Revellers delight in sea, sand and soulful sounds

Albert Frost. Photos: Justin Lee

MAPUTO – What do you get when 2 000 blues fans and more than 20 live bands gather on a beach in the tropics of Mozambique over a weekend in May?

Absolute mayhem – that’s the Subterranean Rhythm and Blues (STRAB) Festival.

STRAB 2015

Many Lowvelders have experienced the splendour of Mozambique at least once in their lives.

However, after having seen Piet Botha in tropical pants with a rum and raspberry (or R ‘n R), playing ‘Beautiful Mozambique’ on his acoustic guitar against a backdrop of the azure Indian ocean, I think I’ve witnessed it all.

The Black Cat Bones, Klopjag, Ann Jangle, Albert Frost, Blues Broers, Guy Collins, Akkedis, Albert Meintjes and Crimson House are only some of the bands who rocked the sand off everyone’s shoes from May 27 to 31.

Jack Hammer's acoustic set on the deck.

Jack Hammer’s acoustic set on the deck.

STRAB’ers were also surprised with a secret gig by the American folk band The Lumineers.

All the artists could be spotted either on the main stage, the acoustic stage on a wooden deck at the bar or kite-surfing on any of the sunny days.

“I live for this festival,” said Scicoustic’s Albert Meintjes. “I haven’t missed a single one since my first in 2005. I look forward to this weekend every year for the whole year. What is better than freedom, blues, good people and the best beach weather one can ask for?”

Ann Jangle hypnotises the crowd with her husky voice and immaculate stage presence.

Ann Jangle hypnotises the crowd with her husky voice and immaculate stage presence.

The festival started in 2003 when a group of divers decided to add live music to their annual diving trip in the south of Mozambique.

The initiative took flight when the group invited Piet’s band, Jack Hammer, on the trip. A total of 160 divers and rock and roll enthusiasts attended that year.

The event gained immense popularity and has since turned into, not only one of the most successful festivals on the eastern coast, but also a fruitful charity drive.

In 2008, STRAB organisers identified an orphanage, the Community Church of Mozambique Children’s Home, to which it donates thousands of rand in festival proceeds every year.

Albert Frost. Photos: Justin Lee

Albert Frost. Photos: Justin Lee

To create more awareness on the children’s cause, one of the stage managers, Kobus van Rooyen, walked all the way from his home in Pretoria to the festival venue. It took him less than 30 days to complete the 640-kilometre journey, but he did it with a smile on his face and a wave of support from some of the biggest names in the South African rock industry.

“There were so many moments, but one of my favourites was when Piet came to me backstage and said, ‘Kobus, you are a champion.

I am so proud of you and you will always be my friend.’ I had tears all over my flack jacket.”

The intimate venue allowed for artists to become friends and the dance floor to become a playground for all who attended.

Laurie Levine and Josie Field.

Laurie Levine and Josie Field.

Because of the limited accommodation in Ponta Malongane, STRAB will always be an exclusive event.

Those who do attend are committed divers and blues rock fans who will always clear their May schedules to fight away (or rather embrace) the winter blues in Mozambique.

Marinette Potgieter

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