LAST YEAR’S OPPIKOPPI was a crime scene. And like any other misconduct, the black man is the suspect, but this time it’s him and his music that are to blame for ruining the vibes at long-running festival OppiKoppi. Or at least indirectly.
“Stop trying to cater for everyone. Keep [it] at a targeted audience. Don’t fix what isn’t broken…Oppi was and should stay a Rock festival,” said Marina van der Walt on Facebook.
Despondency came over hippies across South Africa last week when it was announced that this year’s installment of the OppiKoppi music festival has been postponed due to the ridiculous high rate of crime in 2018. The festival has fallen victim to a syndicate of pickpockets that have rampaged South African music events over the last two to three years. From Hip Hop festival Back To The City to the annual youth month celebrations at Basha Uhuru where I was personally a victim of pickpocketing- it’s become a headache for most South African event organisers.
Founded in 1994, OppiKoppi started out as an Afrikaans indie/folk Rock festival attended by a few hundreds of Caucasians from different parts of the country, in a small bar. The line-up would be dominated by alternative Afrikaans Rock artists who were in line with the Voëlvry Movement, which was an Afrikaans movement that sang anti-apartheid songs in that language in the late 80s and early 90s. The kinda boere that would chuck away Die Beeld for Vrye Weekblad.
OppiKoppi has substantially grown over the years attracting alternative African artists, who together came with a bigger and a more diverse audience. The site of Lucky Dube, Vusi Mahlasela and Zim Ngqawana sharing the stage with the likes of Karen Zoid and David Kramer did not make long-standing patrons uncomfortable. It’s the introduction of mainstream African acts such as Afro-Pop trio Malaika, HHP and AKA that left a bitter taste on most people.
“Somehow the Voëlvry Movement that started all of this has been forgotten in the static. OppiKoppi is a living creature born through the wail of the electric guitar man. You can’t change the nature of the beast. You want AKA? You want Cassper? You want all that Hip Hop? Then a new festival must be born that shakes to that rhythm. Why do you want to force the spirit of Rock ‘n Roll to be untrue to itself?” asked Ni-Lou Breytenbach on Facebook, responding to Oppi’s statement of postponement.
Speaking to Tha Bravado, Theresho Selesho who is the CEO of Matchbox Live which organises OppiKoppi, doesn’t think the festival’s growth has also been its Achilles heel. “The Festival has always been about freedom and fostered a safe environment where people can be free to connect, discover new acts, genres and have a great time out in the bushveld, which is a precious experience. We strongly condemn racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination at OppiKoppi. We are very happy with the strides that the festival has made over the years where a diverse audience can all enjoy OppiKoppi.”
But this amalgamation of cultures hasn’t been enjoyed by everyone though. “OppiKoppi has sold out for 20 years running before they took over. Still, the response is ‘genre diversity is something we have always welcomed’ their historical cult-like following is based on a Rock festival, not genre diversity,” said Peet van Wyk.
Over 80 cell phones were reported stolen last year, with items in people’s tents and cars taken, it’s by grace that no sexual assault was reported at the festival. “The crime incidences and stats nearly doubled in the previous year,” Selesho says. “This has in turn taken a lot of freedoms away from our fans and the safety of our audience and their belongings is our main priority.”
Selesho and his team have promised a return of Oppi next year, giving them sufficient time to find ways of guaranteeing people’s safety at the festival. Whether that’ll mean no Hip Hop or even House act, it shall be seen on the 25th chapter of OppiKoppi next year.