By: Nomonde Mohapi
Published on: 07 July 2017

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Bushfire 2016                                                                                                                  Image: Swazi Travel

Announced by CNN as one of “7 African music festivals you really have to see”. The award winning 3-day celebration of music, diversity, the arts and pure youthfulness: MTN Bushfire, has been for over a decade, commanding young Wold Music fans from all over the world to the grounds of Malkerns, a scenic rural town in the region of Manzini, Swaziland.

Malkerns is located about a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg, South Africa,  23km from Swaziland’s capital city, Mbabane, and 14km from Ezulwini, Swaziland’s tourist destination.

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Bushfire  2016.                                                                                                Image: Vuyi Qubeka

World music is the order of the weekend at this extravaganza. A little bit of Jazz, Afro-pop, Hip-hop and House music here and there, but the genre that has the 29 000 festival enthusiasts congregating  in the middle of nowhere is the World Music.

Some of Southern Africa’s top world music artists that have made the line-up, include: Msaki, Nakhane Toure, The Muffinz, Freshlyground, The Soil, Bholoja and Baloji. Not forgetting internationally acclaimed artists like: Oliver Mtukudzi, Hugh Masekela, Les Nubian, Petit Noir, Zahara Songhoy Blues, Sauti Sol and many other great musicians.

The MTN Bushfire also celebrates other forms of art in it’s programme, therefore theatre, poetry, dance, story-telling, film, themed-workshops, art exhibits and installations are included.

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Msaki performing at the MTN Bushfire Fest 2016.                           Image: Courtesy of MTN Bushfire

Into The Am says that “Camping at a festival is like becoming a part of a colorful and vivacious village that only exists for a few days. It’s where friendships are made and adventures begin, where everyone is accepting of others and ready to have a good time”. Each and every year, on the Friday of the festival, the Malandela’s farm campsite; which is a 2 minutes walk to festival site is seen buzzing with thousands of devotees setting up for camp.

Just for those three days, the campsite turns into an unofficial pilgrimage of cultural exchange. Groups of people sitting around bonfires, giving each other language lessons, singing, exchanging email addresses, potjiekos simmering on the gas stoves, spontaneous communal  braais and liquid encouraged DMC’s.

The festival has alternative accommodation for those who prefer to live on the lush side of life but it seems as though the campsite takes the title of “the place to be”.


Campers appreciating  Swaziland sunrise.                        Image: Courtesy of MTN Bushifre Festival

With all the dancing, the walking around and the late nights, food is needed to re-energize the body. The MTN Bushfire Festival boasts of a pop-up food market of more than 25 stalls, set up, right in the heart of the festival. The pop-up food market is affectionately known by the festival devotees as “The Global Food Village”.

Here festival goers are treated to a range of culture-inspired gourmet street food, prepared by seasoned street food vendors who bring a taste of the whole world into one space. From these stalls Ethiopia’s Injera can befound, so can Soweto’s Kota, America’s corn dog and Swaziland’s Umkhunsu, the list is endless.


Swazi food vendors at MTN Bushfire festival 2011                          Image: Courtesy of MTN Bushfire

When all is said and done and all roads are leading back to the airports and border posts, travel enthusiasts stay behind for a few more days to further explore the Swazi Kingdom beyond the village in which the festival is held.

MTN Bushfire Festival in pictures