushveld sun, they improvised a drum-kit using gaffer tape, ingenuity, and the plastic box from the kick-drum’s pedal. All this just minutes after the school’s children welcomed them with a rehearsed song, and just hours before they gained a host of new fans on the Most Amazing Myn Stage – all of whom now expect a CD. Please.

* Missing Canadian Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland (refer township visit above); then having Farryl Purkiss and Ross Campbell rub in just how good they are; finding their solo CDs in the merch tent, then allowing them to be misplaced (a wheelbarrow, a toddler and the Albert Frost gig were involved) and then, joy-of-joys, finding Luke on eMusic. Viva the internets. Now Google it and get buying.

Evan Milton is a Music columnist; South Africa Music Awards, MTV Africa Music Awards and Stars of Mzansi judge and Oppikoppi thirteen-timer.

All images courtesy Yusuf Laher © bluntmag.co.za

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  1. dylan says:

    Miles Keylock is a poet.

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  2. Tara says:

    Hey man.
    Evan you make me want to revisit the dust, even after my last impression of the koppie left me teary eyed fighting with an irate Tim Parr (out of character for both of us – as we’ll always be good friends), storming into the unknown horizon, giving up on making music that evening (so very out of character) with Tim, my dad and Mantis, wandering for an hour, getting caught watching Cito and Wonderboom for the first time in a decade, only to arrive back at the stage to find the stage managers running an hour late (meaning my hour late stint placed me exactly on time).

    Climbing onto stage with Tim, Steve and Mantis and trying to feel us all on the same track again – having a drunk Arno wonder onto stage in the middle of a song (this being the acoustic stage – and a little easier to climb onto) to find out “if this is the song, supposed to guest on?”. Tim calling him up on the next song.
    During Arno’s performance he took a step back, foot hooked into a carry bag infront of the drumkit – he completely wiping out the drumkit…

    I dont remember if we kept playing.
    But that kind of dispelled the wrought outness of the day.
    His manager took him off stage…

    Made it back to jo’burg. Am happily sitting in Durban.

    Nice pics Yusuf.

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  3. Brett Schewitz says:

    Awesome Evan!

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  4. mike joubert says:

    How well you write my friend. The memory that is Oppikoppi 15 lives vividly in your beautifully constructed mosaic of highlights. And the tent provided welcome albeit, limited replenishment. Thanks for cool! 🙂

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  5. John Langford says:

    Oh yes indeed Evan. Makes my eyes water wishing that I was there this year! Anyhoo – the show goes on!

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  6. Yolisa says:

    mmm ….. am a complete convert and a two-timer (it was my second festival)
    and you’re right it’s all about the tunes

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  7. Macruder says:

    Great bands,great atmosphere!
    Never seizes to dissapoint-oppikoppi a name that is engraved in many a south african and more.The Sipho Gumede Stage had some great performances, i enjoyed Farmer James and Mix ‘n Blend and 340ml brilliant stuff even without 2 of the original band members, these guys always seem to lingering in the background,somehow i think they dont get the credit they deserve!The rest of the gigs i saw good quality.
    Oppikoppi 2009 Great show!

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  8. gil says:

    woo hoo! thats me in there! I think maybe I am still drunk. my water bottle definitely still tastes like whiskey. having flashbacks. what an epic weekend. best koppi in years. fokof, koos, cassette, lucky fonz, the begians, the candians, 340, aking, foto na dans, vusi and co, mr sakitumi. die antwoord! outrageous!! . brilliant times. hits from evan milton’s hip flask. friends from all over. dust off. turn over the tape. press play.

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  9. Ace @ VICE says:

    Ree-Burth also kicked ass ! I think that was the same time as Laudo in the Cuervo Black area. This was their second ever show 9pm main stage! definately going places.

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  10. Paul Blom says:

    Hey Ev!
    Pity you didn’t catch our Terminatryx live soundtrack performance to the silent vampire movie Nosferatu (with members of Lark) on the Saturday night.
    We expected the audience to revolt and demand a rock band in stead of the Ambient / Industrial / Soundtrack moods. But they really got into it.

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  11. Evan Milton says:


    Gross oversight in my review. I did catch part of it, and thought it was excellent. I loved the way the crowd was enraptured by it and thought the band “filled the space” excellently.

    Terminatryx played an ambient, goth-inclined live soundtrack to a silent film in the dust of the new Bushveld Stage at Oppikoppi. What more do you need to know, music lovers – the very fact that this happened shows how far the festival has progressed, and the fact that it was as good as it was – and held the interest of the Koppi faithful while they could have been watching Foto Na Dans and Teba – proves that if musicians have talent, skill and vision, and stick to their artistic guns, then the audience *will* find them.

    I have only one small quibble – Terminatryx needs an uplighter under drummer Sean Ou Tim, who has black hair and was wearing a high-collared, almost polo-neck black top. Imagine the face of the beat floating above the band as Murnau’s vampire-parasite creation creeps around on the screens to either side…

    (PS: If y’all missed this, check out the DVD release that Terminatryx did with their soundtrack over the silent film).

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  12. Gavan says:

    Ipi Fuze Were awesome!

    Great article Evan.

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  13. Graeme Feltham says:

    Is this article a press release or a crit?

    PS Are the people there always dirty because of the ablution facilities?

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  14. Gazza says:

    No one mentioned The Shaddow Club on the most amazing main stage…
    They were captivating and so tight! big WOOHOO!

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