Oppikoppi picks juiciest acts to attract good crowd
As musical tastes change and the live rock scene wavers, SA’s annual festival wants to ensure it remains relevant
Oppikoppi: Me Now, The Mango Picker is the latest guise of one of SA’s most popular festivals.
In 2017, the music extravaganza is honouring Afropop group Mafikizolo and South African award-winning jazz artist Carlo Mombelli.
The event will be held in October for the first time, with the festival normally taking place in August. The move to later in the year is for a number of reasons, but how this break with tradition fares is yet to be seen. For a start, rain is forecast for the duration of the festival.
Once again, the festival has a colourful subtitle: Me Now, The Mango Picker, which ws inspired by the title of song by Mombelli, who will play the old Top Bar Stage, joined by his daughter, Maria.
The shift from August to October means the festival will coincide with Cape Town’s Rocking The Daisies. This means musical talent, especially international acts, can be shared.
The Oppikoppi organisers say they lost money on their One Night in Cape Town shows. As a result, it makes sense for the festival’s international acts to play at Rocking the Daisies instead of at a one-off Cape Town show.
Oppikoppi, which has been going since 1994, has had to implement many initiatives to gain the appeal of younger and more diverse fans. Afrikaans music television channel MK89 no longer broadcasts on television. This means popular music bands have to get noticed via YouTube, Deezer, Bandcamp and other websites.
They also need to make an impression on live audiences. SA’s live music scene, especially rock, is struggling due to a dearth of venues. Some fans have also shifted their musical ears to other genres, such as electronic pop and electronic folk. As such, Oppikoppi has had to invite artists that fit in with the new trends.
A weak and volatile rand has also made it harder to book international talent.
However, Oppikoppi’s strength has always lain in its ability to showcase good local music and the organisers are convinced this will keep visitor numbers healthy.
Since its 1994 launch, when it comprised of just a small top bar atop a hill and a crowd of 400 music lovers, Oppikoppi now has some seven fixed stages, about 150 sets of music and entertainment, including stand-up comedy, a "naked dash" and about 15,000 visitors a year.
Founder Carel Hoffman has stepped away to enable two younger people — Misha Loots and Matchbox CEO Theresho Selesho — to organise the 2017 festival.
"The core of what Oppikoppi is remains the same but there have been various changes to the management behind the festival," says Selesho.
Matchbox Live was formed when Hilltop Live, the entertainment company that owns the Oppikoppi festival and other events and services, merged with a Belgian company called Pukkelpop and other entities.
The founders of Pukkelpop, Boondoggle, SHO-SHO Communications and Hilltop Live, joined forces and created Matchbox Live.
Loots worked at Hilltop Live for 16 years before the formation of Matchbox Live.
Pukkelpop, a Belgian music festival, and Oppikoppi are set to share talent, with Australian DJ Flume having played Pukkelpop and now down to play Oppikoppi 2017.
Oppikoppi will offer day tickets for the first time in 2017 to cater for people who may want to see only one or two acts and not necessarily camp.
Loots says Oppikoppi has a very strong and loyal customer base that has been built over decades. "We cannot really tamper with it," he says.
For the 2017 festival, Oppikoppi has managed to book international acts such as DJ Flume, Two Door Cinema Club and The Naked and Famous.
Also in 2017, Mafikizolo will join stalwarts Valiant Swart, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Ready D in being inducted into Oppikoppi’s hall of fame.