Mary Fitzgerald Square

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8min4121

In light of how the Coronavirus has gripped most of the globe, it’s more than understandable why people are being bullied by panic, anxiety and a legit sense of unease when they think of the ramifications of this outbreak. But Back To The City festival founder and organiser Osmic Menoe sees the glass half-full, despite being forced to postpone the annual Freedom Day festival to October this year.

Okamalumekoolkat performing on the Redbull stage at Back To The City. Photo by Bonginkosi Ntiwane
Okamalumekoolkat performing on the Redbull stage at Back To The City. Photo by Bonginkosi Ntiwane

“We had already bought [plane] tickets for the international artists, we had paid the security companies. We do our wristbands in China, so that was already paid for. There’s a project we’ve been working on, we’ve printed CDs and vinyl’s in America…there’s a sizable amount of money already that’s been spent, but the beauty about it is that none of it is a loss because all we just had to do was shift things you know, because these are suppliers we’ve always been working with,” Osmic tells Tha Bravado.

“All we had to do, was to say ‘look, just shift delivery to a later date. Security companies we’ve already paid you, instead of rendering the services in April, you now rendering the services in October’ and another blessing in disguise is that, six month later is another festival-it’s another Back to The City for 2021, so it also enabled us to renegotiate certain contracts and certain deals…and a month later [after October] is the Hip Hop Awards. That also assists in terms of renegotiating things. Yes, there’s money that’s been lost but at the same time, shit happens man.”

Ritual Media, which Osmic owns is behind BTTC, the South African Hip Hop Awards and the South African Hip Hop Museum.  Drudgery is probably not the word to describe the work Ritual Media staff will go through, but they’ll be breaking their sweat in the next 12 months, looking at the proximity of their projects.

For over a decade thousands of youth have religiously gathered in Johannesburg’s Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, to celebrate Freedom Day through Hip Hop. In what was supposed to be the 14th installment of the Back to The City International Hip Hop festival in a few weeks, will now take place on October 10th.

“Obviously we looked at the month of September, we thought there’s Heritage day which is the 24th possibly a lot of people will be doing stuff then. We obviously looked at June and we thought to ourselves chances are, the lockdown might either still be in effect or coming to an end. So for us, seven months away from the said date made a little bit more sense, because number one we’re able to spread messages about our new change and number two, we’re able to make sure that we’re in a safe zone.” October 10th also happens to be World Mental Heal Day.

The festival’s purpose is to celebrate Hip-Hop and youth culture through an afternoon/evening of live performances, graffiti and exhibitions with the aim of bringing the youth back to the city, in Joburg. The show features artists representing different corners of South African Hip Hop. This unique youth event is a first of its kind in South Africa. The showcase is always full of activities such as a mini educational Summit, live performances, skateboarding, BMXing, live graffiti art, merchandising and exhibitions, all under the bridge at the corners of Henry Nxumalo and Bree streets.

A skater at Back To The City. Photo by Bonginkosi Ntiwane
CAPTURED ONA BOARD: A skater at Back To The City. Photo by Bonginkosi Ntiwane

This year’s BTTC was understood to be the penultimate after Osmic announced that end of the festival’s run a few years ago. There was incontestable conviction about the festival not ever happening, with fans even being sold end of day ticket packages until a beverage broke the thirst. “Hennessy is now our official naming partner, hence the festival is called Hennessy Back To The City International Hip Hop festival. We’re joined at the hip for the next coming three years. For the fact that we’ve got someone [Hennessy] who believes in culture and whose been in culture for so long. It’s also something very new for them to partner with something that’s very large scale, you it’s an exclusive brand. It just goes to show how much they believe in African Hip Hop”

Clement Gama01/16/2019
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5min2220

IN A move that was expected in at least three years, Riky Rick has heeded the call for a big scale event that will take over from Hip Hop festival Back To The City after Ritual Media announced last year that the international festival would come to an end in 2021.

Social media was flooded with news of Riky Rick’s curated music festival next month which is to celebrate music and fashion, as he released a line-up of South African Hip Hop acts who are established and those who aren’t in the mainstream.

“Mainly set to showcase the diversity while fusing the gaps within various Hip Hop sounds and local movements, the Cotton Fest will not only bring together and unite over 80 unique acts divided over two stages, but will celebrate fashion in its various spheres,” read the statement.

The long list of performers and the space for fashion is very much similar to what BTTC did for over a decade now on every Freedom Day. BTTC was founded by Osmic Menoe and Dominique Soma in 2007 and has been an institution of the Hip Hop culture in its entirety. With B-Boys, Graffiti artists, fashion designers, skaters and ballers-everyone involved in the culture was catered for.

But a lot of dissatisfaction from fans with BTTC was with how Osmic and his team never brought an international act which was current and popular among with the youth, i.e a GoldLink or Mick Jenkins. In an interview in 2014, when they had brought old school rapper Jeru The Damaja to the country, Osmic the founder of Ritual Media said the reason for bringing old school kats was a way of giving the old heads in attendance something to enjoy as well, as the line-up is dominated by new generation of emcees.

Osmic speaking at Ben Sharpa’s memorial service. By Sip The Snapper

It’s to be seen whether the Cotton Fest has observed that plea from the people to not bring has-been artists to South Africa. There will be a surprise act on the day; whether that act is an international performer or not, it will be seen on February second.

The inaugural BTTC was held on the corner of Bree and Henry Nxumalo Streets under the bridge, attracting 3500 people and has grown over the years to numbers above 20 000 and is hosted at Mary Fitzgerald Square.

The Cotton Fest will be hosted at The Station near Nelson Mandela Bridge and the one-priced tickets will be limited to only 5000 attendees. Just like BTTC, one can foresee Cotton Fest growing in numbers and heading to Mary Fitzgerald Square in a few years, which will complete the transition of the guard in Newtown and Hip Hop.

 


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