South African Rock Music and Festivals

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An artist at Rocking the Daisies

Music in South Africa is incredibly important. Almost everyone is involved in creating some kind of music; and South Africa boasts a wide spectrum of musical expression. In South Africa there is also a vibrant underground rock scene. Guitar-slingers can be found in almost every neighbourhood, and South Africa already has some internationally recognised and popular rock artists such as Seether, Civil Twilight and Blk Jks, all who have been picked up by international record labels.

There are a few major live performance venues in four of South Africa’s major cities. Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town all have more than a handful of venues where one can enjoy live rock music, and Port Elizabeth has two or three such places. In the smaller towns there are a lot of little venues tucked away and when discovered can host some intimate performances. When the weekend hits, these cities are pumping and everyone is tapping a toe. Mercury LIVE, Zula Sound Bar and The Assembly in Cape Town are ideal places to visit for a night of letting it all loose. In Pretoria, the ever popular Tings ‘n’ Times is pumping; Durban has possibly the largest metal club in the country, the two storey club Burn.

Rock music has a special place in South Africa’s history. South African youth in the 1980s regularly organised illegal rock parties in abandoned buildings and other venues, protesting against the racist regime of the Apartheid government. A lot of the rock music of that time was filled with social and political themes.

In the current Afrikaans rock scene you will find a lot of this social awareness still around today, propagated by bands like Fokofpolisiekar (translated from Afrikaans it expletively means, F*** off Police Car).

South Africa also has the world famous, Oppikoppi Festival in the Gauteng Province. The festival hosts the cream of South African music, with a large dose of rock. Many international acts too, have graced the ‘Koppi stage. This year, the incendiary Billy Talent  entertained the masses of fans on the hill at the ‘Koppi farm. Other noteworthy festivals like Rocking The Daisies and Ramfest in the Western Cape are also popular. In Durban, Splashy Fen Festival is huge. Rocking The Daisies caters towards the softer sounds of rock, whereas Ramfest is the only strictly alternative festival in the country.

Festivals are fun, but one must beware the sun when out partying in the bushes. The African sun can be harsh, and spending the weekend in the medic’s tent for sunstroke is no fun, so take plenty of sunscreen! Wet-wipes are a definite must, as this will help you with getting clean quickly when one is a ten-minute walk away from ablutions. One must also make sure that you don’t litter or harm the flora; this will keep the owners of the land happy to have rockers back the next year.

All in all, whether you enjoy the endless partying of a good rock festival or the intimacy of a few well-strummed acoustic guitars, South Africa has the talent to entertain.

Photo from here by Pieter Jacobs

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