Sounds of South Africa

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The live music, dance and theatre scene is buzzing in South Africa, at venues ranging from bushveld festivals and botanical gardens to dark nightclubs and posh theatre complexes.

MusicMusic is in the blood of South Africa. Buy a CD, go to a club, listen to street buskers, visit a cultural village or walk past a church on a Sunday morning – however South African music is experienced, visitors will find it difficult to keep their feet still. One of the more interesting ways to listen to South African music is at one of many outdoor summer concerts – at the Kirstenbosch, Durban and Roodepoort Botanical Gardens or the Oude Libertas Amphitheatre in Stellenbosch. Visitors can take a picnic, sit on the lawns among gambolling children and listen to anything ranging from a symphony concert or opera to kwaito, reggae, blues or jazz. FestivalsSouth Africa is also well–known for its music festivals. Rustler's Valley in the Free State hosts alternative music festivals over the Easter weekend, the winter solstice and the whole holiday period over the summer solstice. Splashy Fen is held in the Drakensberg mountains in May, Oppikoppi in North West province in August, and the Woodstock youth music festival in September. For a greater choice, the National Festival of the Arts, usually just called the Grahamstown Festival, is the place to be. Music, visual arts, dance, theatre and much more keeps this small university town awake 24 hours a day for 10 days at the beginning of July. It's the second biggest arts festival in the world, after Edinburgh in Scotland. Even more homegrown is the Klein Karoo Kunstefees, held in Oudtshoorn in late March. It started off as an Afrikaans festival but it has grown to encompass other languages, mostly English. Then there's the Aardklop – Afrikaans for 'earth beat' – festival in Potchefstroom in late September, and the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg in late February. Festivals in South Africa over the next few months:National Arts Festival Where: Grahamstown, Eastern CapeWebsite: www. nafest. co. za The Grahamstown National Arts Festival, held in late June or early July every year, is South Africa's oldest, biggest and best–known arts festival. The 10–day event offers culture hounds every indulgence of theatre, music, song, dance, film and a whole lot more. If there's one South African festival visitors have to attend, this is it. Knysna Oyster Festival Where: Knysna, Western CapeWebsite: www. oysterfestival. co. za The coastal town of Knysna is famous for its oysters, and increasingly famous for the July festival that celebrates them. In addition to oyster braais, oyster tasting, oyster–eating competitions and other molluscular activities, there's live entertainment and lots of sporting events. Ellisras Bushveld Festival Where: Lephalele (Ellisras), LimpopoWebsite: www. lephalale. comEmail: p4p@telkomsa. net The Ellisras Bushveld Festival takes place in early July in the heart of the bushveld, in the Waterberg district of Limpopo. The festival includes cattle shows, a game auction, horse jumping, dog shows, agricultural activities, a three–day battle for the best 4x4 competition, a game farms expo, hunting opportunities, bird– and tree–identification competitions, traditional food, a beer tent and huge camp fires. Calitzdorp Port Festival Where: Calitzdorp, Western CapeWebsite: www. sappa. co. za The Klein Karoo town of Calitzdorp is the port–wine capital of South Africa. Its annual port festival, held over a weekend in July, showcases the top 15 South African port makers. There's a blind port tasting judged by SA's top wine critics, a potjiekos competition and ostrich farm tours, as well as the annual South African boules championships. Madame Zingara's Christmas in July Where: Cape Town, Western CapeWebsite: www. madamezingara. com Over two weeks in July, sumptuous Cape Town restaurant Madame Zingara hosts up to 10, 000 people in a mid–year celebration of Christmas, in aid of the children's charity Ikamva Labantu. The restaurant offers a three–course set menu for around R150, and guests are encouraged to bring small gifts to put under the Christmas tree for the children of Ikamva Labantu. The festival culminates in a huge party, with the best of local food and entertainment, where all the roads around the restaurant are closed off to accommodate 1, 500 guests. Oppikoppi Bushveld FestivalWhere: Northam, North WestWebsite: www. oppikoppi. co. zaHeld on the bushveld farm of Oppikoppi (" op die koppie" in Afrikaans, or " on the hill" ), this festival offers three permanent thatched stages, a smaller comedy stage and a stage for more chilled music at the top of the koppie. Oppikoppi has helped establish many South African musicians' careers, but it's not for the faint–hearted. This is real bushveld: hot and dry, with red dust and thorn trees everywhere. TheatreThe theatre scene is buzzing in South Africa, with over 100 active spaces across the country offering everything from indigenous drama, music, dance, cabaret and satire to West End and Broadway hits, classical opera and ballet. Venues range from the monolithic homes of the former state–supported performing arts councils to purpose–built theatres, a converted fruit market, country barns, casinos, and urban holes–in–the–wall. There is a wide range of theatre opportunities in South Africa's cities. The main venues include the Market Theatre, Civic Theatre and Liberty Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg, the State Theatre in Pretoria, the Baxter, Artscape and On Broadway in Cape Town, and the Playhouse in Durban. Even the small towns are joining in. The Western Cape village of Darling, for example, is becoming a theatre centre, mainly through the efforts of one of its most illustrious citizens, playwright and comedian Pieter–Dirk Uys and his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout. The annual National Arts Festival in Grahamstown – which has showcased the cream of the country's creativity in the performing and graphic arts for over 30 years – has spawned a variety of smaller festivals all over the country, each with its own particular personality. The Festival includes drama, dance, opera, music, visual art, lectures and tours. There are also exhibitions, markets and other cultural events. Many theatre companies premiere shows which then go on to tour the country. The National Youth Jazz Festival and the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards also take place during the festival. The main and fringe programmes receive funding from Standard Bank, the SABC, the National Lottery, the Eastern Cape Government and National Arts Council. The Long Table is a hot spot for audience members and performers, serving food and drinks till late, with live music. Other venues include the Beer Garden, the Village Green Fair. The biggest venue is the 1820 Settlers National Monument.

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