Oppikoppi Odyssey

This year I headed out to camp out in the bush again for the 20th year of Oppikoppi. These are some of the photos I managed to take at some of the performances I watched.

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Marshall arts

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on August 14, 2014. 

Sitting on a black leather couch in a tent on a farm in Limpopo, 42-year-old singer-songwriter Chan Marshall – also known as Cat Power – shared some intimate details of her life.

Marshall had just come off stage after her first appearance at Oppikoppi on Saturday, a performance on the Bruilof stage that saw fans shout words of encouragement when the sound equipment was not working properly.

Cat Power (Chan Marshall) on the Bruilof stage at Oppikoppi Odyssey on 09/08/2014
Cat Power (Chan Marshall) on the Bruilof stage at Oppikoppi Odyssey on 09/08/2014. Picture: Pheladi Sethusa

Between constantly apologising for the staccato nature of her performance, Marshall had to change the sound on the amplifier, sing into two microphones and figure out how to work a keyboard she had never played by herself – a visibly nerve-racking experience.

“I always have stage fright,” she says.

It’s a situation that’s not entirely foreign to Marshall, though in the past her erratic performances have been attributed to problems with alcohol and drugs. “People used to say ‘Oh, did you go see the train wreck?’” she says.

She does admit to having had a drug problem a while ago after her partner passed away.

“I chose it every day and I knew what I was doing every day. It wasn’t me being oblivious. I was riding that train because I couldn’t take the pain of losing the love of my life.”

Marshall wished the women in the audience a happy Women’s Day while on stage, and spoke about feminism afterwards.

“A lot of times women don’t have the simple, casual dignities that men have as their birthright,” she says.

“I’m called a feminist because I protect myself from someone else trying to get something from me,” she says.

Marshall’s latest album, Sun, was produced independently, using the singer’s life savings.

“I had to make a choice between what the label wanted me to do and what I knew I could do myself, and the album made the top 10,” she says.

She performed at the Baxter Concert Hall last week, a performance she had asked for in December when she came back after Nelson Mandela passed and she witnessed “social change” that inspired her.

Marshall intends to return to Cape Town next January to write about the experiences she has had in the city over the years.

Cool Kid on Campus: Tom Revington

LOL: Thomas Revington laughs as he tells Wits Vuvuzela more about himself. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi
LOL: Thomas Revington laughs as he tells Wits Vuvuzela more about himself. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

Thomas “Tom” Revington is a long-haired indie kid, who is a student by day and a rock star by night.

The fourth year film student is the guitarist and ukulele player in indie-bele band Shortstraw. His other talents include beat boxing and playing on an electric drum kit.

He lives in a commune in Emmarentia with other musicians, which allows him to jam whenever the urge arises.

Why did you choose to study film?

‘Cause it’s cool. No I’m joking. I wanted to do architecture, but apparently my maths marks weren’t good enough so film was the next best thing. Glad I did though, I get to experience life in its entirety and love the creative process and being able to produce a product at the end.

How did you get involved with the band Shortstraw?

I used to be in a band called The Uncut, but that ended. I just posted a Facebook status saying that I was bored and wanted to jam with people looking for a guitarist.

Jason Heartman, the band’s ex-guitarist, saw it and let the guys know and, yeah, two and a half years later, I’m still the guitarist.

GANGSTA: Tom says throwing gang signs is a talent he has. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi
GANGSTA: Tom says throwing gang signs is a talent he has. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

 You just went to Oppikoppi with the band. How was that?

It was awesome, dusty and crazy, but I managed to survive it. I particularly enjoyed the performances byManchester Orchestraand Matthew Mole. He’s a buddy of ours. Also our show was crazy cool, just an amazing experience.

How do you juggle being in a band and being a full-time student? 

Yo, it’s hard hey. I do that and I have to work to pay for rent and stuff. Last year my first day of exams coincided with the band’s first day of tour, so I had to fly back and forth a lot and did a lot of studying on planes.

But everything works out somehow.

Are girls very forthcoming with their advance because you’re in a band?

Ha ha ja, but I‘m just not that kind of guy. I have signed a boob though. There’s a lot of temptation I suppose, but I am single and I’m just really awkward anyway. My awkwardness generally just puts girls off.

What are some of your favourite spots in Braamfontein?

There’s so many, I like Great DaneKitchenersFather Coffee – actually just everything on Juta. The urban renovation is awesome, I hope it keeps growing so everyone can come party in the city.

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EDITORIAL: The real is on the rise

Last week we took a decision to change the colour of our masthead to a bright pink. This was done to celebrate Women’s Day. Just a small token on our part.

The public holiday was spent with some people attending high teas, getting breakfast in bed or perhaps a bunch of flowers. For Team Vuvu, however, it was spent in the Limpopo heat, deciding which band to listen to.

Oppi

The only signs of Women’s Day at this year’s Oppikoppi Bewilderbeast festival were in the random shout-outs by artists and bands on stage.

