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  • on 14.06.2015
  • at 08:30 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Swaziland’s Bushfire is Spreading: A music festival review 0

Yoh, Swaziland is hot’ says The Soil’s Buhle Mda as she melts onto the main stage at MTN Bushfire festival. And it was. 25,000 people were gathered in Swaziland last weekend for the kingdom’s international music festival – not too shabby for a nation of under 1.5 million people. This is a festival which carries the overarching aim of ‘igniting a collective response for social change’.

Black African music, cultures and languages are foregrounded. The voices singing in Zulu to The Soil on that Sunday (‘it was a Sunday, ubuhle bakhe took my breath away’) far overpowered those joining in with The Parlotones and their default rock during the set before. A large portion of the line up consisted of Swazi musicians, and from the remainder, the appreciation shown for Swaziland and its people was overwhelming.

Ntsika Ngxanga from The Soil echoed the sentiments of other South African artists when he stressed how important the refuge and solidarity from Swaziland was during Apartheid; comments which add weight when we consider the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.   

It came as a great surprise, then, when the SA Times Live tossed out this piece on the exclusion of Swazi people from the festival. The writer appears to have confused Bushfire with some other festival, probably in Switzerland. According to them, ‘Swaziland’s citizens stood sadly outside of the festival they hosted’. (Swazis going about their business on the road to Malkerns are transformed into Ntsika’s refugees, exiled from their motherland). The police and musicians were the only locals to receive free tickets to the festival. And the amount of Swazis on the line up was pitiful.

Meanwhile, in Sw-azi-land, tickets sales within the kingdom far outnumbered those from other countries, and international ticket sales closed long before national ones in order to ensure that the bulk of tickets were sold locally. Educators, artists and entrepreneurs were amongst a multitude of locals who came to Bushfire free of charge.

The kombis around Mbabane, eZulwini and Manzini have been abuzz with ‘Bushfyaah’ for weeks. Most importantly a third of the international line up is from the host-country, despite the fact that its music industry is extremely meager compared to the other countries that were represented. Bushfire is just as much about promoting Swaziland’s artists to an international audience as it is about showcasing international artists in Swaziland.

Continue reading on Africa Is a Country

by Ella Wildin

Photo Credit: Bram Lammers

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