The Changing Face of Oppikoppi
Has Oppikoppi Changed Forever?
It’s taken me 8 months to reflect on Oppi 2017 and decide whether I’ll be attending Nomakanjani in August. I have been an avid and religious Oppi devotee for years and anticipated that the date shift last year would have changed some things but never to the extent that it did; the weather was hardly temperamental, my lungs came out free of dust and newbies were left thinking, “…that was it? What were all those warnings about?” Really, the only thing I was cursing the organisers for was the clods of mud in my butcrack following the naked run.
My Mango Picker experience was great but it wasn’t an Oppi experience for me. The dust, the weather, the need for a fire and the drunk strangers fire hunting to warm up for 5 min as they stumble towards their lost campsite is a part of the experience for me. It was part of the Oppi experience I had grown accustomed to. In the days that followed, the debate raged on. Was the new direction of Oppi the right direction? Was Black Coffee playing on the James Phillips Stage a matter of sacrilege or transformation? Was the transposition of dust to sand something to be celebrated?
Where were the buffs? Where were the fires? Where was my Oppi?
I’ve always held that Oppi is a success because it offers a blank canvas that you can do whatever you want on (my review of 2016 goes deep into this) though at some point, you’ve got to understand that when you’re given a canvass year after year, you get used to painting the same kinda picture. When that canvass changes to, say, chalkboard, that familiarity prevents you from trying to paint a new kinda picture on a new kinda platform.
…and that’s exactly what Oppi 2017 presented. The openminded oldies may have been disappointed but welcomed the changes. The closedminded oldies simply moaned their way through the mud. The newbies obviously couldn’t see any problem with what was going on. Why would they? To them, this was Oppi! To most of us, it wasn’t…at least it wasn’t the Oppi we were used to.
Familiarity breeds content
Oppi has been going on for as long as democracy and yet year on year, they draw between 20 000 and 25 000 people. Contrast this with a potato farmer who managed to draw 1 in 70 South Africans to Bloemfontein (in less than 6 weeks) for some prayers, you may start to ask whether Oppi still attracts a crowd? After all, crowds mean money and money means better artists and…but when you start thinking like that, Oppi will lose its appeal immediately.
If you’re going to drive at least 300km, camp in ridiculous conditions and brave the dust just to listen to one or two artists, you’re wasting your time. You’ll probably get to watch them some other time anyway. The offer of Oppi is more than just the artistry, it’s about the exposure to a vast array of potential experiences. Think back on just your last 3 Oppi fests and reflect on the experiences that wouldn’t have been were it not for your attendance of the fest!
I was reminded of an article written by seasoned fringe journo Nickolaus Bauer back in 2012 which lends its title to this article. Going back that far and further, one would realise that Oppi has never been the same year on year. Change has gradually been coming and most of it is positive to most. 2017 saw the pace of the change increase and it was great…not because the changes were good but because the effect reminded us that we cannot be complacent about how we treat our favourite fest…well mine at least (I can hear our editor, Brett screaming “MIELIEPOP!!!” right about now).
I’m stoked Oppi decided to retain its established identity and move back into the colder dustier August term. I’m pumped that the focus has shifted to local talent. I couldn’t give a damn that there are no significant international artists this year. Oppi is not a music festival and you truly have to live that if you want to get the most out of it; it’s an experience festival.
If you want to be disappointed you can find a reason. I was so pissed that last year featured no Satanic Dagga Orgy nor any Bittereinder. I was also pissed in 2015 when Felix Laband never played his Donkey Rattle. There will always be a reason to be pissed at Oppi for lacking something if you’re going to be one of those many prawns bitching on social media about what Oppi didn’t have.
But look now! The local acts are solid, the Naked Run continues, the camp will be filled with traditional dust, the Red Frogs will bake you pancakes, people will claim to deserve a beer after a hike to top bar and the fest will go on, providing what it always has, a platform for expression and self-exploration.
I’d accept that Oppi organisers stuffed up if they shut down the top bar or if they stop the scouts from building a tower or kick out the marching band. I’ll accept that they stuffed up if they did anything that limited the canvass but until then, I’m dank keen to get infected with the black lung!
The ones who make it out smiling are the ones who go in looking for what they didn’t know because if there’s one thing that’s certain, you’ll always be gifted the opportunity to see what you haven’t seen before, hear what you haven’t heard before and feel what you haven’t felt before!
Oppi’s value was never in what it brought to the party, it was always in what it let you bring to the party and if you’re going to bring your kak attitude of how the festival should cater for your wants, go to Daisies!
Photo Credits: Adri Louw Photography