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Jocks of the Bushveld

Jocks of the Bushveld

by Dave Durbach / 11.08.2010

For some, a near-religious pilgrimage, planned well in advance. For others, spring break, a chance to cut loose. For the regulars, a chance to relive the old days. For everyone else, three days in the dirt. Minimal solid foods. No parents. Loose chicks. Beers for breakfast. Good times.

Oppikoppi this year offered a wide variety of music for the discerning listener – ranging from rock, all the way to hard rock, and even metal! DJs and electronic acts meanwhile offered something vaguely “alternative” (but hardly live) down by the Red Bull stage. Despite the abundance of youth – pimply, horny, cane-chugging youngsters – this year’s Oppikoppi, for me at least, belonged to the older hands. Of the 60-odd acts on offer, this year’s top 3 for me were, in no particular order:

Albert Frost and Vusi Mahlasela (Friday)
Frost has played hundreds of Oppikoppi gigs over the years with a host of different bands. On Friday he played a few of his old songs (like “Kamekastig Land”) before playing second fiddle to “The Voice”, who quickly had the unsuspecting audience enthralled.

Valiant Swart tribute (Friday)
His name might not mean much to you, but it does to everybody else. Celebrating 20 years in the business, and probably the only guy to have played at every single Oppikoppi over the years, Oppi’s deserved tribute put some of the main bigger names together to rework his most memorable hits, arranged by former Sons of Trout (?) bassist Schalk Joubert. Some surprises were Flash Republic’s Tamara Dey doing “Moeilikheid met die man” and Jack Parow’s version of “Sy dra te veel eyeshadow”. Hot Water did a song about ganja, while the Tidal Waves, former Blues Broer Simon “Agent” Orange, and others also chipped in.

Radio Kalahari Orkes (Saturday)
Max B called them “complete nothingness”, words probably only he understands – if not some Buddhist in-joke then an accurate representation of what was going through his mind at the time. RKO is the missing link between vastrap, goema and mbaqanga, beefed up with a house beat. Frontman actor Ian Robberts (of …boet en swaer fame) has a dependable presence on stage, though most of my attention was on the accordian player. It can’t be too easy making that thing look sexy.

Other bands deserve an honorable mention: the hard rocking, Kravitz-styled Voodoo Child, and the polished (but at times average) afro-pop of Gang of Instrumentals. Tumi was on point as usual, though the squeaky clean backing of Isochronous and Yesterday’s Pupil are never going to be as cool as the Volume. Amongst the indie crowd New Holland and Fire Through the Window put on a good show, while Facing the Gallows almost had me forgetting how much I hate metal, by matching technical skill with style and showmanship.

What this year’s Oppikoppi may have lacked in on-stage variety, it made up for other in other ways. Plenty people I spoke to claimed they hadn’t even come for the music. Others were in no shape to be making any kind of decisions. Whether or not this year’s Oppikoppi – apparently the biggest ever, with 16 000 tickets sold – will go down as the best ever, I’m the wrong one to judge in any case. My only previous experience in 2002 involved driving 15 hours to a campsite in the centre of Pretoria, the sight of old SA flags on tents to welcome newcomers. Eight years later and the crowds at Oppikoppi are happier, cooler and more diverse, even if the music hasn’t quite following suit.

While some may think it encouraging that a few black people showed up and enjoyed themselves, the demographics of any audience obviously comes down to the music on offer. It may be the biggest music festival in SA, but Oppikoppi is still a rock festival. Given that most decent music is being put out by Afrikaans bands, no one expects the audience to be anything other than predominantly white and Afrikaans. Maybe that’s the key to the festival’s continued success – it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it really is: a great place to get fucked up.

Others may be thinking, hasn’t the time come for a bigger, more inclusive festival? Are we not capable of putting together an annual event that draws 50 000, or 150 000, people of all races, to see all kinds of bands, including established international acts, on 8 or 10 or 15 stages, over the course of a week or more?

All images © Dave Durbach.

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RESPONSES (29)
  1. react says:

    I like the last three paragraphs most, thanks for some honest reporting…

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  2. eddie gruyere-ou says:

    Durbach, your taste in music is very kak. Thank God there’s Max.

