In case you did not know, STRAB Music Festival is held in May every year at the Ponta Malongane Resort in Southern Mozambique.
STRAB Music Festival is one of my favourite music festivals on the planet. I’ve been to 6 of them and all of them have been amazing experiences.
If you haven’t been to STRAB, imagine this… A bunch of great musicians playing tunes, add some sun, sea, sand and lots of R&R and mix them. Now imagine a combination of them for 3-4 days.
Now that I have your attention, I suggest you keep on reading to find out more about this one-of-a-kind music festival.
Here are 20 Facts That You Might Not Have Known about STRAB Music Festival:
1. STRAB unofficially started in 2003
It all started when Andries, Annerie and the group of scuba divers that were with them decided to add some live music to one of their weekends in Ponta Malongane. It was initially held in the month of August and was known as “The Birthday Bash”. 60 divers attended the bash.
2. STRAB Music Festival officially started in 2004
In that year 120 divers attended the “festival”. Piet Botha was was so moved after this experience that he wrote a song about Mozambique and insisted that this must become a regular event. STRAB was officially born.
3. STRAB is not just a random word, it’s an acronym for something
STRAB is actually an abbreviation for “Subterranean Rhythm & Blues”. The phrase was actually coined by late and great Piet Botha who was experiencing Mozambique and subtly reffering to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Home Sick Blues”. The combination of sea, scuba diving and music reminded him of something “subterranean”.
4. STRAB has never been a massive music festival
In essense, STRAB is a boutique festival experience. Unlike Oppikoppi (which attracted more than 20,000 people in it’s hey-day), the tickets for STRAB are very limited. A maximum of 1200 tickets are sold for the festival every year.
5. STRAB is not all about taking
Every year an investment is made to assist the local community of Ponta Malongane. This is done with compassion and gratitude for the difference Mozambique has made in the lives of those who have shared the STRAB experience and for the kindness of the people festival goers experience each time they return.
In 2012 STRAB started donating towards the Mamoli Mission Children’s Home, about 10 kilometers from the festival. However, since the Mission was closed in 2015, and with the untimely death of the Mission’s co-founder, Simao Mucache in 2019, STRAB decided to focus their efforts to assist the resort, Parque de Malongane, the Malongane School and the new Manzine Mission with future plans and donations. Find out more about STRAB’s involvement in charities HERE.
6. There a lot to do at STRAB music festival
Stay at the resort during the day and enjoy the music, go diving, spend a day on the beach, take a walk to the shops in Ponta Malongane or go pub hopping on the bumpy sandy road to Ponta Do Ouro. The choice is yours.
7. The Black Cat Bones have played at STRAB for 10 years in a row
The Black Cat Bones first STRAB show was in 2009. In 2019 they played their 10th show in a row at the festival. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me.
8. There was a #BalPoeierPartytjie at STRAB in 2013…
STRAB 2013 was a lekker jol. The Black Cat Bones got their hands on a bag of flour (and decorated yours truly and Henry Engelbrecht with it during their set). But that’s not all…
Bertus brought some magical powder for itchy bits (from Korea or China, I can’t really remember). At one point in time, a bunch of musos got hold of it on the deck. Before you could say “Shazaam”, there was powder everywhere! #BalPoeierPartytjie
9. Mrs B played their last show at STRAB
I’m speaking under correction, but I think the first time I watched Pretoria based rock band Mrs B was at my first STRAB in 2009. That was also the year that bumped into my good friend Pedro Barbosa (the lead singer of the band) for the first time in +/- 9 years.
Over the next few years, I watched them play at various venues in Gauteng. Sadly, the band decided to call it quits in 2014. They played their last show at STRAB that year.
10. Stelth Ulvang (from The Lumineers) played a set at STRAB
In case you did not know, there’s usually a beach party on the Wednesday night at STRAB. Stelth Ulvang from The Lumineers played a solo set at festival’s beach party in 2015.
11. It takes roughly 8 hours to drive to the festival from Gauteng
The closest border post to Ponta Malongane is about 10 km from Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal. Ponta Malongane is +/- 14 km from the border. Kosi Bay is 624 km from Pretoria and 606 km from Johannesburg.
The safest road from Pretoria is via Witbank, Hendrina, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Pongola, Jozini and Kosi Bay. The safest road from Johannesburg is via Boksburg, Springs, Bethal, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Pongola, Jozini and Kosi Bay.
8 hours is a long drive, but the roads have improved quite a bit over the years. Our first STRAB roadtrip in 2009 took nearly 11 hours (thanks to tons stop-and-gos on the road between Piet Retief and Pongola). Getting there is a biatch, but it’s totally worth the drive.
