Emily, a friend of mine from America who is backpacking around the world, visited me in Jozi this weekend. The timing of Emily’s visit was both lucky and unlucky. Unlucky because it rained all weekend. Lucky because this was the funnest Jozi weekend ever, jam-packed with quirky art exhibitions, musical performances, photowalks, and other awesome things. Herewith is a recap of the Weekend of Jozi Awesomeness, recorded on my iPhone.
When I first decided to move to Johannesburg, I had vague fantasies about going out on the town here and “experiencing” jazz. The idea of listening to jazz in a cosmopolitan African city appealed to me. Joburg is known to be a hotbed for jazz musicians. I didn’t get around to living out this fantasy until last weekend. Not only did I attend a proper jazz performance on Saturday evening, but that performance took place in Sophiatown (pronounced “soh-FYE-ah-town”), the birthplace of Jozi jazz. I can’t believe it took me so long to do this, as I’ve known for quite some time that there is a jazz concert on the last Saturday of every month at the Sophiatown Heritage Centre. And I’m fascinated by the history of Sophiatown, which is literally around the corner from Melville.
As I told you in my previous post, I survived OppiKoppi 2012. It was challenging at times but totally worth it. For those of you considering a maiden OppiKoppi voyage next year, here are ten tips for a successful experience. 1) Come prepared, but make sure you have enough space in your vehicle for everything you plan to bring. Can you see Lungi tucked in among all that stuff in the back seat, feet folded under her because there’s no space on the floor? That was me on the way home.
Last night I returned from OppiKoppi, South Africa’s largest and most legendary music festival. “Oppi Koppie” means “on the hill” in Afrikaans. About 20,000 of us gathered for three days on a dusty farm in rural Limpopo province. We listened to dozens of mostly South African musical acts of multiple genres; most of them were good, and some of them were outstanding. We camped out. We inhaled massive amounts of dust. We peed in prickly thorn bushes. We danced, and we got lost, and we walked, for miles and miles and miles. We did not shower. We made lots of new friends.
Yesterday there was a festival in Melville called Fête de la Musique. Fête de la Musique, a free festival that brings music to public spaces and gives exposure to both professional and amateur musicians, takes place in more than 100 countries. This was the first fête to hit Melville. Local band The Brother Moves On marches down 7th Street during the Fête de la Musique.
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.
I’ve just returned from a weekend in Swaziland, my second-favorite African country. The main reason for my trip was Bushfire 2012, a huge music and arts festival at Swaziland’s House on Fire. I saw and did a lot of other stuff though — too much for one post. I’m too tired for even one full-length post at the moment, but I can’t sleep tonight without posting at least a couple of photos from the weekend. Here are three of my favorites.
Last weekend I was invited to attend a show called ‘Umoja: The Spirit of Togetherness‘ at Joburg’s Victory Theatre in Houghton Estate. I’d heard it was a great show and had been invited more than once before, but somehow always found an excuse to miss it. I’ve now gone to the show on two consecutive Saturday nights. I can’t believe it took me so long. It’s one of this city’s best-kept secrets. The concept of Umoja (which means ‘Unity’ in Swahili) is simple — a celebration of black South African music and dance over course of the country’s history. The show’s founders, veteran performers Thembi Nyandeni and Todd Twala, created Umoja as a way of empowering underprivileged kids to follow their dreams. The cast members are recruited from all over South Africa; many come from rural areas and have little or no formal training. They are gifted singers, dancers, and musicians for whom music and dance are a natural part of life.
Today I attended a “Jazz Breakfast” fundraiser on the roof of a vacant building in Melville, to raise money for an upcoming poetry festival at the Melville Visitors Centre. The weather was splendid, the view was sensational, the conversation was pleasant, and the music was lovely. It was a perfectly enjoyable — and blog-able — morning. I had a blast taking photos. View of the Joburg skyline from the roof of the old Nike shop on 4th Avenue in Melville. Tables ready and waiting for jazz breakfast revelers.
On the last day of 2010, Joe and I went down to the city center to monitor the Zimbabwe situation (which had died down significantly since yesterday) and to check out the Joburg Carnival. There were no rides or carnival games — “carnival” means “parade” in South Africa. The theme of the parade was “Jozi my Jozi,” Jozi being another nickname for Johannesburg. I have no idea what the theme of this float was. But the coolest thing about it was that the guys driving it spun it around the intersection several times before continuing on. I almost got run over while photographing it.