As AfrikaBurns is a Burner event, it subscribes to the Ten Principles,which include Radical Self-Expression, although those expressing themselves do so within reason - for example, your expression shouldn't infringe on somebody else's experience. This is clearly illustrated by the expectations of two sorts of participants: those who go to AfrikaBurn to get away from the noise, and those who go to make lots of it. As you can imagine, this has the makings of a contentious issue: those who attend with the express wish of experiencing the serenity of the Karoo are bound to get pissed off with those who prefer to play Ministry's 'Jesus Built My Hotrod' at 6am.
As a Camp with a sound system, we AmaDeadlies find ourselves on the horns of this dilemma: our form of expression is music, and we like to express ourselves freely. However, we're not entirely unreasonable, and we're aware that banging it for four days straight is just not feasible. For a start, it's tough going out there on the baking flatlands of Tankwa Town, without going full throttle. We learnt that last year, which is when we got a sound complaint. No, we weren't playing Ministry, but for the complainant who was possibly hoping to have a peaceful lie-in, we had obviously overstepped the mark. You might say 'Fair enough, but what the hell are they thinking - going to a festival and expecting some quiet time? WTF?' Quite. But then again, the involvement of participants at a Burn event depends on cooperation - there is room for everyone to express themselves, it's simply a matter of finding balance. And, despite the fact that systems are limited to 400 Watts, bear in mind that the site used is flat and the air clear - sound, especially bass, slices through space in that setting like a hot knife through butter.
Solutions which facilitate this balance will need to be found: in my mind there are two routes - on the one hand, sound systems could be asked to tap it off at 4am and resume playing at volume from 9am. This is a possible arrangement currently in discussion by the organisers. Cooperation from those Camps which run sound systems would obviously be needed, but bear in mind that the kind of people who run systems - and those who stomp the ground in front of them - may not always be conducive to a punctual end to their festivities. On the other hand a separate area - selected for its distance from the main body of the event and limitation of sound bleed - could be designated as a noise area. This second route is that taken by Burning Man, where all loud systems are located in the Large-Scale Sound Art Zone, located on the outer ring of the event, with systems faced away from the main body of Black Rock City. With AfrikaBurn still a toddler when compared to the 22-year-old Burning Man, the application of this solution would mean locating the Sound Art away from the single-ring Binnekring around which AfrikaBurn's Tankwa Town is created.
It remains to be seen which option will be explored at this year's event in Tankwa Town. Whichever it is, we'll be there.
If you'd like to participate in a discussion on this matter, go here.
For your musical edification, here's a little ditty put together by that top geezer from African Dope, Fletcher - it's a song I've had on repeat in my head for some time and will be playing (possibly repeatedly) at AfrikaBurn. A fantastic warped dubstep cracker, this is some infectious shit: