South Africa: Hip-hop festival Back to the City pulls an even larger crowd this year

The 12th annual installment of South Africa’s biggest and most diverse hip-hop festival, Back To The City, returned once more for a day of hip hop on the 27th of April at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Also celebrating Freedom day—a day commemorating the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994—like minded people got together to represent hip-hop culture as artists, djs, graffiti artists, breakdancers, bmx, skaters, and live bands.

Artistic expression from South Africa soared as superstars and niche artists, the likes of Cassper Nyovest, K.O., Nadia Nakai, Yugen Blakrok, and Rouge dished out dynamic performances.

Nadia Nakai. Photo Credit: Sabelo Mkhabela.

This unique youth event has grown into the largest public display of both commercial and underground hip hop in Africa. Live performances and DJs entertain throughout the day while graffiti artists utilise the surrounding street walls such as the pillars of the M1 bridge in Newton as their canvasses, creating colourful masterpieces in the city. With it being legal by council, graffiti artists have painted the pillars every year during the festival since 2007.

Back To The City also presented an educational Hip Hop Summit offering an exchange of knowledge from industry gurus working within the media,  street art, break-dancing, art installation, skateboarding, speakers and panel discussions. The aim of the workshops was to effectively empower the artist with as much knowledge to enable her/him efficiently plan their career and brand growth. 

Patty Monroe. Photo Credit: Sabelo Mkhabela.

“We wanted to utilise the culture as a tool to encourage critical thinking, social change and unity while empowering communities through media, arts, education and independent initiatives,” the festival wrote in a post. “Topics such as Publishing, Distribution, Recording, Independent versus Mainstream, Funding, and Entrepreneurship are openly discussed allowing audience members a chance to actively engage speakers, facilitating access to resources as well as empowering the youth with valuable knowledge.”

Despite growing numbers, Back To The City may come to an end in 2021, according to an announcement made during the festival. Last year’s Back to the City Festival saw 25 000 attendees, a huge gap from its 15000 people in 2012 and 3 500 people in 2007.