A Feast of Colour in Glorious Sunshine
It all started in Berlin on July 29, 2012. That day many people gathered for the Berlin Holi Festival, the first of what will undoubtedly become a long-standing annual event. It took but a year for the festival, which celebrates diversity, acceptance and unity, to grow into a global celebration.
The party made its way to Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, March 22nd with ticketholders clamouring to get started. At 11am on a beautifully sunny morning at Joburg’s Emmarentia Dam, Penthouse got the beats started as a timer behind them ticked down the minutes to 12pm. As it hit zero, an explosion of colour erupted from the white-clad crowd, taking everyone in the vicinity’s idea of cleanliness and replacing it with colour-powder-smiles.
The atmosphere became more and more joyous as the DJs fluently swapped places, not missing a single kick. Up second was an hour of ragtime-electro fusion from the unmistakable fingers of Johannesburg’s own Michael Lesar. He kept the heads bobbing as the crowed trickled in and grew.
The left of the stage was home to a powder-free food market and a long bar that served as a respite from the mischief in front of the main stage. People everywhere were dancing, smiling, and chasing each other with handfuls of colour powder, making sure no one stayed clean.
The powder also is completely safe, lung and skin friendly and non-staining – made from rice flour and natural colorants. It is fine enough to be breathed out easily, and it’s completely compostable. Photographers had comically ingenious protection for their equipment, from cling wrap to hose pipes to plastic bags.
The crowd was delighted that there were no breaks between sets, as the DJs transitioned seamlessly from one to another throughout the day. Next up was Matt Suttner, another Johannesburg DJ, who immediately threw everyone into a bass-induced happiness. His set spanned a wide range of build ups and drops, each bigger and beefier than the last. The sight of everyone’s uncertainty, followed by their realisation of impending boomage, and finally bouncing in sync with one another, was a sight to behold.
Every hour on the hour, people gathered around the main stage to count down to the next visually explosive round of colour throwing. As the day continued the crowd grew larger and larger. People never stopped arriving, a point punctuated with each successive colour throw. Even more impressive was the consistency with which the revellers followed the requested dress-code. Virtually every new arrival wore a white shirt, emphasising the incredible participatory spirit that the event attracts.
Much of the food on sale took the theme of colour abundance to the extreme – two rainbow slushie bars and dyed samosa’s were a couple oft-seen perpetrators – along with multi-coloured fish-bowls and shooters. The gorgeous weather was a glorious and much-needed break from weeks of relentless rain, letting colourful bowls of frozen yoghurt flourish and people rejoice to the feel of summer’s last sun on their faces. Evidently nature was informed of the day’s theme as well, as the trees let loose with a brilliant display of the first of autumn’s colourful leaves that contrasted against the impossibly green grass made possible by the abundant rain.
Back on stage, Mix n Blend from Cape Town delivered an array of musical experiences; from easy-skanking reggae rhythms, to hip-hop, to fierce funk and ripping drum and bass beats. They made extensive use of samples, which kept most people particularly interested in their strange choice of origin. The duo stood out as one of the more original acts of the day as a result, choosing from an array of popular hits both old and young, including The Beatles’ “Come Together”.
The amazingly happy crowd was filled with a good vibe. The diversity of the attendees was yet another wonderfully great aspect of the event. Young and old, big and small, dancers and watchers alike were all completely fine with turning blue, yellow, red or green, each entranced by the music in their own way. The people displayed the most incredible amount of tolerance and unity – rainbow nation indeed.
Next on the line-up was the slightly more conventional MaOriginal, who was a master at keeping things flowing smoothly and not dropping the beat in any unexpected turns. Pure four to the floor is his game, and he plays it well enough to open for the bigger acts of the evening – not in scale or skill, but in popularity, which is something the aforementioned acts will likely gain from the event’s popularity and publicity.
Many people speak of the smell in the air when an atmosphere is as energetic as this, but if there was the tiniest negative of the event, it might have been the smell. After multiple throws the air slowly grows thick with colour, and while very, very pretty, it does a number on one’s nose. However, this is truly a very minor complaint in a sea of compliments.
As MaOriginal finished his set, the famous Vinny Da Vinci masterfully took the wheel of the vibe. His name has become synonymous with dance music in South Africa, both as a partner of House Afrika Records and a DJ in his own right. His house origin was prevalent, but it didn’t take precedence over the build and drop structure that attendees came to the event for. He seamlessly blended minimalistic melodic structures with pounding bass lines and hi-hat tricks.
Even trips to the restroom reaped infinite sums of entertainment as you walked past a continuous parade of all kinds of mavericks and particularly-individual individuals; dancers with spray painted hair, shirts and bodies; and friends chasing each other with powder bags. Easily the most favoured past time was surprising strangers with powder hugs. Even aside from the hourly colour eruptions, there was never a break from puffs and tufts of colour. The event was like a live Jackson Pollock painting.
To end the night in a powerhouse of cheers and joy, the event climaxed with Felix Da Housecat, the international DJ that drew many people to the event in the first place. His style grabbed a strong and very solid hold on people’s bodies, and the reinvigorated throng bounced with renewed energy. His genre-bending original mixes stem from an upbringing in music, and he was clearly not afraid to take risks. Rightly so, as every perceived gamble was met with praise from the crowd.
All in all, there is no doubt that the day was thoroughly enjoyed by all the attendees in multiple ways. The music spiked everyone’s adrenaline, the vibe reflected continual joy, the weather warmed the soul, and the festival accommodated anyone with a passion for fun.
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