Mpho Mathope makes an offer they can’t refuse. “You don’t want granny to be sad, right?” she asks rhetorically. “Right? So you must love each other then.” The two toddlers nod, the littlest one hugging her leg. Then they go off to play together.
It’s not a usual site to see at a lodge. But while waiting at reception to get my key to a spacious two-bedroom apartment at Graceland Resort in Hartbeespoort, one thing is clear: this is a family business.
That’s why it’s unsurprising to have one of Mathope’s daughters excitedly tell me about an event that the whole family stands behind: the Nubian Music Festival.
The festival, to be held from December 14 to 17, is the brainchild of Mathope, who also owns the Graceland Resort. Now in its second year, Nubian Music Fest will take place at Eagle Waters Wildlife Resort, also in Hartbeespoort.
There are options to camp, to hire a lodge or the most luxurious glamping I’ve seen. The glamping at Eagle Waters literally looks like a small house and even has proper bathrooms and DStv.
The fest will feature various entertainment and lifestyle activities like movie nights, comedy shows, water sports and a concert. The concert will see the likes of Oliver Mtukudzi, Mafikizolo, Mi Casa, Lira, Kunle Ayo and Candy Tsamandebele and more hit the stage.
Ahead of the festival, a handful of media was treated to a taste of what December has in store.
After checking in, we had dinner with some of the acts who will be performing. Sitting at Candy’s table, I spot her talking to older gentlemen. One of them points at the singer who has made a name for herself by merging house music and indigenous vocals and tells his friends: “Candy really knows how to sing!”
She swiftly answers: “I do hey. And you’ll see that on December 16.” They laugh.
Back at her table, she tells me: “A lot of people know Candy but they don’t know me when I’m performing my indigenous afro soul. People don’t want to miss my performance because I will have dropped my album on November 23 so the music is going to be amazing!”
The festival aims to attract people to Hartees - just an hour’s drive from Joburg - to experience the pretty town. So the next day, we travelled with the likes of Kunle Ayo and visited the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre. Here, we learned about big cats, small cats and vultures that are on the brink of extinction.
We then headed to the aerial cableway which gives a panoramic view of the lush ground meeting the beautifully blue dam. It’s a great place to have lunch and soak in the sights.
Then it was time for sundowners on a boat called the Danny Buoy. What was a blazing hot day became overcast and eventually it started pouring rain while we were in the middle of the dam.
When the boat staff began handing out life jackets, the downer in sundowners kicked in. But the captain safely steered us back to shore and by the time it was in sight, many members of the media were dancing to Brenda Fassie’s Vul’Indlela and teaching a Ghanaian band how to do the step.
That felt like a scene straight out of a family wedding. It also felt like while music was at the heart of it, it wasn’t all there is. As Mathope said about the fest: “The Nubian Music Festival is not only about music. It’s a lifestyle. So we want to expose you to more than music. We’re going to have fun as a family and boogie!”