Richard Wright downs a litre of beer out of a gum boot outside the Standeaven Breweries tent, a good alternative use for gumboots at a dry Splashy Fen music festival 2014. Picture: Lauren Rawlins


Durban - A quarter of a century on and, this weekend, Splashy Fen again drew a record crowd from across the globe to enjoy the best of South Africa’s musical talent.

More than 8 000 music lovers jived, hummed and bobbed in the veld on the outskirts of Underberg enjoying the local mini-Woodstock.


Festival organiser Pedro Carlo said: “There is an element of nostalgia this year with the return of some bands and artists who really wowed audiences and brought the house down in the past.”

On Friday night, crowds thronged into the main tent to listen to music legend Vusi Mahlasela, followed by Arno Carstens, Francois Van Coke and Just Jinjer.

Veranda Panda started the dance part of the evening, turning the venue into a party before the crowd dispersed.

On Saturday, the main marquee was full again – but this time to watch the rugby.

Festival-goer Michael Hall said: “Only in South Africa will a whole music festival stop for rugby.”

Newcomer Matthew Mole was overwhelmed when an adoring audience could not get enough of him.


Zeta Pontin, who was at the first Splashy Fen in 1990, recalled how different it was back in those days.

“There was a tiny stage down by the river, with no cover, run by a loud tractor generator seriously louder than the music, but we didn’t care because it was so beautiful.

“In those days it was mostly folk music, and although there is lot of diversity now, you can still hear the influence folk has, even with the younger musicians.”

Janet Ravenscroft ran the one and only food store at the first event, selling pancakes for R1 each. “Then there were only two long-drops, and no showers – you had to wash in the river,” she said.

At this year’s event, the medical tent reported there were no major emergencies, though a lot of people came in complaining of sore throats from the dry Drakensberg air and the dust.

Festival co-organiser Mandy Carlo said the weather played along this year.

“We had a dry Splashy this year with no rain or mud,” she said.

However, that didn’t stop the revellers from wearing the Splashy uniform – colourful and patterned gumboots.

The Star