Maybe the signs were all around us: women were drinking their livers dead, laden with dirt and screaming their lungs out, with no visible judgment against them. We saw a beautiful lesbian couple wrapped in each other’s arms, listening to Bongeziwe Mabandla’s set on the top of a hill.

They epitomised some of the freedom women enjoy today.

The Wits Vuvuzela team exercised their own kind of freedom. We pitched our tent where we wanted, showered when we could and got to pick and choose from some of the best performers the festival has ever seen.

The experience was soured by a minor racist incident, something we had been waiting for. What we hadn’t anticipated was that it would come from a tiny hipster-looking girl. Looks can be deceiving like that.

Oppikoppi has a reputation for being an Afrikaans rock festival, but that in no way describes the entire festival. The programme was defined by diversity.

We watched a set done entirely in isiXhosa, swayed to the “indie-bele” sounds of ShortStraw and danced like we were on Jika Majika when Mi Casa and Zakes Bantwini performed. We didn’t even get to attend half the things on offer.

We left on a high note, having experienced something new and survived the wilderness.

Back to reality

On the way back, reality sent shivers down our spines when we drove past a sign marking the entrance to Marikana. Today marks the one-year anniversary of what is now called theMarikana massacre, in which 34 families lost fathers, brothers, sons and husbands.

Under apartheid, we had a police force that we believe was put in place to drive fear into the hearts of people. Post-1994, we expected a police service that would serve and protect its people. On August 16 2012, we started to question whether we don’t perhaps have a police force instead of a police service.

Driving past the place where so much blood was split and where people are still being killed brought us back to the “real” South Africa. The one beyond the 20 000 people choosing to slum it for the experience, and pretending to get along despite the drunken slurs.

The Newsroom 8.5

The past seven days have been jam packed and felt more like two weeks than one.

Our lives got much busier when we were told that we had to put another 12 page paper together.  Personally I was excited, a 12 pager gives us more room to ‘play’ and deliver more copy. Were it not for the 12 pager we would not have been able to do this photo spread:

PAGE 6&7 (Aug 12).indd

PORTABLE LOO: With no garages in sight, my car doors were turned into a restroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
PORTABLE LOO: With no garages in sight, my car doors were turned into a restroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

OPPIKOPPI: Made it out alive

CHILL OUT: Oppi goers taking time out on a couch on the last day of the festival. Photo: Pheladi Sethua
CHILL OUT: Oppi goers taking time out on a couch on the last day of the festival. Photo: Pheladi Sethua

By Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi

While one of us sits with a heaving chest and the cough of death, the other found the cure to her cold at Oppokoppi.

The last day of the festival could not have come soon enough, we were exhausted, dirty, dehydrated and hungry – but we had survived.

#InDustWeTrust

We had the time of our lives and we screamed our lungs out for our favourite acts as the dust made its way into our ill-prepared bodies.

The first thing to remember for next year is that Oppi is also known as “Dustville”. Have something to cover your nasal cavities and mouth. It will save you rocky tastes in your mouth and sandy lip gloss.

Now that we are no longer Oppi virgins, we thought it fitting to provide a few survival tips for those looking to go next year.

BAKING: Fans braving the sun to watch a show. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
BAKING: Fans braving the sun to watch a show. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 How to make it out alive

We had bought enough food and booze to sustain our little bodies for three days in the bush. But on the last day, dry hot dogs with no margarine on the bun or sauce on the Vienna no longer seemed appealing.

The second thing to remember, the festival runs on a cashless system. Those who wish to buy food and drink on the farm have to buy pre-loaded debit cards.

We opted not to do this, knowing it would lead to frivolous spending. We had packed enough food but the smell of boerie rolls and hot chips accosted our senses by the last day, we were dying for a hot meal.

We were also so dehydrated at that point that seeing people’s water bottles had us salivating. Pack enough water, even enough is not quite enough – pack more than enough just to be safe.

In addition energy drinks would have been beneficial. We could barely keep our eyes open by the third day, this would have been cured by a kick and wings from one of those special drinks.

RUINED: Three pairs of shoes that will probably never be clean again. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi
RUINED: Three pairs of shoes that will probably never be clean again. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

 Clothes and shoes

We were so scared of the cold that we only packed winter clothes, big mistake. During the daytime we wanted to cry as the hot Limpopo sun scorched our fully covered bodies. It was as if the devil himself was sitting on the hill by the stages letting his heat out on everybody.

Do not bring shoes you hope to wear ever again and only bring one pair. You are going to be filthy by the end of the festival, so rather go with the general theme and take scrappy clothing.

On your way in and out

On the way to and from Oppi try to choose the route with the toll gates, it will set you back R21 but big, open, un-potholed roads await you. This way you won’t have to battle it out with trucks that are struggling to stay on the narrow, windy lanes.

Most importantly though we had a of fun, we enjoyed all that Oppi had to offer and made memories to last a lifetime.

Same music, different people

By Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Pulling the short straw is something that happens a few times in your life. Sometimes you may be lucky and you won’t, this is life.

