Johannesburg - It’s that time of year again. Pack your warmest clothes and best festival gear and get ready for a road trip to Swaziland.
According to its organisers, this year’s MTN Bushfire music festival, taking place from May 25 to 27 at House on Fire, has more happening than ever before.
“Every year the Bushfire team tries to raise the bar on what has been before. There’s a very conscious attempt at trying to improve general services at the event, including access to the festival, bars and camp facilities. When you have 30 000 people attending, there’s a lot that you need to get right,” says festival director Jiggs Thorne.
This is the 12th Bushfire, and it all started with only 4 500 people. Bushfire has been listed as one of the top African music festivals and draws guests from all over the world.
“It’s a creative coup; we take over the country,” says Thorne. “It’s a destination event for a lot of people from the region and indeed the world. We have people from all over – Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia – flying in to attend. And that makes for a very cosmopolitan audience supported by a very diverse programme. We have in the region of 20 different countries represented in our programme this year, and there’s a very keen emphasis on sharing a very rich and diverse offering with people. While the focus is music, there’s also a very strong emphasis on food and design, and we have a lot of talk shops and an amazing kids zone. Our offerings make it a very family-friendly event.”
It’s impossible to pick standouts in this year’s line-up, but we had to try. Here are six to look out for:
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
What a fantastic opportunity to see these legends in action. The world-famous a cappella group headed by Joseph Shabalala will bringing the joy to Bushfire again.
Dub Inc, in short, is massive. They’ve toured the world playing to the largest European and French festivals, and have thrilled South American and Indian audiences alike. Imagine getting down to this French reggae group in the heart of Swaziland.
For something a little different, this Austrian supergroup will leave you feeling dreamily trippy. Described as avant-garde jazz, they combine improvisational jazz, funk and groove and are considered one of the most expressive voices in Austria. Don’t miss it.
Alice Phoebe Lou
She’s considered a hidden gem. South African-born Alice Phoebe Lou busked in the streets of Berlin and is now known the world over. Her echoing, evocative single She will give you goosebumps. Don’t sleep on this artist.
Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse
After 50 years in the industry, Hotstix is a living musical legend. From Carnegie Hall, New York, to Newtown, Johannesburg, when “Hotstix” hits a stage, the world sits up and listens.
(Photos: City Press)
We’re probably most excited for Nigeria’s exuberant Afro-pop princess. Known across the world, Yemi won Best Female at the MTV African Music Awards in 2015, and her 2016 album hit No 1 on the continent’s iTunes chart.
Tickets are R230 for a day pass and R780 for a full three-day festival pass that excludes accommodation. Accommodation options include camping or glamping (a tent set-up for you beforehand). Book at bush-fire.com
What is the Bring Your Fire Zone?
Bushfire has musical performances, amazing food vendors, family zones, art exhibitions, design and so much more.
“We like to think of ourselves as a conscious festival platform,” says festival director Jiggs Thorne.
“The Bring Your Fire Zone is a space where we house the various activations that speak to the themes that we try to promote over the festival weekend. For instance, you can basically leave the festival to go and plant trees in the neighbouring nature reserve. There’s no formal arts curriculum in Swaziland, so together with our partners we’ve been pioneering a schools festival. We also tackle issues around sexual health and LGBTQ. So we look at a variety of themes. It’s a means to promote awareness and engender participation from the festival-going public. We like to think of ourselves as a conscious festival platform.”