Don’t make my mistake and let it take you 10 years to get to the MTN Bushfire Festival. If last year’s festival was anything to go by, the 11th edition (26-28th May) in Ezulwini Valley will be lit!
Swaziland may be small, but the BBC named its larger-than-life annual music festival the best in Africa. It’s a truly global event in terms of the performers and audience, and I danced – craft beer in hand – among 16 000 or so visitors from 58 countries. Whether you think you can dance or not, you’ll be tapping your feet, swaying or gyrating your hips – whichever comes most naturally – to the funky beats of musicians from across Africa and as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Reunion and France.
Our very own Native Young and Nomadic Orchestra, Cape Town-based singer and producer Petite Noir, as well as France’s DJ Julien Le Brun, Songhoy Blues from Mali and Zimbabwean legend Oliver Mtukudzi were among the wide range of performers at last year’s edition of the three-day, family friendly festival.
This year, artists from Swaziland (Sandziso Sands), the DRC (Baloji), Niger (Bombino) and South Africa (TKZee), among others, will take to the three stages at the House on Fire venue, just 30 minutes from Mbabane, in the Ezulwini Valley.
Not only is Bushfire long-listed for the African Responsible Tourism Awards, it’s also working towards becoming carbon neutral and is sparking conversations about sustainability. Play your part by planting an indigenous tree at the nearby Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, listening to Alex Paullin of Conservation Music record a song about climate change, or watching environmental documentaries, screened thanks to solar power, at Sunshine Cinema. Bushfire is also about great food and offers the best selection of festival food I’ve ever seen – and I’ve been to more than a few festivals. There’s everything from vegan and vegetarian options to Chinese stir-fries and curries to boerewors rolls served with slap chips. Unfortunately I never made it to Malandela’s Farmhouse Restaurant (for golden-circle ticket holders only), which faces the main stage.
Whatever you choose to eat, you’ll enjoy your meal to the soundtrack of some of the best music in the world, which echoes across the bowl of the Ezulwini Valley. Ezulwini means “place of heaven” and when you’ve been to Bushfire, you’ll realise that it’s the perfect place to hold a festival, which is indeed, heaven for music lovers.
What to pack
Along with your camping gear, take sunscreen, a water bottle, a head light, warm clothes for the autumn evenings and lighter clothes for the days. Don’t forget your passport.
Crossing the border
While Swaziland’s borders are open every day, check the opening times online. Arrive before Friday afternoon to avoid long queues.
For backpackers: Lidwala Lodge
For self-catering: Buhleni Farm Chalets
For bed and breakfast: Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
For luxury: Summerfield Botanical Garden