“African Sky Blue, will you bless my life” – Johnny Clegg

So, I was brave enough to make the pilgrimage to Oppikoppi this year. I say brave because spending three days in all that dust surrounded by 20 000 festival revellers is not for the faint hearted. I go because I love music and want to support South African music. I go because I like hanging out with my friends and marvelling at the people who attend these events. While there though you have to deal with scorching hot days, freezing nights, dust (all the dust), sleeping in a tent and porterloos (bleg). It’s awesome and trying all at the same time.

When deciding to go to Oppi you need to ask yourself “Which bands on the line-up makes all the dust worth it?”. It’s a fair question because you’re not going to travel to Oppi if you only like hip-hop and house, it’s a rock festival after all. They try and cater for wider tastes by hosting DJ sessions at the Red Bull stage but ultimately it’s for the rockers. My answer to this question this year was firmly Johnny Clegg. I have always loved his music. I loved his music before I knew what a activist/struggle musician was. I didn’t care – I liked his music. I was raised with rock and alternative music so it makes sense. As I learned more about him I liked him even more, and obviously his music resonated with me on a different level because I so appreciate what he did for the country. So, off I go to Oppi to watch Johnny Clegg.

I had been for the first time 2 years ago. We went to watch Deftones which literally involved: arriving early afternoon, visiting with some friends, eating a pizza, watching (and loving) Deftones, catching a fitful nights sleep, and buggering off at 4 the next morning. It was a very short stay but I immediately realised there was one notable difference to this Oppi than the one in 2013: there were a lot more black people. Another thing I noticed which I didn’t quite register last time is that most of the white people are Afrikaans. Historically not a good mix.

For years Oppi was a “white” festival. Not by design but because of the past and because “white” rock music had not ever been widely distributed into the black culture. It’s one of those things. Different people like different music. But, in the same way that a lot of white people now prefer R&B and Hip-hop and Kwaito or whatever, more black people have been exposed to rock and have decided that they prefer that. Of course I’m stereotyping but I do so with fair accuracy.

Therefore, it stands to reason that more and more black people will want to come to Oppi – it’s where their music is at. What overjoys me is that the integration seems to have happened almost naturally. There was no evidence I saw of “us” and “them”, there was no”get away from me” or “I’m scared you’re going to punch me in the face because you don’t think I belong.”

Yes, people are different and some people still stereotype but generally everyone seemed to get along. Everyone was there for their own reasons and people didn’t just pick a fight based on their difference (not that I saw or heard of anyway). It was great. And, with time there will be more and more balance between the revellers cultures and races and we’ll all just be South Africans partying together to enjoy the same music. That is the dream.

Johnny Clegg spoke about this briefly during his show. He said that in the past there were “black festivals” and “white festivals”. He admired that Oppi was heading in a different direction. It is notable and it’s great.

Johnny Clegg was one of the original multicultural rock stars and he is a legend in his own time. I cried throughout most of his set because as an adult is this screwed up time my country is going through he reminds me that we can get through things again with the right attitude and an open heart. African Sky Blue resonated with me because as a South African I would appreciate some Devine intervention right about now because this country with it’s beautiful, diverse and exuberant people deserve something better. As everyday citizens we’ve come such a long way and to have our politicians and political spin drive us apart just isn’t right anymore. It has to end and I think turning to our blue skies for a blessing isn’t unreasonable. We are a religious nation afterall.

I know I can’t just pray for help and all will be better but my point is really that we need to recognize that we all share the blue sky above our Africa and if we allow ourselves to be united good things will happen. We have to work towards it and sort things out. There is a very long way to go but together I know we can do it.

I’ve said so many times that us South Africans, the Scattelings of Africa, are mostly generous and kind and we need to focus on that to make the blessings rain down. I truly am heartbroken when I think of all the segregation and hate that still rears its ugly head so often and I need to believe we can stamp it out. Just stand your ground as a good South African, lead by example and help others where you can. Don’t stand by and ignore the beautiful sunshine on your face while you look down in being suppressed by the minority of crap people in this country. This is my Africa I will fight for it.

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