A Fiery Swazi Weekend

by | May 29, 2012 | Music/Festivals, Swaziland | 54 comments

Before this past weekend, the last music festival I attended was the legendary HFStival — sometime around the turn of the millennium in a grimy, beer-sodden stadium in southeast Washington D.C. It was oppressively humid and there were more than 70,000 attendees, mostly suburban kids aged 14 to 25. There was moshing. With the exception of my favorite ska/punk band, Goldfinger, I don’t remember who played.

The Bushfire festival is as far from the HFSTival as a music festival can get, but equally awesome. Bushfire is a laid-back affair, held in an otherworldly creative compound in semi-rural Swaziland called House on Fire. The performers are diverse, as is the audience. I saw my share of stoned teenagers and 20-somethings, but the crowd was also filled with young families, 30- and 40-something development workers, and a smattering of retirees. Accents were primarily South African, American, and Swazi. Skin colors were black, white, and everything in between.

 Night view of the Bushfire stage. I didn’t notice the fire dancer on the roof until I looked back at my photos.

The uber-relaxed Bushfire crowd.

There were a couple of dozen performances over the course of the three-day festival. I only got to see a few of them because my friends’ agenda for our Swazi weekend included much more than just the festival. (I’ll tell you about the other things we did over the next few days.) The acts I did catch were a perfect illustration of Bushfire’s diversity.

On Friday evening we saw Mango Groove, a funky rock band that signifies the end-of-apartheid era for many South Africans. My South African friends were very excited about this performance, and Mango Groove was indeed great. Everyone in the crowd seemed to know words to their songs.

After Mango Groove, we were treated to a collaboration of two country music duos (a duo of duos): Doster and Engle from the United States and Dusty and Stones from Swaziland. You didn’t know that Swazis love country music, did you? Well, they do. I learned this on my fist trip to Swaziland four years ago when Vuli, our driver, played non-stop country for our entire 10-day visit. Anyway, I loved the Doster/Engle-Dusty/Stones duo of duos. They performed in the smaller ampitheatre inside House on Fire.

Doster/Engle-Dusty/Stones finished their set with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, the greatest Rockabilly song of all time. I waded into the melee and did a few do-si-dos. Somehow I managed to take one sharp picture.

Nancy G: a bad-ass Swazi chick with an electric guitar.

The prize for most original performance of the weekend goes to Tonik. Tonik consists of two guys — one plays percussion and various ethnic instruments, and the other plays a keyboard and a laptop. But here’s the most interesting part — Tonik’s gigs are silent. If you walk into the middle of a Tonik performance you won’t hear anything (or hardly anything), until you put on a set of wireless headphones. Then suddenly, voila — you’re at a concert. I have no idea how to describe the music but I really enjoyed it.

Sitting in a crowd of people wearing big dorky headphones is funny. At least I thought so.

I wish I’d been able to capture more candid shots of the Bushfire atmosphere — the funky outfits, the babies asleep on blankets, the face-painting, the yummy food stalls, etc. But time was limited and I refused to let photography interfere with my fun-seeking. It’s difficult to take photos while dancing, drinking Swazi beer, and shopping for crafts. (The Bushfire craft section was fantastic. I could have spent loads of money — I have a weakness for Swazi crafts — but managed to restrain myself and walk away with one handmade brass-and-copper ring, for the reasonable price of R45.)

I’ll just have to go back next year.

This photo appeared in my previous post but I had to include it again. My favorite scene of the weekend: Fans go crazy for South African performer Jeremy Loops as the sun sets behind them in a fiery ball.

Someone asked me if there was an actual bush fire at the Bushfire festival. Unfortunately I didn’t know the answer. Anyone?

Bushfire is sponsored by MTN. One hundred percent of the festival proceeds are donated to charity — primarily to the Young Heroes Swaziland Orphan Support Programme.

