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Festival director unpacks ‘MTN Bushfire 2022’ this Africa Month

Zolani ‘The One Who Sings’ Mahola. Picture: Instagram

Zolani ‘The One Who Sings’ Mahola. Picture: Instagram

Published May 18, 2022


It’s all roads lead to eSwatini, this May, as the annual ‘MTN Bushfire 2022’ returns with a full live format following two years of digital events.

A diverse, inclusive and family-friendly music and arts festival is set to take place in the Malkerns Valley, eSwatini from Friday, May 27, to Sunday, May 29.

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Festival director Jiggs Thorne says although the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic were challenging, his team managed to adjust quickly to the digital space and deliver a great festival experience for the audiences across the world.

“MTN Bushfire has been going since 2007, so coping with a hiatus on events was tough, however, we adapted to the digital space,” Thorne says.

“We had been exploring that space before Covid-19, but it’s not the one we were used to. While we created a lot of new products for online consumption, it’s not what our festival DNA is about, and we are so looking forward to being able to gather and celebrate in a spirit of togetherness!”

Thorne says despite the challenges they encountered, they have received positive feedback from artists and audiences.

“There were inevitable challenges, getting used to performing in a new environment. The learning curve was very steep. It challenged the artists to diversify their products to be relevant at a time when they couldn’t perform live.

“Audiences were initially inspired to see what the digital space could offer them, but it got saturated very quickly, leading to audience fatigue.

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“Our digital festivals in 2020 and 2021 were very long, so we learnt to diversify into shorter content pieces, such as with ‘The Collab’ we arranged between Sands, from eSwatini, and ‘The One who Sings’, from South Africa.

“Going forward, we have created a Bushfire TV platform on our website that will showcase some of the incredible acts we’ve had over the last 15 years.

“We’ve integrated a digital interface into the festival for broader reach, for the first time this year we will be streaming segments of the live festival into people’s homes, so everyone can feel a bit of the Bushfire spirit!”

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Asked if they have a contingency plan in case you have to revert to hybrid or digital, considering the rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

“We are keeping a close eye on the Covid patterns. We have checked the graphs from the previous two years and the projections for the spikes in infections this year.

“It’s fairly predictable by this stage, which is why we decided to stage the festival again this year. eSWatini is slightly behind the Covid Curve in South Africa, by about two weeks.

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“Having said that, we are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the festival is as safe as possible. Most importantly, we have made it mandatory for everyone attending to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”

Thorne says he’s most looking forward to reuniting with art and music lovers and diverse artists from all over Africa and beyond.

“It’s been so long since we gathered ‘where all sparks meet’ and the chance to reconnect with all the people who make the festival come alive, and it is going to be amazing.

“It really will be like our theme this year; it’s time to ‘Reset, Reawaken, Reimagine, and Reignite Your Fire!’

“What makes MTN Bushfire so special is that we encourage and celebrate diversity. Not just in our programme, which is an eclectic mix that is absolutely guaranteed to surprise and delight our guests, but also the festival goers.

“In 2019, we had around 60 different nationalities represented in the audience. This is the festival’s spirit, that people can come and be themselves in a totally tolerant and inclusive space.

“And we have missed that for the last two years and are very much looking forward to coming together at the end of May.”

This year's line up includes Seun Kuti, Sands, Zolani ‘The One Who Sings’ Mahola, Msaki, Nasty C, The Kiffness, Blk Jks, Sun-EL Musician, DBN Gogo as well as the Ndlovu Youth Choir.

Visit the website for ticket prices and information on the festival.