Festival partners play the blame game

Singer Nicki Minaj is one of the international artists who would have performed at the TribeOne festival. (Reuters)

Singer Nicki Minaj is one of the international artists who would have performed at the TribeOne festival. (Reuters)

With an impressive line-up of 150 local and international artists – including Grammy Award-winning hip-hop duo, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and Anaconda rapper Nicki Minaj – performing on three stages over three days, the TribeOne Dinokeng Music Festival would have been the biggest music festival staged on African soil.

But it crashed and burned before it even took off when PR company African Star Communications announced it was pulling out of the event 10 days before the festival was due to take place in Dinokeng, Cullinan, at the end of last month.

While seasoned music festival organisers blame poor planning and limited experience, the City of Tshwane has used legal channels to challenge the decision to cancel the festival. It aims to stage the festival at a later date.

The star-studded line-up was to also include American rappers J Cole and Kid Ink, Karen Zoid, Desmond & the Tutus, Kwesta, Samuel Miller, Rouge, David & Goliath, Beatenberg, Gang of Instrumentals, MXO & The Peppercorns, Keko and Naava Grey from Uganda, Slap Dee, Winky D and Zone Fam from Zambia and Burundi’s Hope. 

TribeOne organisers were expecting a crowd of more than 100 000 people.

Too ambitious
TribeOne would have been a welcome addition to South Africa’s calendar of music festivals, such as Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies, Spring Fiesta and the recently launched I Heart Joburg festival.

But the general sentiment among music festival veterans is that TribeOne organisers were too ambitious with regards to the scale of the event. Rocking the Daisies’s director Brian Little (of Seed Experiences) says they started small, with an audience of about 1 300.

Now its seventh year, the annual three-day festival that took place this past weekend at Cloof Wine Estate in Darling boasts a line-up of more than 120 local and international acts performing on seven stages.

Little says it takes two weeks to set up the site.
The infrastructure for outdoor festivals includes fencing, office containers, stages, toilets, electricity and water. Little and his team bring in their own generators – they don’t rely on a municipality.

“The event promoter is the one responsible for the event,” says Little. “When putting together a music festival, you need to strategise and have to understand your market.”

Build a brand
For Oppikoppi’s managing director Tony Groenewald, knowing your market is essential and, by not having too many different genres, you’ll be able to please a bigger audience.

“If you push your web too wide you’ll lose everyone,” he says.

“Hosting a successful music festival is not easy. We spent 20 years building Oppi. In the first and second year you might not see a great profit from an event, but five to six years down the line, when you’ve built a brand, you’ll be able to see a return on your investment.”

Groenewald also feels TribeOne was a very ambitious project. “They wanted to draw in an audience of 10 000.  Glastonbury Festival is the only festival in the world known to draw in such a big crowd. Oppi currently draws in 20 000 people.”

TribeOne stakeholders are now pointing fingers at each other and shifting responsibility.

The event organisers, ROCKSTAR4000, says the City of Tshwane, who oversees Cullinan, didn’t ensure that the infrastructure for the festival was ready in time.

Court challenge
According to a press statement released by ROCKSTAR4000, “site preparation and related infrastructure development required to host the festival, being the responsibility of the City of Tshwane, fell behind schedule to a material extent, such that it was no longer realistically possible to stage and deliver the festival to the scale and quality that the organisers had always planned”.

The city stated that it was going to court to challenge the organisers’ decision to cancel the event. The festival, to be hosted in an open space, “had no infrastructure for the venue” and the city said it provided the venue, water supply and electricity. It also made a financial contribution and installed the infrastructure required.

“The city attempted to meet the event organisers last week in a last-ditch attempt to salvage the festival. In fact, the city suggested ways to salvage the staging of this historic festival. Our suggestions were, however, rebuffed by the event organisers and our efforts were unsuccessful,” the statement read.

“The city has also learnt through various sources that the event organisers have apparently failed to meet some of their financial obligations to the suppliers they had procured to assist with the staging of the event.”

Later date
The city’s urgent court application to challenge the cancellation was struck off the roll, according to an Eyewitness News report. Both parties were expected to return to court to argue who would bear the costs of the application.

City of Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa was quoted saying: “The only reason we went to court was to protect ourselves. It’s a reputation issue. The face of the concert might be TribeOne, but it’s the ultimately the City of Tshwane.”

An estimated R65-million had already been spent, but Ramokgopa said the council was still planning to stage the festival at a later date.

People who had purchased a weekend pass or a day pass for the festival were told they would be reimbursed. Ticket prices ranged between R575 and R1 650

In the Mail & Guardian of October 10, Kwanele Sosibo speaks to city spokesperson Selby Bokaba about the city’s funding policy, which is under review.

Katlego Mkhwanazi

Katlego Mkhwanazi

Katlego Mkhwanazi is the Mail & Guardian's arts, culture and entertainment content producer. She started her career in magazines, before joining the Mail & Guardian team in 2014. She is an entertainer at heart. Read more from Katlego Mkhwanazi

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