It’s always a wonderful thing when you and your friends decide to pack up bags and hit the road to some exotic place. However, sometimes one has to go through the experience of ditching the car, ditching the friends and joining a group of randoms to travel with. I did the latter when it came to going to the MTN Bushfire Festival 2014 in Swaziland. I had to wake up pretty early on Friday to go to Hatfield to catch the adventure tour bus that was heading to the festival. To my surprise, I saw familiar faces from around Pretoria and Joburg so it wasn’t a trip filled with strangers and mingling was the order of the day. The trip could take just over 4 hours in a car but took close to 8 hours by bus. Part of the reason for this was because of the border services between South Africa and Swaziland. I have to favour Swaziland for their ordered and quick service process but eventually after driving for a short period of time we made it to the festival somewhere either in Ezulwini or Malkerns.
Day 1 of the festival began on a slow note. The official kick-off started around 7pm with a spectacular show involving fire displays and enchanting tunes to which a costumed man danced with fireworks to end it, something that was loved by both the adults and the kids, yes I did say kids. This was then followed by the likes of Spoek Mathambo who introduced himself and his new members as Fantasma as well as other acts that kept the dancing going. MTN Bushfire Festival is one of those festivals that I can say is chilled enough to attend with the young ones. This may be because of the dynamics of the music presented which one would say caters to a more mature type of crowd, as well as the activities presented that keep the children busy throughout the day. The type of music brought to Bushfire varies from local to international on every genre level with artists from Spain, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cuba and many more probably giving evidence to the reason why it is considered one of the go-to festivals around the world.
Day 2 is the day that I would say most people were waiting for, especially the South Africans that were at the event. Bongo Muffin, a South African group that hasn’t performed together in ages, came back together for Bushfire. Bushfire allowed day-only passes and I think from an observation point, this day had the most people. Day 2 was also the day that I lost my camera bag but that’s a story for another day. The photos featured in this post are taken by the Bushfire official photographer, Bram Lammers.
Along with the general tradition of Sundays, Day 3 started on a much older and softer note but do not mistake that for meaning weak. Day 3 began with the favoured Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Oliver Mtukudzi blessing the crowds with tunes. Most of the party heads had at this stage packed up their tents and headed out to go beat the border issues, making it very clear that the number of people had dropped. This excluded the ones dropped by the fatigue that swayed in the air from the night before. I left on Day 3, back to South Africa, having to explain at the borders why I didn’t have my passport.
All in all, I will say that people thoroughly enjoyed the fun of the festival. There were few dropped drinks and minor hangovers affecting a relatively smaller crowd of people. If you are musically open-minded, enjoy trying new tunes or are looking for a good experience outside South Africa that does carry relaxed note, then I definitely recommend this to you. The next one should be around end of May next year again.
Photos by Bram Lammers