Decks, Chugs and Rock N Roll — Rock FM Zambia’s Rocktoberfest

Sara Drawwater
13 December 2013
New radio stations have been pushing and shoving static to occupy that space in between FM radio signals but it takes a lot to become “the radio station of choice”. Video killed the radio star long…

New radio stations have been pushing and shoving static to occupy that space in between FM radio signals but it takes a lot to become “the radio station of choice”. Video killed the radio star long ago, but Rock FM is looking to change that. Rock FM is here to kill bad radio.

In October, Rock FM 96.5 hosted Zambia’s Rocktoberfest 2013 at NASDEC in Lusaka to say thank you to its listeners and win over some new ears. Someone at the event just happened to have a press pass, notepad in hand and a thirst for brew…this is a true account of what happened during Rocktoberfest.

The MissionMy mission was to cover Zambia’s Rocktoberfest by Rock FM’s event (which contrary to the title, barely had anything to do with Rock n Roll) but in my sometimes perilous profession, pleasure is bound to mix with work, and I end up with malt stained notes. The task at hand was to show how Rock FM could come together with some artists and resident DJs to show people how to rock out (without Rock music). And the only way to do that was for me to rock out too.

The speaker system was still being set up when my friends and I arrived. Someone’s voice “mic-check-one-twoed” at intervals as we made our way to an outdoor bar.

Manning the areaI could smell the freshly cut grass as I walked past the inflatable Mosi Lager entrance to the field. Beer branded booths, stands and stalls stood at attention in the boundaries; like sentries ready to supply the masses with ales. They were manned by young ladies in green shorts and white tops. Actually, bearded men manned these bars, but the girls with them were easier on the eyes, even without beer goggles. Jumping castles/bouncy houses and trampolines stood just outside the field. I could only guess what dangerous purposes these were intended for because there were no children at this event.

The meat on the barbeque stands could have cooked by the heat of the sun alone, because it was beating down something fierce. DJ Mitch tried to cool things off with some music as people slowly trickled in, but the October sun was still relentless and almost had my drink boiling.

The heat had subsided a little when DJ LBC opened his set with Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’ and the slight drop in temperature brought with it more weekend warriors. One warrior was already up in front of the stage and giving LBC a performance of his own. We all know that guy that gets inebriated before the fun actually begins and burns out before it ends.

The night’s entertainmentAside from music, there were lots of mini games to entertain people. The mini soccer table was the most popular and you could hear the occasional, “GOAL!!” when you walked past. It kept the football enthusiasts amused until popular local artist PilAto came on stage.

He was dressed in his usual long white dress-like attire which looked to me like night gown. And of course he was barefoot. The people were drawn to the stage in the same inexplicable manner insects are drawn to light. PilAto mentioned that people must be drunk because they were not responding to his calls for them to be loud. One of them did respond. He jumped on stage and dance battled one of PilAto’s large cross-dressed male dancers. Which of the two was the victor was hard to tell but it had the crowd in stitches and PilAto joined in on the fun.

Cooking up and serving sharp vernacular raps was Chef 187 during his performance. His heavy gold cable swung from his neck as he had the people roaring to his rhymes. His song Chinkula was a big hit with everyone, and Foolish Me had the ladies singing word-for-word.

I tried to run after Chef as he sidled through the people back stage and get a word in with him, but I couldn’t keep up with his pace and massive energy reserves.

“They say what goes up, must come down. Ija law tai kana ai? (We refuse to accept that law, don’t we?)” blared Ozzy through the microphone when he got on stage. He was referring to how we all didn’t want to come down from the peak of mount fun and tipsy. His set only led the expedition toward higher ground when his silver-masked dancers got on stage and chained a series of insane dance moves. Sweat poured down his neck and drenched his sleeveless t-shirt as Ozzy gave a performance to remember and incited loud cheers and whistles from the crowd. The dry ice hissed and snaked off stage with him and his dancers followed close behind.

Backstage pass at Zambia’s RocktoberfestBackstage, Jason K from Rock FM was trying to coordinate the show. He got to tell me a bit more about what inspired the station and its crew to throw such an event.

“These are all Rock FM listeners. We didn’t do any other advertising aside from on air and on our Facebook and Twitter pages,” he said. “The main thing? — this was for our listeners.”

He then whisked me away to a tarp reserved for the artists so I could have a chat with them. I got to talk to Zone Fam before and after they gave a roaring performance that had most of the crowd pushing and testing the structural integrity of the low wire fence by the stage. Dope G jumped over it and rocked out with his fans during their song Ndine Chikali. It was a wonder they did not rip him to shreds.

Rocked outMy night closed off with a performance from Slap Dee, who very admirably brought on his old nemesis Tommy D for a collaboration. They bartered rhymes back and forth and were bombarded with loud cheers from the people.

Day two had a lower turn out than the same time the previous day. That was probably due to the fact that it was a Sunday and Lusaka people are nocturnal creatures. The sun still had some quarrel with us that day and had our skin sizzling in its hot rage. That changed for a while when the sky let down some rain. This may have been a welcome change in the weather, but it literally dampened our party and the music had to stop for a while.

Small clusters of weekend warriors braved the hot sun and party dampening rain to share a brew and rock out to the sounds of various DJs and musicians. People did not come in droves on this day. But the people that did had a sense of unity as we all waved our hands in the air all through the night and whistled to our favorite jams. You could say there was solidarity — rock solidarity. Rock FM had adopted a tipsy little family.

Cactus Agony couldn’t have put it any better when he said, “Good music and good vibes; that’s all we ask for.” Rock on.

Benny Blow was raised by an ancient tribe of scribes and is desperately trying to recall their literary teachings. You can see some of his miserable attempts on his blog (click here), follow him on twitter (click here) and friend him on Facebook (click here).