Mmegi Online :: Bushfire: music, hippies & Swazi gold
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Saturday 17 February 2018, 10:00 am.
Bushfire: music, hippies & Swazi gold

MAHLANYA, SWAZILAND: ‘Why do you think these people keep coming here?’ This was the crux of a discussion with a fellow photographer from South Africa who was also capturing the moments of the 2017 11th Bushfire Festival in Swaziland.
By Thalefang Charles Fri 02 Jun 2017, 16:17 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Bushfire: music, hippies & Swazi gold

After a short conversation we both reasoned that there are three main reasons why over 25,000 people from around the world return to the Bushfire festival every year. It must be the music, hippie movement and Swazi gold.



This year the music was a pulsating African musical journey from the Sahara to the Kgalagadi desert presented on four stages namely, Main Stage, House on Fire, Firefly and The Barn.

There was Omara “Bombino” Moctar, an internationally acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Agadez, Niger, who brought the Sahara Desert blues on Main Stage. The Tuareg people are the nomads who have found freedom on one of the world’s most inhabitable wilderness, the Sahara Desert. Bombino brought the music that has been the power of these desert nomads.

From West Africa, there was the Ghanian artist Jojo Abot who was playing on House on Fire stage. Abot’s music is the Afrosoul with a fusion of Reggae, hip-hop and eclectic sound. She is the West African version of a fusion of Thandiswa Mazwai and Simpiwe Dana.

She even started her set at House on Fire by burning the bohitlha (impepho) - an African ritual herb that “cleanses the stage” also usually used by Thandiswa Mazwai. It was interesting to note that bohitlha is also used in West Africa.

Saxophonist, Femi Koya brought the Nigerian music that has taken Africa and the world by storm to the Main Stage. He also performed the covers of the leading Nigerian songs to the delight of the crowd.

Central and Eastern Africa was represented by Baloji originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo but currently based in Belgium. Also popularly known as MC Balo, he brought the elegantly dressed band of old timers that presented the rhumba sound of the Congo with Baloji doing the rapping. Petite Noir, who is also an export of Congo but based in Cape Town, presented his ‘noir wave’ on Main Stage.

Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah, (Mukudzeyi Mukombe) clad in his signature military uniform that earned him the name ‘Mosuja’ (soldier) was also a crowd favourite.

Prayzah’s energetic music that borrows from both Central, Southern and Eastern Africa got the crowd down.

His collaborations with Tanzania’s sensation Davido, Botswana’s favourites like Vee and Charma Gal, and South Africa’s Mafikizolo has earned him a tag of one of the regional heavyweights and the Bushfire loved him. Chico Antonio, The Mute Band and DJ Ras Busta, all from Mozambique represented the south African east coast.

Southern Africa’s regional superpower, South Africa had the major acts including the legendary Hugh Masekela who is ‘still grazing’ defying old age by blowing his trumpet at 78-years-old. Although Bra Hugh looked less energetic without his usual Thanayi get-downs that he loves so much, the crowd did the get-downs for him. Lolilwe hit maker, Bulelwa Mkutukana better known as Zahara, gave a passionate performance including her now usual


tribute act of Brenda Fassie.

Main Stage also hosted the kwaito trio TKZee in their rare performance that brought the nostalgic classics from the late 90s and early 2000s. Kwesta brought it to the present day with his new school kwaito/rap that has catapulted him to one of South Africa’s most recognised voices. The crowd loved and sung along Ngud, even without that epic Cassper Nyovest part that actually made the song.

Jeremy Loops, Matthew Mole, Seba Kaapstad fed mostly South Africa’s white fans who were in large numbers at the festival.

Representing the hosts was another major crowd favourite, Sands whose great hit song Tigi has made Swaziland fashionable. When he performed the song on Saturday on Main Stage as the sun was setting over the Swaziland high mountains, it was almost impossible for anyone to not move and shake to the contagious beat.

Everyone got mad. Swazi Reggae Legends opened the festival on Friday. Other Swazi acts included Lodanda who brought some Swazilnd traditional dances and dress on Main Stage. The festival was also fittingly closed by Swaziland’s most celebrated guitarist Bholoja. That was the last act at Main Stage on Sunday.


On Friday afternoon the Shoek-Ngwenya Border between South Africa and Swaziland had a queue of cars extending to up to three kilometres.  Most of these musical tourists camp out at the vibrant tented village located around the festival venue in a hippie set-up that makes the Bushfire Festival such a unique experience.  The Bushfire Festival is hosted at the small farmland at a village called Mahlanya (literally meaning madness). Festival director Jiggs Throne explained: “We gather here at a place of madness to celebrate the arts, and various creative expressions while promoting social responsibility and stimulating the small Swaziland economy”.

When the show ends at the wee hours of the morning the show is taken to the campsite where there are jam sessions with drum beats, guitars, shakers and various musical instruments that would continue the song until the morning. In the morning after, they find a remedy of the hangover before they repeat the fun of the previous day.


Swazi gold

All the new age hippies that return to the Bushfire Festival talk about Swazi gold. Most even say it could be the major draw cut to Mahlanya. “Dude everyone here sells weed. It’s amazing,” a fellow festivalgoer excitedly observed.

During the festival and at the entire time at Campsite, the weed, affectionately called Swazi gold, always smells in the air. Nobody, not even the friendly Swaziland police bother anyone from lighting up the Swazi gold.

“We’re here for the Swazi gold dude,” said one Chinese-American girl who was meticulously rolling one joint for her mates.

With such great line-up of great music, inspiring art expressions, hippies and Swazi gold, the Bushfire Festival will continue to be one of Africa’s greatest festivals.


Fri 02 Jun 2017, 16:17 pm
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