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  3. Somnambulist says:

    Oh yes, thank fuck for Max – so we can all get behind everything being shit together!

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  4. Max says:

    Dave, great article. Dig it dig it dig it. Hella more objective than my stuff, but the honesty is very much there.

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  5. eddie gruyere-ou says:

    Max, you’ve gone soft. Not just down there, but also in the head.

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  6. WTF says:

    that oke up top looks like my barman

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  7. Sebabatso says:

    Nice one.
    I dig the pictures…did you take them yourself?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    hey, there’s The Gig!!

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  9. Alain says:

    I enjoyed this article. I saw Valiant Swart in a tiny theatre in Rosendal – a town with a population of 42. He was great, and his live stuff tops his recorded stuff by far. I also like RKO. Again, cool review!

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  10. oppifokkenkoppi says:

    “Given that most decent music is being put out by Afrikaans bands…”

    Do people really believe this?! I mean there definitely is a small handful of really good Afrikaans bands, but the rest are a bunch of talentless derivative wannabees who are only receiving any exposure at all because they are part of the current SA music trend of Afrikaans rock. Even the good ones are carbon copies of their American counter parts just sung in a different language.

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  11. ek was ook by oppikoppi says:

    Lekker!

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  12. joburg tom says:

    aaagh cane. never again *shudders*

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  13. eleanor says:

    “No one expects the audience to be anything other than white and afrikaans”. huh? Were you even there? Did you even bother to climb the hill? “Hardly live” music at the red bull stage? Dude. How did they get someone who has no idea what’s going on in sa and on its music scene to cover koppi? Crawl back into your hole…

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  14. eleanor says:

    Plus. Oppikoppi in pretoria 2002. Seriously? Seriously? Did you even know where you were at the time?

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  15. Walter says:

    There were a hell of a lot more English people at koppi this year, did definitely affect the atmosphere, but it is a good thing. Koppi was too hectic this year, and I swore on Monday never again (4th year I have said this), by Tuesday I was wishing I was back 🙂

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  16. Anonymous says:

    @eleanor, Oppikoppi was held at fountains valley in Pretoria in 2002 and yes, it was shit.

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  17. Dave says:

    Eleanor, there must be more constructive ways for you do deal with your anger. If you’re such a fountain of wisdom, why don’t you write something of your own instead of whinging in the comment’s forum?

    to answer your points…
    1. If you actually looked closer, what I said was “no one expects the audience to be anything other than PREDOMINANTLY white and Afrikaans”… do you know what that word means? there’s a big difference. get it right.
    2. The Red Bull stage had DJs and some electronic one-man-bands like Yesterday’s Pupil. Plugging your laptop into the PA or tapping on your sequencer hardly qualifies as live music in my opinion, although you’re welcome to disagree.
    3. Oppikoppi Plunge was held in September 2002 in Fountains Valley, Pretoria.

    As for me having “no idea of what’s going on in SA and its music scene” – there’s no need for me to justify myself to you, so I won’t. You don’t know me, and you have no idea of what else I’ve been doing in the music industry for the part 7 years, or what else I am doing now, besides writing for Mahala.

    In future, Eleanor, if you”ve got a chip on your shoulder about something and want to vent, THINK before you say/write something. and then when you do, don’t let your own anger or preconceptions cloud your judgement. If you want to make a point, fine, but there’s no need for personal attacks on my character, credentials or intentions.

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  18. Bantu R says:

    I was there and I’m black. The one thing I noticed was that 10 minutes after camp was set up, everybody was too fucked up to notice who was black and who wasnt. I spent 2 thirds of Oppi at afrikaner campsites with people I didnt even know, going back to MY campsite to stock up on Carlings.
    Maybe, instead of trying to alter the line up, we should leave Koppi as a rock festival and just encourage other black folk to go. Its an experience like no other that is based on the simple fact that people like to get fucked up, and people like rock music, and when everybody is out to have fun, we dont really give a shit about what differences we have between us.
    3 and a half days of live music, dust and booze (and drugs for all the crazy white people), who cares about race?

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  19. Dave says:

    Sebabatso – thanks, yes I took the photos myself.

