Feature Opinion

In Review: Boiler Room & Ballantine’s Stay True South Africa 2015

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend South Africa’s first Boiler Room event ahead of CTEMF in 2013. The experience is akin to few others – being able to stand mere centimetres from some of your favourite artists while they share their craft with the world. So the moment Boiler Room announced the Ballantine’s Stay True event in Johannesburg, I booked my flight.

The venue for this event, Constitution Hill, is a National Heritage site. Formerly a bastion of the darkest time in our country’s history, it is now the home of the South African Constitutional Court and a host of museums documenting our political heritage.

A faint beat can be felt long before it’s heard as we follow a group of people navigating their way through the underground parking lot towards the party. We’re greeted by a mass of revellers, pulsating house rhythms and a blue glow shrouded in smoke. The cityscape provides an appealing backdrop to the night’s proceedings and the energy is palpable as we edge closer to the throng.

In every direction there are people dancing, smiling and chatting. I can’t help but be overwhelmed with the notion that this event couldn’t work well anywhere but in Jozi. There is no perfunctory air or schmooze factor present, just genuine revelry. That being said, the universal free-booze-qualm was all too apparent – buy a man a drink and he’ll show appreciation, give him a bar full of free booze and he’ll moan about the queues.

Swiftly drowning out the peripheral complaints, my attention was captured by Culoe De Song. His CTEMF performance in February sparked my interest and tonight the crowd was treated to the South African debut of his wooden mask performance. Shimza took the reins after this and I got goosebumps as the entire dancefloor sang in unison to beautiful local house tunes I had unfortunately never heard before. I had read many great things about the proceeding duo, Black Motion – a live drummer accompanying a DJ, absolutely sublime. The rhythms emanating from the stage at this point were tribal, entrancing and utterly engrossing. The evening culminated with a showcase performance by the God of South African House, Black Coffee – he a master and this, his master class. His set is flawless, a shining example revered by all who come into contact with his infectious beats.

As we filter through the crowd, away from the din, I’m overcome with pride. The world watched, as we partied. The world was served a fresh slice of local culture, music we take for granted because we can see these artists on any given weekend. If you were there, you were part of history.

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Boiler Room Culoe De Song