From bush bash to major fest

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IOL Oppi 2 INLSA Mr Cat and the Jackal at Oppikoppi music festival in Limpopo

Therese Owen

IN THE words of Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon: “I’m getting too old for this s**t.”

It was when I looked up that famous Oppikoppi hill and saw the horde of people coming down, laughing and shouting and greeting each other, all clutching some form of alcohol, that I knew. To go up the hill just to come back down again exhausted me. But it was Oppikoppi and it was their 20th anniversary and I went to the very first one and the Oppikoppi weekend is all about the Oppikoppi family.

Plus, they had invited the old timers like Squeal and Springbok Nude Girls. Urban Creep had reunited for the event. Hugh Masekela was being honoured. Dan Patlansky and Albert Frost were playing the blues together. And it is, after all, Oppikoppi.

After battling through traffic jams because of much-needed road upgrades along the Rustenburg route, we arrived at ’Koppi at sunset on Thursday. Mordor was already full and it was fortunate that we were camping in the band camp site. Mordor has earned its name over the years because insane things happen there. Some people don’t sleep for the entire festival. Others just pass out in the thorn bushes, face down in their own vomit. Mostly, though, it is unco-ordinated, wild fun that includes a naked race.

There was also a giant Trojan horse that rode around and around and around the festival. All this and we hadn’t even got to the music yet.

IOL Oppi 1 Dan Patlansky and Albert Frost at Oppikoppi music festival INLSA

The line-up, as usual, was impressive. Mr Cat & The Jackal and their weird waltz music. Zebra & Giraffe played their new songs. Shortstraw proved to be highly popular among the bearded hipsters. Albino Beach are certainly a band to look out for.

It was my first time seeing the Hinds Brothers live and they did not disappoint. Their recorded music translates into a live performance very well and if they stick to their guns, they are going to be one of the biggest bands in the country.

Talking of big South African bands, the Nudies were as chaotic as ever and that was the only thing holding them together. For people seeing them for the first time, they must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

The fuss was, and is, about their songwriting skills, Theo Crous’s metal guitaring mixed with Arno Carstens’s voice and the way he distorts it using delay pedals. No one before or since has the capacity to understand music like the Nudies.

Valiant Swart was the regal rock ’n’ roll god that makes him a master of Oppikoppi.

Then there was Squeal, a seething, roaring power sound of beauty. Their songs have really stood the test of time. They were one of the tightest bands there. Songs like Necessary, songs from Long Pig. Dave Birch is a master songwriter and unlike their set at Splashy Fen, they had the right mixture of hits and a few obscure tracks, too.

As there were so many bands to watch and as the dance stage was at the bottom on the other side of the hill, I did not bother watching any of the dance acts. A distorted rock riff is just so much more exciting than a DJ going “wikky, wikky, wik” or a rapper holding his crotch.

A definite highlight was the fusing of Patlansky and Frost, two of the best blues rock guitarists on the continent. The two slashed it in a battle akin to the musician at the crossroads fighting it out with Satan. I have never seen Frost happier than he was on that stage that night. It was amazing to watch and will go down as one of the top five performances in the history of Oppikoppi.

Finally, there was Masekela. At the age of 75, this jazz legend had the crowd eating out his hand. He started things off with his big hit, Stimela, and it was flabbergasting to witness the crowd’s response. Many of these mainly Afrikaans rock kids knew the words. Unfortunately, his set was just a bit too short.

Another highlight was the brunch thrown by the owners of the farm, Tess and Bors Boorman and their daughter Retha and son-in-law Carel Hoffman. They strategically invited journalists and musicians who have been there from day one. We were served delicious cheeses and the traditional hangover cure, Bloody Marys. Down below, Mordor was throwing their usual party and the Trojan horse was still going around and around and around.

It was a lovely, rather emotional affair. It felt very special to have had the privilege of watching Oppikoppi grow from a little bash in the bush to the iconic festival it has become.

None of us knew in those early days just what we were achieving. No one could have imagined that corporates would buy into original South African music, never mind sponsor stages in the middle of the bushveld in Limpopo.

Happy birthday Oppikoppi and congratulations. Today, as I write this story, my body has no blood. It just has sand. I am getting too old for this s**t.


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