12. You don’t have to exhange your Rands for Metical
The South African Rand is widely accepted as currency in that part of Mozambique. 1 Rand = 4.32 Metical. If you’re going, try not to take R200 notes with you. R200 notes have been the target of fraudsters in the past and some locals might not accept them from you. There are places where you can swipe your bank card, but it doesn’t always work, so cash is king.
13. STRAB is a great way to disconnect from reality
To have an ultimate experience at STRAB, I suggest that you lock your cellphone in the car and disconnect from reality for a few days. However, if you need to reach your folks back home or want to post your experience on Facebook and Instagram, it’s not completely impossible.
You can activate roaming for your mobile network (in case you need to phone someone) or buy a Vodacom Mozambique SIM card and data from one of the locals. Data is a lot cheaper in Mozambique than in South Africa.
14. There’s live music during the days and nights
Like I’ve said before, Wednesday night is reserved for a beach party (usually with a band or three). From Thursday to Saturday there’s live music during the daytime on the deck and live music from the late afternoon to around midnight or 1 AM on the main stage.
There’s usually one band on the deck in the evening before a DJ starts spinning tunes into the early hours of the morning. Those deck parties can get hectic, so make sure that you give your liver a pep talk…
15. You can leave your shoes in your vehicle
There’s tons of sand at Parque De Malongane (the resort where STRAB is held) and minimal klippies or dorings. There are people who walk around with shoes, but they get sand stuck in their shoes and socks and that frustrates them, so most of them take them off. Most festival goers wear their Jesus Nikes (their bare feet) or flip flops. It just makes their lives easier.
16. STRAB Music Festival provides exposure to bands from rock to blues to jazz to fusions of these genres
This music festival has featured some great acts over the years. The line-up has included Akkedis, Jack Hammer, Bittereinder (in 2013), Southern Gypsey Queen, Wonderboom, Gerald Clark, Josie Field & Laurie Levine, Cindy Alter (from Clout), Tuin, Albert Frost, Dan Patlansky, Karen Zoid, aKING, Boo!, Tidal Waves, Hellcats, Boargazm, The Fake Leather Blues Band, The Black Cat Bones, Pedro Barbosa, Naming James and a whole list of others.
17. STRAB is an intimate musical experience
Picture this… You’re in a crowd at a huge festival, there are thousands of people around you. You’re feeding off their energy, but you’re not really connecting with the artist who’s playing. You’re not really making friends. You’re just there. It’s very impersonal and dull.
This is where STRAB is different from other music festivals. The festival crowd is small. The shows are intimate. You actually connect with the artists and your festival goers and you make friends. It just feels a lot more personal and definitely tugs on your heart strings.
18. The STRAB Crew are legends
The Main STRAB Crew is made up of 3 legends: Conrad, Andries & Hanlie. You have to take your hat off to them for organizing a festival for 1000 people and dealing with up to 150 different musos on one weekend. Respect.
19. STRAB is the festival with the best stage backdrop
During the days at STRAB festival, artists play shows on the legendary deck bar at Parque De Malongane. The backdrop is the stunning Indian Ocean.
A few years ago Tuin played a set on that deck and as she was finishing her set, a school of dolphins decided to swim in the ocean behind her. It was an amazing sight.
Bonus Fact: The legendary Bacchus Nel fell off that deck one year and thankfully wasn’t seriously injured (it wasn’t during his set though).
20. You don’t need a 4×4 to go to STRAB
The roads leading to the border post at Kosi Bay have been tarred in recent years. You can actually drive to Ponta Do Ouro or Maputo with a normal car if you enter Mozambique at the border now.
You won’t be able to drive to Ponta Malongane with a car from Ponta Do Ouro though. It’s still the same sand road it has always been. You can only do that with an offroad vehicle.
Great news is that you can securely park your car at the South Africa / Mozambique border and make use of border transfers to get your music-loving arse to the festival. Border Transfers need to be pre-booked on the STRAB website.
Well, there you have it, 20 facts that you might not have known about STRAB Music Festival.
Feeling lus for a lekker trip to Mozambique jam-packed with good tunes and lekker vibes? STRAB 2020 is happening from the 27th to the 31st of May. Tickets go on sale at 12 Noon on the 1st of March 2020! Click here to register NOW!
For more information, check out the STRAB website, check out the STRAB Facebook page or follow STRAB on Twitter or Instagram for line-up announcements and other updates about the 2020 edition of the festival.
Watch this space for updates in the Music category on Running Wolf’s Rant.