Oesfees rocks Franschoek

It happened right in the middle of David Kramer’s headlining set at Oesfees 2012, on the Solms Delta farm outside Franschoek.

My friends had deserted me for a quick run to the bar, four more glasses of the sparkling Cape Shiraz.

I looked up and saw a local farmworker, with her arms outstretched towards me. Her smile was endearing and she was looking to langarm, who was I to say no.

I was whisked this way and then that, tripping over my own feet as my dance partner taught me a lesson in the finer arts of langarm.

By the time the song came to an end I was dizzy but laughing my ass off.

This, I thought, this is why I came back to Oesfees.

For the uninitiated, Oesfees is Franschoek’s wine harvest festival, when the local farm workers, farm owners and a smattering of taggers on from Cape Town and Johnnesburg get down and dirty in the hay for a day of celebration.

Except this year it wasn’t a smattering.

Oesfees was bursting at the seams last weekend, with non-ticket holders being turned away in droves from midday.

And to be fair there were too many middle-aged and elderly white people who sat on their butts all day, just rattling their jewelry, to steal a quote from John Lennon.

However, much to their disgust, a throng of wine-fueled revelers danced up a storm right in front of them, which meant the gees was ever-present.

With Oesfees you can’t go wrong.

The music is heartwarming, the food delicious, the people infectious and the wine just tastes like more.

The festival sprung out of the work that academic and social activist Mark Solms initiated on his farm Solms Delta near the beginning of the decade.

A process designed to document the lives and history of the farmworkers from the area, took on a very strong musical component when the older farmworkers racked their brains for long-lost songs.

Soon enough a musical school was in full swing on the farm, first driven by the late great jazz trumpeter Alex van Heerden and now run by former Springbok Nude Girl Adriaan Brand.

So while headlining acts such as David Kramer, Chris Chameleon, Theuns Jordaan and Emo Adams were all on display, their sets were interspersed with music from the various bands that have formed out of the music school.

There was the Delta Valley Entertainers, the Delta Optel Band, the Lekker Lekker Delta, the Delta Langbroeke and the Soetstemme.

Ultimately this festival is all about the music of the Boland, the beat of goema, the jive of the vastrap and the infamous langarm.

As Brand said, “It’s the one day that when all of Franschoek coheres through the love of music, what could be better?”

As far as highlights go, Hannes Coetzee’s spirited if rather short set, was a gem in the late afternoon and Kramer was his usual brilliant self in the early evening, with the crowd eating out of his hand.

At one point, Kramer introduced two musicians he has been playing with since the “bad old days in the 80s”.

“It was very difficult to play with these guys in South Africa in the 80s,” he said. “We would get to a town like Welkom and that’s not what they meant.”

The crowd roared with laughter at his joke and while it was a light hearted moment ultimately that’s what makes Oesfees so damned infectious, it is so welcoming and so ready to let its guard down to have a laugh.

It is a place for South Africans of all types to come together and let their hair hang down for one day and have a bloody good time while they’re at it.

Lloyd Gedye

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