Oppikoppi: An affair  

by Murray Walker

2013 was my fifth Oppikoppi in a row. The music festival that happens just outside the mining town of Northam (Rock City) in Limpopo is now 19 years old. The reason I've not missed one since my first experience is the same reason the festival is 19. When you arrive and inhale that dust it clings to you somehow, inside. That dust stays there forever. Oppikoppi is a part of you. And each time you return it feels like you're home. That itch has been soothed, that fix attained.

Sound like a religion? It is kinda. It’s a cult. And sometimes people get hurt. But that’s their own fault; when stage diving, aim for the group of big okes, not the gaggle of girls all staring longingly at the singer.
Being at Oppikoppi, surrounded by 20 000 other people all looking to have the time of their lives, it gets quite close to being spiritual. When the potent mix of great music, gees, dust and alcohol combine you really do get the Coca-cola of gooseflesh-inducing atmosphere; that same combination of ingredients can’t be emulated elsewhere.
The first rule in Oppikoppi’s ‘official rule book’ is ‘Make no little plans’. When you get that bangle clipped to your wrist at the gate it’s like stepping into a bubble and the outside world ceases to exist for three days. I believe this is part of the attraction of most festivals. Alongside the music of course.
In this bubble with your 20 000 unknown brothers the possibilities are infinite. It’s not possible to make little plans. This year I saw a guy hanging onto the back of a Police bakkie (they patrol the campsite) wearing nothing but a g-string cock sock. Not on acid would you imagine that happening. It was beautiful. He wasn’t even arrested.
The festival attracts all sorts. From 40-year old couples to Matrics. They all cram into this dusty camp that’s really just a piece of farmland; grass, wag ‘n bietjie bushes and acacia trees. Here the streets have names and they are paved by the ghosts of past revellers. Stories can be told on every corner; the excesses, the naughty rendezvous, the chance meeting of old friends and the ignition of brand new friendships.
The one thing that unites every single one of us is the music. Ever since that first show 19 years ago up at the top bar (op die koppie) the musicians that have the privilege are there because they’ve earned it. Traditionally a band’s Oppikoppi performance is their best of the year. Whether they intend it or not, their eyes take on a certain veneer and things get crazy; much to everyone’s delight. You’ll watch bands you’ve never heard of that will melt your face or heart and you’ll have old favourites show you a side you’ve never seen before.
The festival has hosted legends like Koos Kombuis, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Mango Groove, Fokofpolisiekar, Springbok Nude Girls, David Kramer, Vusi Mahlasela, Albert Frost, 340ml, Piet Botha, the county’s premier DJ’s and international acts like SUM 41, Billy Talent, Enter Shikari, Bullet for my Valentine, Eagles of Death Metal, Deftones and Diplo. The past two years have featured 140 acts each across 3 nights on 5 stages.
The festival also excels in other areas. It developed a cashless card system throughout the festival. Now in it’s third year the system has proven to be reliable, safe and convenient. Carel Hoffman, Misha Loots and the team at Hilltop Live run an extremely efficient ship. The stages are well managed, the sound is good, the bars well serviced and the toilets are generally clean. 
But enough of that boring stuff. This is about why Oppikoppi is a haven for music lovers and freaks. The reasons are numerous and ever changing and your reasons will be different to mine but we all feel the same. Whether you’re there out of curiosity or because a friend dragged you along; whether you’re there to see your favourite band, or because that girl you like is going, one thing is for sure: you’ll be back.
Breathe on that dusty Limpopo farm and, while you’re coughing, those particles become part of you. The relentless Oppikoppi rhythm grabs at you and you let it. You are in the cult now. Welcome.
In dust we trust.

*Photo © Murray Walker

Check out our gallery from Oppikoppi 2013

Writer, photographer, wannabe rock star.

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