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  20. koppi hugger says:

    Bantu R, I love you, brother! People always get their panties in a knot when it comes to race at festivals. Ja, it’s a whitey fest but a good one. The line-up was bloody fantastic and that’s why the tickets was sold out at 12h00 Friday. Over 18 years the Oppikoppi fest grew like no other in SA and it swings with the tides. But it kept it’s soul and that is why people go for more. Face it, it’s a lekker place to unwind and forget about everyday crap we have to deal with. Cut loose!

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  21. Charl says:

    Not the best Koppi ever, but a good one nonetheless. Of the 10 I’ve attended this was about 8th.

    The line-up lacked a bit of punch IMO. Needed some Goldfish, New Academics, Bed On Bricks for some bounce.

    I hope Koppi never changes though. No point in changing the vibe to make in “more inclusive”. Koppi is about getting out of your comfort zones. Like Bantu R has attested, I think Koppi is a great opportunity for our black brothers to widen their horizons and see some crazy whities get uninhibited.

    The vibe is unique and already being negatively influenced by emo kids, former-Woodstockers and the annoying laaities in the jeep driving around playing non-SA music and kicking up dust for no reason. Then again, maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man in my old age – 26 🙁

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  22. whateva says:

    haha Dave, stop being so defensive dude, wrong impression..

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  23. eleanor says:

    Aw, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. Didn’t mean to cut you so deep! I didn’t attack your character, just your lack of research and knowledge. I’m sure you’re a very nice guy.

    All I’m saying is that if you’re going to dismiss electro as “Plugging your laptop into the PA or tapping on your sequencer” then you really don’t get it. There’s mostly only live mixing and scratching going on, plus tracks and all that you refer to, meaning that one guy/girl is doing a shit load at once – requiring plenty of skill. Something that I think is really under-appreciated. Sometimes I think that simply picking up a guitar is much easier. And yes, I do have experience to back that up.

    I wouldn’t be bitching if I didn’t have grounds to do so. I love Mahala and what they do, I was just disappointed in the streaks of ignorance I found in this article.

    It was not meant to be a personal attack, it was just borne out of disgusted horror, thus the mean comments. But, kudos for being blunt and honest. I just don’t agree.

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  24. tuti fruti says:

    comon dave, grow a pair, I’m sure you’re relishing this commentary. you see what happens when you write about something more entertaining than a 1970s penny whistle album.

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  25. Punkskelm says:

    Grrr my friends valiant looks so much better with those two chicks on it.

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  26. Brett says:

    Jislaaik chinaboet, I just got a houtie checking those bettys on the car.

    The Valiant Swart tribute was epic, and I don’t even particularly like his music. Was just great to watch a bunch of dudes jam some nice bluesy rock and roll on stage while I sipped on my vodka lemonade, munching back on my little box of Strawberry Pops.

    I made electro once. It’s called Castlevania. You can jam it on a Nintendo.

    No, but…like… for realsies, Oppi was a whole bunch of things to me this year.

    Great.
    Bizarre.
    Dusty.
    Fun.

    I think the “complete nothingness” Max is talking about refers more to our little hilltop substance abuse expedition on Sat night. Just the two of us. Beneath the stars. Vomiting like some annoying UCT art students Greco-Roman (is that olives on a pizza?) water fountain.

    Flip outjies. See you next yurr.

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  27. Brett says:

    *and by little box of Strawberry Pops, I mean Dave from Wrestlerish.

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  28. Brett says:

    Sigh. Last comment I swear! For realsies!

    Yesterday’s Pupil kicked more ass than most of the live full band acts. Peach is a genius. If you can’t appreciate the fact that he mixes, manipulates, sings and drums live… maybe you weren’t paying attention?

    Tequila does that sometimes.

    😉

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  29. Lampies says:

    Worst article I’ve ever read detailing what oppikoppi was to a person.

    I think it depends 100% on your attitude towards a festival, and it was really clear that you had no intention whatsoever of enjoying yourself.
    please read this article on the same festival you attended and maybe just think for a moment how it could possible this different….

    http://www.dontparty.co.za/2010/08/thorny-splintered-healing-wounds-and-writers-who-miss-the-point-9-days-after-oppikoppi/

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