Thandile Mafanya, co-founder and general manager of Ten Media Group, popped around for an interview ahead of this weekend’s festivities.
It all started off as a bunch of friends who enjoyed meeting new people, Mafanya said. They used to host braais at their homes whenever their parents were away and sneak in a house party here and there. Parties that were planned for 10 to 15 people would end up with more than 30 people.
In 2013, two days before June 16, they came together and decided to organise “something official, but not unofficial”. Still students at the time, they decided to do a school uniform-themed dress-up party. With only two days to get the ball rolling they put up some flyers and told a few friends to spread the word.
“The next day all of a sudden there was buzz on Instagram with people posting memes saying: ‘Oh, high school cool is gonna be lit’ and whatever,” said Mafanya. “We were still chilled and we thought we’d get some people there, but nothing crazy.”
They organised some sound and a few free cases of Red Bull and Castle Lite from friends who had connections at the companies. They even put together a nice little tented setup at their friend’s tennis court in Bryanston where they were hosting the party. By 9pm on the evening of the party the place was packed with around 1 000 people.
Their initial intention wasn’t to seriously pursue eventing, but from that response they found that there was a real interest in their ability to create and curate themed events. They found a gap, and they went for it.
At the end of that year they threw a pyjama party, which drew another large crowd. This is when they decided to make it more official and build a sustainable business structure around their events.
This structure has seen them go from strength to strength. They were recently rewarded for this work with their own stage at the Ultra Music Festival.
The key to their success, Mafanya said, is that they keep things fresh by reinventing themselves year after year.
Last year, they were approached by Virgin Mobile and Superbalist to put together a beach party in the middle of Joburg. They ran with it and created the epic Braam Beach Party, complete with the sand and beach balls. It rained that night, but people stayed and partied through the night regardless.
In this line of business, challenges such as this are common, and Mafanya has a simple philosophy for navigating them: “One of our main rules, and Andre 3000 uses this line, is: ‘You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. There’s nothing you can do. If it’s gonna rain it’s gonna rain.”
Today, Genesis All Black is the biggest annual event on the group’s roster. It was never meant to be this big and was actually only founded to help generate funds to supplement their original event, High School Cool. Since seeing more than 2 000 people attend their first year at Constitution Hill, they’ve turned it into a bass Easter music festival and the flagship event on their portfolio.
They aren’t throwing parties for the sake of it, their purpose is to bridge a gap and shift the culture, Mafanya says.
“Our dream is to turn Genesis into something like an Ultra or Oppikoppi. At this point we’ve just got a stage at Ultra - an international brand coming to South Africa, bringing 25 000 South Africans together. Our end goal is to have Genesis All Black as the equivalent of Ultra, but South African. Then we’ll be going out into Africa and the world and saying, ‘Genesis All Black is coming to Lagos, Nairobi, etc.’ That’s the goal.”
The Genesis All Black takes place at the Container Yard at Impex Avenue, City Deep, on Saturday. It features several acts including Cassper Nyovest, DJ Shimza, Major League DJz and Pop Art Live. Tickets from R200 to R400.