54 Comments

  1. mzansigirl

    Hi Heather. Great post, pity you didn’t get to see more of the acts. My favourite was probably The Brother Moves On, a crazy Jozi band, who would have made for some nice pics. Bummed I missed Tonik though, hope they are there next year. As for the Bush Fire question, in all my years of attending the festival, I haven’t seen one actual bush fire. It would be way too dangerous!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      That’s what I figured. The name fits anyway!

      Reply
  2. mzansigirl

    Hi Heather. Great post, pity you didn’t get to see more of the acts. My favourite was probably The Brother Moves On, a crazy Jozi band, who would have made for some nice pics. Bummed I missed Tonik though, hope they are there next year. As for the Bush Fire question, in all my years of attending the festival, I haven’t seen one actual bush fire. It would be way too dangerous!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      That’s what I figured. The name fits anyway!

      Reply
  3. jennavs

    sounds awesome, was sorry to miss this!

    will also have to go next year 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Definitely! It’s a great experience.

      Reply
  4. jennavs

    sounds awesome, was sorry to miss this!

    will also have to go next year 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Definitely! It’s a great experience.

      Reply
  5. pbdweeeebie

    Big-up and great write-up of a weekend of activity 😉

    That’s my bro and his precious Princesses on the right of the second pic.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks Stanley. What a coincidence that I photographed members of your family without knowing it! By the way, please give my apologies to Dawn. I had hoped to get in touch with her while I was there but the schedule was just too crazy and I was staying in a guest house that was far away from everything.

      Reply
      • pbdweeeebie

        No problemo. She was away and traveling at the the time too 😉 …but I’ll pass your regards so long!

        Reply
        • 2summers

          Ah, makes me feel better that I wouldn’t have been able to see her anyway. Next time 🙂

          Reply
  6. pbdweeeebie

    Big-up and great write-up of a weekend of activity 😉

    That’s my bro and his precious Princesses on the right of the second pic.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks Stanley. What a coincidence that I photographed members of your family without knowing it! By the way, please give my apologies to Dawn. I had hoped to get in touch with her while I was there but the schedule was just too crazy and I was staying in a guest house that was far away from everything.

      Reply
      • pbdweeeebie

        No problemo. She was away and traveling at the the time too 😉 …but I’ll pass your regards so long!

        Reply
        • 2summers

          Ah, makes me feel better that I wouldn’t have been able to see her anyway. Next time 🙂

          Reply
  7. eremophila

    Stunning pics Heather, and yep, I reckon it’s funny wearing headphones too! 🙂 Love your expression!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, and it’s funny how everyone else behind me is looking so serious.

      Reply
  8. eremophila

    Stunning pics Heather, and yep, I reckon it’s funny wearing headphones too! 🙂 Love your expression!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes, and it’s funny how everyone else behind me is looking so serious.

      Reply
  9. jackie hulme

    so glad you had a grand time

    Reply
  10. jackie hulme

    so glad you had a grand time

    Reply
  11. Tenney

    The legend of Johnny Cash lives on in Swaziland. Ring of Fire — what a great song to highlight at a Bushfire festival. Hope it was a good rendition.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Funny, I didn’t even realize the connection between Ring of Fire and Bush Fire until now. It was a great rendition — such a good song to cover.

      Reply
  12. Tenney

    The legend of Johnny Cash lives on in Swaziland. Ring of Fire — what a great song to highlight at a Bushfire festival. Hope it was a good rendition.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Funny, I didn’t even realize the connection between Ring of Fire and Bush Fire until now. It was a great rendition — such a good song to cover.

      Reply
  13. Kathryn McCullough

    The part about the concert being silent until you put on headphones was pretty cool. But how does one “play” a laptop?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
    • 2summers

      To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. The other musician said he was “looping” things. I don’t really know what that means though. But he was very busy!

      Reply
  14. Kathryn McCullough

    The part about the concert being silent until you put on headphones was pretty cool. But how does one “play” a laptop?
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
    • 2summers

      To be honest, I’m not exactly sure. The other musician said he was “looping” things. I don’t really know what that means though. But he was very busy!

      Reply
  15. Mariel

    Seems like the ideal music festival (laid-back and enjoyable for people of all ages). Great photos, too!