Screenshot_2013-08-10-12-10-21-1 ShortStraw

For the five man band ShortStraw, it was about the beginning of their career. They started out playing for no one then moved on to crowds of about 40 and now, they have two shows on the best Oppikoppi stages.

In an interview with the band, we told them ofour sad racist encounter the night before.

“That’s fucking bullshit. It’s fucking 2013 you can only laugh at people who still think that way,” said Russel, bass player for ShortStraw.

Russel told Wits Vuvuzela that one of the first black bands to play at Oppi was Kwani Experience and that was what sparked a cultural change at Oppi.

“Black bands used to be apprehensive. But once they played and were received well they changed their minds about the fest.”

Tom added that music is an experience for everyone and something that should bring all people together.

After pulling the short straw on day one, we were on a mission to find some diversity at Oppikoppi.

Traditional music moves

FIRST OPPI: Bongeziwe Mabandla plays his first set at the festival. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
FIRST OPPI: Bongeziwe Mabandla plays his first set at the festival. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The Ray-Ban stage, where the incident happened the night before was where we found a new enlightening Oppi experience.

The act was, Bongeziwe Mabandla, who enchanted the crowd with his sweet traditional melodies in isiXhosa. His sound was one we cannot put our finger on but it made us feel like we were watching a male Thandiswa Mazwai.

The crowd, representative of South Africa’s overrated rainbow nation, more than half of whom did not understand the lyrics, stood and danced along with him.

People lost their minds when he jumped off the stage into the crowd and beckoned him to jump onto the table, which he did without protest.

AO JIKA: Mi Casa’s frontman, J Something setting the stage alight. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
AO JIKA: Mi Casa’s frontman, J Something setting the stage alight. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

 Oppi’s cultural shift

Bittereinder, who are veterans to Oppi said the festival has gotten bigger and better with more variety in music than ever before.

Jaco van der Merwe, rapper in three man band used the Vusi Mahlasela tribute last year as an example of Oppi’s diversity.

Mi Casa is a great example of diversity, it’s just beautiful. They also have random black people at our show, who have no idea what we are saying, but they jam anyway,” Jaco chuckled.

Later that evening we jammed to crowd favourites Zakes Bantwiniand MiCasa. At these performances, the crowds were just as diverse and responsive. As J’Something asked us to jika, we turned and saw different people jika along with him.

Op pad na Oppi

OPPI PAD: The long and windy road. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi
OPPI PAD: The long and windy road. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

By Pheladi Sethusa and Shandukani Mulaudzi

Three camera bags, two spare batteries for each camera, sleeping bags, tent, camp chairs, bags and booze all squeezed into the back of a Polo hatchback.

Even though the day had been coming for a month, two Oppikoppi virgins were scrambling to get their things together at the last minute.

Rosebank Mall was full of people getting last minute supplies, mostly of the liquid variety.

The journey begins

Within the first 30 minutes of the drive, a wrong turn made it clear that it would be a long journey to Northam Farm, Thabazimbi.

The scenic route made up for the potholes and narrow roads which made for a bumpy ride and also provided plenty of photo opportunities.

After two hours of driving a toilet break was needed but no Engen, Shell or Totall garages were in sight – only kilometre after kilometre of dusty road and the odd bush. The only solution to this problem was found inbetween the two car doors of the little Polo.

We’re here!

A wrong turn gone right led directly to the Oppikoppi gates.

ENTER HERE: Oppikoppi 2013. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi
ENTER HERE: Oppikoppi 2013. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

Thorn bushes and dust in the air welcomed the first-timers to what would be their home for the next three days. Setting up a tent and easing into the campsite took no longer than 30 minutes.

After settling in, it was time to explore the festival they didn’t know but had heard so much about. Having heard rumours about poor to non-existent sanitation, drunken mosh pits and rampant racism – only first-hand experiences could tell.

Rumours turned true-mours

A performance by band, CrashCarBurn proved the mosh pits true, leaving a rocky taste in our mouths.

A bird’s eye view of the ShortStraw performance from the shoulders of a strong man proved the racism claims.

While many sat on shoulders and waved their hands to the music, it was not a fun experience for one.

As soon as she was lifted to the gracious man’s shoulders, pushing and shoving came from the girls in the front. It could have been a matter of jealousy however, we learned differently.

The guy let our reporter down, and apologised for the failed experience.

His friend, known only to us as Francois, told Wits Vuvuzela journo Caro Malherbe: “I’m sorry. I really would like to talk to them (the black colleagues) but the girls won’t like it. They are of a different race classification.”

With shock and disappointment, the short straw was indeed pulled: by us. We went back to our tents feeling disheartened, but still hopeful.

That hope was quickly snuffed out by comments that came from a neighbouring tent. To our left was a tent with two black men who were very chatty, to our right were two white, Afrikaans men who were also very vocal.

We overheard the white campers saying “Ag, ek gaan nou iemand klap as hulle nie stil bly. Ons sal sommer die nuwe Waterkloof 2 wees”, this was followed by the two men laughing.

That was within a few hours of being on the farm, two more days to go.