Dust, music and foxes

By Tegan Bedser and Nina Oosthuizen

"Only the cool kids have a bruise in the middle of their forehead … from a speaker," assures an Oppikoppi festival-goer in earnest to his friend at a campsite during the music festival held in Northam, Limpopo at the weekend.

Sounds like a brutal evening? Not one bit. Every day of the festival is a day to remember and Oppikoppi music lovers are made of sterner stuff. Despite facing extreme heat during the day, icy temperatures at night and camping in the bushveld dust, fans have kept returning to Oppikoppi over the course of 21 years for more.

This long running festival attracts a diverse audience of young and old music lovers not only through the assorted range of artists and genres who play side by side on multiple stages, but for the camaraderie and embracing atmosphere, turning it into a community like no other. 

This year's theme, “The Fantastic Mr. Vos Vos.”, is a play on words from Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, Fantastic Mr Fox, and also pays tribute to another festival coordinator named Vos. The line-up featured a host of local as well as international artists that included The Curious Incident, Tatran, Brand New, Twin Atlantic and Gogol Bordello.

The festival is in no shortage of quirk and fun and festival-goers’ whose surname is “Vos” (or “Fox” as translated in English) were lucky to receive free entry to the festival and were encouraged to dress up as foxes too. Many party-goers also get creative with their cars and demonstrate artistic talent with unique designs marking their support for the festival.

Other festival features with a twist included the Northam Uitgewasde Seunskoor vir Mans en Vrouens (NUSMV) which saw amateur singers perform for a live audience with Francois Van Coke along with special guest Karen Zoid.

Bagpipe band, Pipe Bong, also provided offbeat entertainment to festival-goers off stage with their renditions of the Game of Thrones theme song and the South African national anthem.

It is a festival that truly embraces all, with music being the unifying force.

Women rock oppikoppi

"You need to know that you have power." - Moonchild Sanelly

Moonchild Sanelly. Picture: Nina Oosthuizen

South Africa is rich with women musicians of substance and talent and at this year's Oppikoppi, which fittingly fell over Womens' Day,  music lovers were spoilt for choice with artists such as Sannie Fox, Yugen Blakrok, Japan and I, Nonku Phiri and more.

Navigating the digital music landscape

"A good thing (as well as a bad thing) is that because we are quite a small band, we feel like drug dealers ... almost. How do we get our drug users and drug dealers? How do we get our next fix and how do we pay the next bill?" - Cavey Roberts, The Curious Incident

The Curious Incident. Video still: Nina Oosthuizen

Digital downloads have changed the music industry and international band The Curious Incident, who can't get enough of South Africa and have toured the country several times, are still navigating the new landscape. 

"We actually have to pay way more just to get onto those digital shops. We have to pay to get onto Spotify, we have to pay to get onto iTunes. You have to be on them." says frontman Cavey Roberts.

"Now that we have an EP, a physical copy, [some] people prefer buying it face-to-face, but then others says that they want to download it on iTunes.

"So, we're re-releasing our EP that was available in South Africa and now it's going to be released in the rest of the world in October." 

South African rock band, The Slashdogs,  have developed innovative strategies to encourage fans to purchase hard copies with digital tie-ins.

"At this stage, you don't need to record an album and put it out into the shops anymore. The previous album was released on an LP vinyl, but then we also sold them over the Net. At a gig or venue, the crowd could also buy little matchboxes with a code on them and a website [address]. So, you go on the website and enter a code and get two of the 10 songs [with original artwork]," says drummer Leon Worst.

"It's better than someone taking out R140 or R150 for a CD. R20? Ag, it's a drink, so here you go."

"People wanted to collect the whole bunch together. For us it was trying to find a a unique way to still have a hard copy of something," says guitarist Paul Gioia.

"I think you should go out and buy all your music. Everything given out for free kind of depreciates the value and the way that way people end up perceiving it.

"Remember when you had a 100 bucks to buy a CD? You were super stoked. It felt like you did something.You have the artwork, smell the cover and it's like wow, this is really cool! Now, it's kind of cheapened, I think. I don't see it stopping at all [though]... So, buy the music!"

- Find more SABC Digital News online coverage of the Oppikoppi music festival on the SABC News website, Twitter at @sabcnewsonline and SABC News YouTube Channel