    A new music festival in the Baltimore-DC area is SweetLife. My friends and I decided to check it out this year and were surprised to see so many middle school-aged kids in attendance – especially since the cheapest tickets were $75. (We’re 27 and we were part of the “older crowd.”)

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ha! I can so relate to that. I used to feel that way the last few years that I went to the HFSTival. Kids are spoiled these days!

      Reply
  16. Mariel

    Seems like the ideal music festival (laid-back and enjoyable for people of all ages). Great photos, too!

    A new music festival in the Baltimore-DC area is SweetLife. My friends and I decided to check it out this year and were surprised to see so many middle school-aged kids in attendance – especially since the cheapest tickets were $75. (We’re 27 and we were part of the “older crowd.”)

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Ha! I can so relate to that. I used to feel that way the last few years that I went to the HFSTival. Kids are spoiled these days!

      Reply
  17. Tilly Bud

    So glad you got to hear Mango Groove! I want one of their songs played at my funeral. Trouble is, I can’t decide which. It may be a long service 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Haha. That sounds like a fun funeral (if there could be such a thing).

      Reply
  18. Tilly Bud

    So glad you got to hear Mango Groove! I want one of their songs played at my funeral. Trouble is, I can’t decide which. It may be a long service 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Haha. That sounds like a fun funeral (if there could be such a thing).

      Reply
  19. Stephanie

    I’m heading to Swaziland (from Durban — where Mango Groove is playing in two weeks, seen them before and they are a fun energizing band) next Thursday – Saturday and staying at House of Fire (my husband always stays there for work). Any tips and or must sees would be oh so appreciated!

    Reply
  20. Stephanie

    I’m heading to Swaziland (from Durban — where Mango Groove is playing in two weeks, seen them before and they are a fun energizing band) next Thursday – Saturday and staying at House of Fire (my husband always stays there for work). Any tips and or must sees would be oh so appreciated!

    Reply
  21. nina

    Wow- looks like an amazing time. I am going to plan to go next year!

    PS- what is the purpose of bushfires, like the ones her in Joburg…..? Is it actually good for the land and soil?

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, when veld fires burn naturally and under the right conditions, they help to replenish the soil and spur new growth and good stuff like that. Of course these days the fires are often man-made and don’t necessarily burn under the right conditions. I’m no expert though 🙂

      Reply
  22. nina

    Wow- looks like an amazing time. I am going to plan to go next year!

    PS- what is the purpose of bushfires, like the ones her in Joburg…..? Is it actually good for the land and soil?

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, when veld fires burn naturally and under the right conditions, they help to replenish the soil and spur new growth and good stuff like that. Of course these days the fires are often man-made and don’t necessarily burn under the right conditions. I’m no expert though 🙂

      Reply
  23. Starry

    Hey! I am an American living in Swaziland. We’ve just been here for a few months, but we LOVE it, and I couldn’t agree more about the beauty and awe-inspiring-ness of this country. We are in Mbabane. Perhaps next time you are in town, we can grab coffee at the edish cafe inside of computronics- ever been there? Sowabonga, Sisi, – Tracy

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hi Tracy, thanks for the comment! That would actually be great. I’ll probably be back in Swaziland in the next few months for another work project. I need to find some more good spots in Mbabane, as last time I spent most of my (minimal) free time at Nando’s and Ocean Basket. So yes, I will definitely look you up 🙂

      Reply
  24. Starry

    Hey! I am an American living in Swaziland. We’ve just been here for a few months, but we LOVE it, and I couldn’t agree more about the beauty and awe-inspiring-ness of this country. We are in Mbabane. Perhaps next time you are in town, we can grab coffee at the edish cafe inside of computronics- ever been there? Sowabonga, Sisi, – Tracy

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Hi Tracy, thanks for the comment! That would actually be great. I’ll probably be back in Swaziland in the next few months for another work project. I need to find some more good spots in Mbabane, as last time I spent most of my (minimal) free time at Nando’s and Ocean Basket. So yes, I will definitely look you up 🙂

      Reply

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