The Oppikoppi 2010 Final Roundup

2010-08-11 17:01
Oppikoppi sold out this year. Not like Arno Carstens or anything, but rather, the festival was as big as it could possibly be in 2010. We heard several different "official tallies" and guesstimations over the weekend, but a gevaarlike boer on a quad bike told me it was just over 18 000 and I never contradict a sun-kissed juggernaught.

Cultural movements approaching the mass and momentum of Koppi are rarely about any one trick. For some, it is the most important music event of the year. Festival programs in hand, these revellers flit from show to show with joyously engorged eardrums.

For others, it is an altar of hedonism upon which they themselves must be sacrificed, burned in the lickety lick flames of this year’s alcoholic sponsors. Still others come for the food, and are invariably disappointed.

What they do all agree on is where they’ll be next year, come early August: right back where the voodoo happens. Voodoo, because common sense doesn’t allow an entire village to congregate once a year in the shittiest, dustiest outback in all of South Africa. Oppikoppi combines the rough and the religious in an irresistible mixture that smells like brandy and hisses like Van Coke Kartel.


As it happens, I wasn’t quite satisfied that any of the new Oppikoppi virgin bands had blown me away. What did happen is that C-Mon & Kypski were flown in from Holland and ripped it up on the Levi’s stage. Joined by the afro-clad Disco Dave, their party band won over nearly as many bewildered hipsters as their Belgian counterparts Belthazar at last year’s festival.

Earlier, on the first day, Cortina Whiplash had failed to glitter, yet delivered one of the hotter covers of the festival, Black Sabbath’s “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath”. Predictably, Taxi Violence sleazed it up on the main stage and had rockers of different denominations bouncing. Battery 9’s Huyser is part of the Oppikoppi furniture by now but in his new DJ incarnation, Helsinki, there was a little bit of step missing in his dub. The partying was better left to the Red Bull stage, which housed some of the best performances (well, sets) of the weekend.

Somewhere in South Africa, it must have been decreed that rap metal is in want of a comeback. Tree Houses on the Sea are peddling their arty take in Durban, but Namuh, bright young things from Pretoria, took the deadest genre alive right to the Oppikoppi main stage on Saturday morning. There was scratching, for chrissakes. Scratching! While recoiling from the spectre of a thousand Frederik Dursts rising up from every corner in Mzansi, I noticed that some of their songs were kind of okay.

Okay then.


Before, during and after these performances, you must understand, there was a festival going on. When you're not leaning into the sounds of the day, the little details of Oppikoppi reveal themselves: complete strangers riding piggy back, fantastic feats of down-downmanship, whispered invitations to sodomy. The “more than the sum of its parts” spiel applies, but let’s add more of them together anyway.

Tumi Molekane does a lot of things rappers are expected to do. A little call-and-response, a little “back this shit up for a second” before restarting a song, and a strong whiff of easygoing swagger are a Rand a dozen in this game. His Sunday show on the Levi’s stage, however, was an exhibition of everything that doesn’t come cheap in hip hop. The Tumi & The Volume frontman, now assisted by musicians from Isochronous and young genius Peach van Pletzen, performed feat after feat of crowd control and stage persona. His rhymes didn’t hide their intelligence, or their heart, and he exited as my clear winner for Best of Fest.

On the very same stage, Vusi Mahlasela & Albert Frost had slain a mostly over-thirty crowd just moments before. Vusi, sharing in Tumi’s warmness onstage, but transcending it with vocal butterscotch, treacle and marula cream, was a delicious Oppikoppi treat. If there’s one thing that makes the festival beautiful, it’s that some acts are brought in to educate, not just recreate. Counting the Heuwels Fantasties t-shirts on the weekend, this duo may not have been an obvious choice but it was a correct one, bringing real star quality to bear alongside some of the rhinestones in the MK universe.


Speaking of Die Heuwels, let me not twist the knife after a difficult performance from frontman Pierre Greef when their own fans are perfectly capable. Facebook can be a scary place, never more so than when a mob of your supporters gather there to slag you off after a festival. I will say that they were one of the picks of Oppikoppi 2009, and that Jack Parow needs their company at the top of the hip Kaner music pile, so a return to form is expected.

For his part, Parow rocked his boisterous, angry set with purpose. He didn’t have the best Ramfest this year, to be honest, but with a clear throat and without his iconic long cap (for most of the set, anyway), the “romantiese superstar rapper” lived up to his billing. It falls to someone (some might say anyone) to make Afrikaans music interesting in a given year and 2010 is his expletive-laden turn.

Billy Talent could have done feminist spoken-word and Saffers would have been impressed. That’s just the way it is. As it turns out, they were tight, talkative and seemed genuinely grateful to be playing in Africa on a beautiful Sunday night. They also spent the next day, I understand, playing to a primary school with the MK guys, which is beyond classy. The fans got their money’s worth, the rest of us enjoyed it, simple as.

The rest

The rest of the good stuff was mostly at the Red Bull stage and had a strong hold on its devotees throughout the weekend. Standouts included the consistently bruising, punked up electronic of HAEZER, and the smartass bass rap of PH Fat (remember kids, “don’t be a bitch”). Yesterday’s Pupil’s Peach van Pletzen, for me, is now more interesting in his various side projects and producer gigs (see Tumi, above) than with his own. Funafuji, whom I missed, was roundly commended for drowning her audience in thick, lekker dub step wobble.

Wrestlerish is beginning to get the fanbase they deserve. On Sunday, they had hundreds eating out of their hands, or more specifically, that of honey-voiced frontman Werner Olckers. Their “Bad News” and “Capsized” might even have the legs for some overseas airplay, if they play their cards (and their gigs) right.

Live music being a strange relative of studio recordings, I’m forced to big up a band I don’t like and knock one that I do. Blk Jks, for me, did not engage nearly as well in the flesh as they do through headphones. Not everyone can be Iggy Pop (or Vusi Mahlasela), but don’t play a show to hundreds of people like you’re at band practice, only better dressed. And here I’ll add that Prime Circle (and, as expected, Zebra & Giraffe) were tight as a drum and belonged nowhere if not on the main stage.

Ja nee. That was Oppikoppi, or some of it, looking very different in autopsy than it did through dusty sunglasses on the weekend. Despite its growth, the whole thing retains a markedly Afrikaans character. It’s apparent in the festival humour, the choice of drinks at the bar, even at the food stalls. Unlike the KKNK, though, Oppikoppi is something that has been shared with and even handed over to the larger country. All together, we’ve been pushing it in different, interesting directions ever since and that’s why you have all these people walking around like they own the place. They do, they really do.

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