by Denzel Nyathi
If you’re a regular Makhanda straatmate, you were probably at Organic Live this past Saturday. If you’re not, there’s still a good chance that the allure of Organic had you in fluorescent tunnels for ASTRO Edition.
Either way, you probably heard at least something about it. Or perhaps you saw the stickers which doubled as tickets that had been plastered to the backs of people’s phones for a week (a genius marketing strategy, might I add).
In short: Organic Live is a marketing machine that called for our immediate attention.
The event has been marketed as the alternative groove, for when one wants a change of scenery from the nostalgic pop hits of The Rat or the stifling heat of Olde’s. It’s an event which seems to pop up once a term and delivers on its promise to bring on “A whole new experience.”
It’s a lot of expectation they invite.
“When I came [to UCKAR], there was a gap in our social scene that wasn’t there before,” Khanyisile Tshabalala, co-founder and resident DJ of Organic Live, explained. “Our vision was to fill that gap. You know, to bring people something. Going beyond.”
However, almost as an unspoken truth, there’s a pressure to deliver an Organic outfit. While Friar’s has certainly seen people stumble through those doors in anything from pyjamas to Rowing uniforms, Organic draws in a crowd that seems to have calculated the outfit or the aesthetic pre-emptively, and with remarkable attention to detail.
“I think naturally the kind of music you do will pull in a very specific kind of crowd,” Khanyisile expanded, on the fashion culture of Organic. “Those people have a very specific kind of fashion aesthetic. It’s very arty, very free. But also a lot of the outfits are the outfits you won’t see on a daily basis. There’s also a bit more effort put into it.”
“Organic is the Met Gala of Grahamstown,” exclaimed Pallesa Mthobeni, a second-year student and Organic Live enthusiast. She brought this up in casual conversation, as I was venting about how I didn’t have an outfit for the event myself.
This certainly wasn’t a lack of effort on my part.
Days before the event, a group of 4 friends and I had made the journey up to Sunflower Charity Shop. Browsing through the clothing bins and the R5 jeans on special, I kept in mind: what screams Astro Edition? I also couldn’t help but wonder to what extent the rest of the community was going to find their perfect outfits.
While I was busy drawing inspiration from the idea of the celestial, Anathi Pongoma drew inspiration from Solange’s Almeda music video. When you can’t make your way to Afropunk, it seems Makhanda creatives bring Afropunk to you.
“I made the veil from clear beads I bought at the Funky Store and I used white wool to connect the beads,” he shared.
“It’s an event where there are no boundaries for creativity, you can create whatever type of look you want freely and it’s the only place I know where creativity is acknowledge compared to when you’re at Friars or Olde’s,” he said.
Perhaps it isn’t a matter of expectation, but a matter of finally feeling free to dress to the maximum of one’s own creativity, without fear of doing "too much".
“I feel like Organic is the only event where you know you're rocking up there and you’re the only one who’s gonna be wearing [this outfit] because you know you put in your effort. You stuck to who you really are,” Khanyisile said.
“Personally, I’m gonna go on a whim. Whatever the wind tells me to do at that moment,” Pallesa said flippantly.
Of course, there will be people who attend such events for the vibes alone. With a setlist of over 10 DJs spanning across the Hip Hop, Techno and AmaPianos section, there’s a little something for everyone: even if you don’t care for fashion.
And that’s where the gap is filled. Organic fills the gap for the creatives who crave a space to express themselves, for the folk who just wanna get buzzed and be engrossed in vibes, and for the lovers of music whose hearts pulse to the beat.