This year is South Africa’s longest running music festival’s 20th anniversary. Celebrating the big two zero, Splashy Fen promises to be massive as usual – if not more so than ever – living up to its name as the country’s most renowned annual music festival.
Held over Easter weekend on Splashy Fen farm in the Southern Drakensberg, among mountains and rivers, dams and grasslands, replete with tie-dye and hippies, campfires and drum circles, painted ponies and even a camel or two… Splashy Fen has been South Africa’s best alternative to an Easter egg hunt in the bottom of the garden for my whole recallable life. If you’ve ever been before, chances are, like me, you’ve never stopped going. In fact, you’ve probably spent half the year counting down the sleeps left ‘til Splashy and the other half reminiscing about it – it’s that much fun.
Every year, thousands of splashy fenners make the trek to the Ferraz’s farm near Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal. For five days, time stands still for over ten thousand people as they return to nature and enjoy a life of sunshine, holiday festivities and music that never stops.
In its younger years, the festival tended to focus on folk, light rock and African music styles, such as mbaqanga and iscathamiya. With age came wisdom, and the festival has broadened the range of music on offer. The original line-up is now peppered with mainstream and alternative rock and pop acts. However, despite it’s expansion, the line-up has intentionally remained exclusively South African and has helped shape South Africa’s contemporary music culture.
This year’s headlining acts see the return of the prodigal Sugardrive and the legendary Squeal. Featuring for a second year in a row are electro-madmen Goldfish and Brazilian masterminds Napalma, whose electrifying rhythms turn up the heat to the max on those chilly, chilly Splashy nights. Other great acts include City Bowl Mizers, Gonzo Republic, The Rudimentals, Chris Chamelion, Stealing Love Jones, The Arrows, phenomenal guitarist Guy Buttery, one-man-band Dave Ferguson, Watershed, The AK Massive, The Spoonfeedas, The Jack Mantis Band… The list goes on and on… And that’s not to mention veteran splashy fen performers, the notorious Syd Kitchen, Nibs van der Spuuy, and The Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters.
Primarily a music festival, Splashy Fen also offers a variety of other outdoor activities from trout fishing, tubing and hiking to paragliding, quadbiking and paintball. At night, be sure to venture out as well, when you will find fire-spinners and drum circles around massive communal bonfires, that are kept going well past first light. This year’s festival will be no departure from the usual experience except perhaps in magnitude, promising to be the biggest yet, with extended outdoor stages and market arena.
The market area also provides hours of entertainment, with stalls selling arts, crafts, clothing (so you can blend in with the hippies in your tie-dye), band merchandise and more, and food stalls specialising in something for everyone: pizza and potjie, footlongs and falafels, fruit ‘n veg smoothies, biltong and burgers, and all sorts of homemade goodies for when you’ve got the munchies. Then there’s gluhwein to warm you up at night and the beer tent and bar to keep you well-watered during the long sweltering days.
On that note – the weather is often a little precarious, but luckily predictably so. For the days take hats and sunblock and a lilo or two, and for the nights, your most serious winter woollies, because it gets COLD. Gumboots are also usually a really good idea, and some even opt for hard hats and overalls, depending on just how hard you like to party.
The line-up at Splashy this year speaks for itself, and the festival looks like its only going to be bigger and better than ever, so do yourselves a favour and take a trip into the Drakensberg Mountains this Easter, down to a farm affectionately known as Splas Hyfen, and treat yourself to the ultimate outdoor music experience.