This just might be the most casual article I have ever written. Which is strongly due to the influence of the event I am reviewing. This past Sunday the team and I drove down to the hub of all good vibes, Manzini, to check out the biggest braai 2018. The event which is in its four year now, had Mavuso packed to the brim. And the weather added a perfect atmosphere to the entire setting. Biggest Braai is a charity and networking inspired event which has been running annually since its launch in 2015 and is organised by Philani Maswati Charity Organisation. This is an organisation that was founded by her Majesty the Indlovukazi. Since its launch four years ago, the event has successfully drawn in a huge following. Hence why we decided to review it. We arrived just as the festivities were gaining momentum and after getting settled in and hyped up for another day of culture coverage, we made our way into the main venue area and we were welcomed by the sizzles and hubbub of a barbeque styled Sunday in the city.
I had let my nappy hair down for the day, but after a short while of walking around through clouds of smoke taking everything in, I started rethinking my decision. But all doom and gloom for the kink was soon replaced by the excitement of seeing so many other nappy ‘fros and styles in the bustle. And that wasn’t even the highlight of it all. The street fashion was pretty much on point too. It was as if a memo of translucent visor caps, blue jeans and vibrant prints had been doing the rounds long before we all walked through the Mavuso gates. You can always count on Gqcom music to open an event and the MC, Siphesihle Nkwanyana took full advantage of that. In her jean shirt and pastel pink organza skirt, she was all systems go on the stage. With her first agenda of the day being the commemoration of revolutionary monarch, King Sobhuza II’s birthday, which so happened to be that very day. Sharing a birthday with the king was HRH Princess Ncengencenge as well as throngs of other fun lovers who were all called onto the stage to get their five seconds of Biggest Braai fame. This grand opening was led by the chairperson of Philani Maswati Foundation himself, Mr Lutfo Dlamini, who surprised us all with his canny humour and contagious stage presence. After a cake donated by her majesty Indlovukazi was cut and shared, the stage was cleared and the event officially kick-started.
We were able to get a good five-minute sit down with Mr Lutfo Dlamini, who was absolutely easy going and laid back as he explained the origins of the event and the progress it has made since its first one in 2015. He went on to even add how this year’s turnout was exceedingly encouraging as the numbers were double of that of last year’s braai and even proudly announced how they had successfully roped in Africa’s biggest mobile network provider MTN, as a sponsor. The former minister’s high spirits were a true reflection of the passion behind the concept of this event and when asked what the future held for Biggest Braai, he disclosed of the possibility of a different towns going head to head to win a tender of being next year’s host. In his words “Biggest braai doesn’t belong to Manzini. It is bigger than that” And it most certainly is. And just so to prove that wild statement, we realised how diversified the crowd was. For it consisted of both local AND international fun-lovers. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me.
The day turned out to be an interesting mix of the sounds of music, grilling and revving engines. There was even a kiddie’s corner for all those who had come out with their little ones, which I actually did checkout because FOMO knows no age gap. This event had everyone catered for and it did so successfully. What really caught my attention though was the car spinning. I passed through the arena and my senses were overpowered by the smell of burnt tyres and the loud sounds of roaring engines. This section was the most packed of them all and it really wouldn’t be Manzini if it was any different. After spending a good couple of minutes trying to articulate why anyone would risk their life for that while at the same time concluding that the adrenaline was worth it, I made my way out of the throngs of people and joined the crowd of music lovers by the main stage whose attention was caught by Mimzkhulu. The now solo artist of Prodigal Sons fame.
His stage presence was excitingly refreshing with a set that was laced with feel good vibes and spiritualism. All his songs were an absolute jump. His performance was so good I even had to move into backstage just to get a closer connection with it. And when it was done, I made sure to get a minute with the musician to talk about his solo career. And we congratulate the boy because Biggest Braai happened to be his first major show since breaking away from his 10-year lasting childhood trio.
As the sun began to set, the companies which had set up their gazebos for marketing started to pack up and leave. It had been a great day of food, fun and networking for them. The team was able to catch a number of these companies for quick interviews such as Global Village, which we discovered to be a major sponsor, Lugogo Sun, which had brought out it’s amazing executive chef Omar Menhouk, and SCCOM amongst others, with its Chairperson Nkos’lenhle Masokisi Masuku, who strongly encouraged Swazi’s to participate in the ongoing sim registration process and even explained the name Vela behind it. We also excitedly spotted South African football team and brand Kaizer Chiefs and the branch manager Celiwe Bhembe was more than happy to make a cameo for our cameras too. Once all the corporates were gone, the revellers started pouring in in numbers to welcome the night. The sounds of car spinning continued to roar in the air and even the bikers started joining in. The place surely came alive in the night time.
What I found to be most interesting about the Biggest Braai 2018 was how the programme had been structured. The music line-up was dominantly gospel. And it moved in between industry veterans to more youth-oriented acts and performers. But of course, as much as gospel led the line-up, other more secular genres had been considered for the event too. Gcqom and hip-hop enthusiasts, who made up a great majority of the crowd, were kept considerably entertained by Local Dj’s MBO, Lolo and award-winning Master P. Then for those more on the old-school side, Zola’s feature in the biggest Braai made for a nostalgic throwback to the days when Kwaito was the musical fabric of Africa. As expected however, Soul Brothers was a no show, but that didn’t stop the organisers from slotting in a playlist of their popular songs just to keep their fans happy. Talk about an on-point improvising game. Other acts worth noting on the programme included MC word, Dj Kwany, Maculuve, Police gospel messengers and Phatwakahle.
It was my first time attending Biggest Braai so my perception of the event might just be a little uninformed and a tad bit biased but from what I experienced on a personal level only leaves me wondering what next years show has in store for the people of Eswatini. Organisation must be commended although however, the line-up could use a bit of diversity in terms of music. Also, for soulful people like myself, a barbeque themed Sunday isn’t quite complete without a little jazz so maybe next year’s event will up its game in that regard. Apart from that, we enjoyed our time in Manzini and who knows, maybe with each year that passes the country inches closer to that Guinness world record title. Until then, the Biggest Braai will keep bringing on the heat. Long live good times, long live.