HEAVENLY POWDERS: The upcoming Cape Town Holi One Colour Festival mimics the annual sacred Holi event held at full moon in March in India.

Maggie Follett

NEXT Saturday some of the Mother City’s stately landmarks will be temporarily transformed by spectacular bursts of kaleidoscopic colour, as thousands of rainbow-hued revellers on the Grand Parade take part in one of the biggest open-air parties yet in the CBD – the Cape Town Holi One Colour Festival.

Brought to South Africa this year for the first time by One Small Seed Productions (who entrenched Rocking the Daisies as a Western Cape outdoor music institution), Holi One Colour was launched successfully in three major German cities last year.

The concept arises from the sacred Hindu festival of Holi, which is celebrated each year across India, on the day of the full moon in March. A number of myths and legends are associated with this ancient Aryan spring rite representing the banishment of winter and the triumph of good over evil.

During Holi, which is one of the Asian subcontinent’s largest and most popular religious celebrations, riotous street parties are held in every village, town, and city. Citizens let their hair down, the wealthy rub shoulders with the poor, and traditional class prejudices are swept away in a brief, wild, orgiastic colour play.

Accompanied by shouts of “Holi Hai”, ecstatic participants exchange greetings, while spraying, squirting and smearing each other with powders in lurid colours. Festivities are enlivened by song, dance and the consumption of mouth-watering delicacies, often infused with bhang (cannabis), a “holy herb” said to be associated with Lord Shiva.

Indians believe that the spirit of Holi crosses religious and denominational divides, uniting its peoples in a joyous spirit of love and harmony.

While detractors have expressed criticisms, such as that “the international trance scene (has) hijacked, imported and blatantly commercialised a sacred Hindu celebration”, festival public relations manager Mike Pocock (of One-Eyed Jack Staging Brands) is quick to point out that – despite a similarity in name and theme – the One Small Seed parties about to make an inaugural splash in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are strictly secular.

“Certainly, Holi One Colour is inspired by the Indian festival, but there is absolutely no religious connection, and we’re definitely not promoting ‘trance parties’,” Pocock says vehemently.

“Our aim is to bring South Africans together across the spectrum, to celebrate their diversity and heritage as one, in a series of exciting, visually stimulating events, accompanied by the best electronic dance music, presented by top live DJs.

“The response so far has been overwhelming, and we’re expecting about 8 000 people in Cape Town alone.”

Festivities on the Grand Parade begin at noon with Sadhu Sensi’s “eclectic mix of ethnic sounds”, followed by DJ Mighty and “an energetic fusion of house and jazz”. At 2pm, Richard The Third will present a selection of “the best modern bass music”, while initiating the first throwing of the colours.

From then on, the powders will be tossed skywards every hour, preceded by a countdown, for added dramatic effect.

Until 10pm, colour-drenched partygoers will hear a further seven acts, including world-music maestro Ma’original, and Kid Fonque’s “other-worldly rhythm and sounds”. At 5pm an exciting late addition to the line-up will be Mathias Schwarz, aka Super Flu, from Germany, whose international bass-beat sounds and dynamic performance will be followed by the bouncy Toby2Shoes, chart-topping GoodLuck, and SA Music Awards nominees Mix ’n Blend.

Legendary drum and bass maestro Niskerone will take over the decks for an up-tempo blend of musical genres, before floodlights illuminate the final colour-burst, bringing the Cape Town Holi One Colour Festival to a climax.

Pocock says: “In line with the festival ethos and motto of |‘We are all one’, we would love people from across the country to embrace this unique celebration of colour and freedom, and make it uniquely their own.”

In the South African context, perhaps the “Wholly All-Colour Festival” would be a less contentious and more appropriate name.

l Admission (over-18s only) is R190, or R290 which includes a range of five non-toxic coloured powders. Powder will also be sold separately at the event. To book, see www.webtickets.co.za Festival-goers are encouraged to wear white. For more event information, see www.holione.com or keep abreast of the latest updates on Twitter at @holioneSA as well as on www.facebook.com/pages/Cape-Town-HOLI-ONE-Colour-Festival/293602490750798