Brenda Fassie. Picture: Adrian de Kock
Brenda Fassie. Picture: Adrian de Kock
JACK PAROW. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
JACK PAROW. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
SIYA MTHEMBU |(The Brother Moves On). Picture: Matthews Baloyi
SIYA MTHEMBU |(The Brother Moves On). Picture: Matthews Baloyi

OH, THE memories of Oppikoppi are way too many and varied and some cannot be written about in this fine family newspaper.

When I went to the very first one I did not for one moment expect it to blossom into one of the most important festivals on the calendar.

There couldn’t have been more than 300 of us in front of the only stage at the time. We also didn’t realise that at night it would get really dark, because, well, it’s the bushveld and there are no lights.

My then boyfriend had dread-locks which kept getting caught in the thorn bushes as we stumbled around trying to find our campsite. We couldn’t see anything and it did not help that we had imbibed a few.

Squeal and Battery 9 were the most impressive largely because in 1994 they were two of my favourite bands. Battery 9’s hard-core industrial aggression was so cool then. Squeal were fellow Durbanites and some of my best friends and they were the tightest band at that time.

More memories were created when Marc Vas, the lead singer of Metalmorphosis, hosted the second, smaller stage. Permanently clutching a Jack Daniel’s bottle, he was full of irreverence and had the crowd in stitches. Lithium gave the best show on that stage later that day.

The next year Sugardrive gave one of the best performances seen at Oppikoppi. A close friend and I were having fun and nearly missed them. We raced down the hill and pushed our way to the front of the stage to enjoy the experience.

Lead singer Paul E Flynn’s eyes were manic and drummer, Garth McCleod (RIP), smashed those drums with perfect timing. They opened with an epic build up of their big hit, Wired. I thought it could never get better.

Then the next year it did. Rock meets jazz group, Nine, and hip hoppers, Brasse vannie Kaap, did a collaboration and there it was.

In 2000, 15 000 mostly Afrikaans rockers jumped to an all-black cast on stage. Unlike now, hip hop was not considered cool among white kids. But these guys rapped in Afrikaans, they were funny, their break dancers were brilliant and the songs were great. An unlikely superhero of Oppikoppi emerged that year in the shape of overweight rapper, Mr Fat. Everywhere he went that weekend people sang his praises.

A funny moment was when I overheard ’Koppi organiser, Carel Hoffman, on the phone: “But there are only four people in Bongo Maffin. How many are at the gate? Fourteen? Fourteen?” It suddenly struck him that was how the kwaito community rolled.

Watching Albert Frost dance on the bar top with a picture of his late father, drummer Frank Frost, behind him was poignant.

Sleeping in the back of my musician boyfriend’s car, who woke up to find his his All Stars had been stolen and he had no other shoes and had to play that night and there are thorns everywhere and he had a terrible hangover was very funny.

Watching the sunrise over the koppie with Arno Carstens and hearing the strains of the Violent Femmes rise up from someone’s car below was a beautiful, crazy moment.

Seeing Hoffman and his friends dress up in animal onesies for the duration of the festival is still a favourite memory. As was giggling insanely in the big red London bus backstage with Ampi Omo as he waited for his band, Boo! to perform.

Hanging out backstage with the new heroes of Oppikoppi, Jack Parow and Francois van Coke, until the early hours was incredible fun. It was then that I realised that the new generation had taken over from the older heroes like Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis and the Nudies.

A few years later, Parow and Van Coke’s Fokofpolisiekar would attract 20 000 revellers to their ’Koppi performances. It was amazing to see how packed it was.

A few years before them, the Nudies appeared on stage in dresses to celebrate Women’s Day. To witness Carstens dancing in a long black dress and guitarist, Theo Crous, head-banging in another dress was hilarious.

Being serenaded by Valiant Swart around a fire at the Kreef Hotel with a whole lot of other people was too precious.

Crying when I saw Nakhane Toure’s first gig because he was that good and that intense.

Jumping to AKA who played with a live band. When it moved to Fountains for one year, it was such fun watching Zola and Skwatta Kamp perform in a boxing ring. It was then that I realised just how testosterone-driven kwaito had become. Skwatta Kamp and Zola’s performance was just as hard core as the most hard core metal act on the day.

It was also the last time that I saw Brenda Fassie perform live. She gave a performance of a lifetime complete with her characteristic splits. All this at age 39.

Oppikoppi has been a platform to grow South African music and now with five stages, it really is the country’s most important music festival. They have been fearless with their choice of musicians, crossing cultural boundaries and really embracing South African music because it is so good.

Happy 20th birthday, we have come a long way.