ultra music festival

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Ultra Music Festival – South Africa

Published March 17, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

I love me some music festivals.




UMF, or Ultra Music Festival, is an annual music festival of the electronic persuasion. It originated in Miami, Florida in 1999 and instantly gained popularity in the EDM world. With close to 200,000 attendees and tickets selling out every single year, the event grew and began holding international shows. It has debuted in over 9 countries worldwide and finally hit Africa in 2014.

This is the largest EDM event on the African continent, and after hearing great reviews from other PCV friends about the 2014 event, some friends and I decided 2015 was our year to venture to Johannesburg and steal a slice of this magic, which started at noon and went until the wee hours of the morn.


We walked into the expo grounds and all I can say is…oh. my god. So many beautiful people. Like I can’t even.
Was there some unwritten requirement that all attendees be tan, buff and beautiful? Is this where they’ve all been hiding?? I felt like Doug Butabi walking into the Roxbury and all I could stutter was “Sup?” over and over.

Instantly I noticed a severe lack of kandi and gear in general that’s indicative of raving. People were mostly wearing regular (African summer time) clothing, but you can’t judge a book by its cover- there was no shortage of PLUR at this expo center.

An almost palpable positive energy was floating through the air, mixed with some excitement and glitter. People were astoundingly polite and friendly. If someone accidentally bumped into you they’d turn around instantly and genuinely apologize. Whoa. And when packed like sardines in front of the main stage, anyone trying to pass would politely ask to maneuver around you…unlike the elbow throwing that I’ve seen at other festivals. It felt like everyone was genuinely grateful to be there, grateful for the opportunity to experience the magic, and they left their egos at home for the night. This might have been partially because it was Valentine’s Day, so everyone was in lovey-dovey moods and high spirits.

Not only did I get to share this day with some of my closest PCVs, but my brother-from-another-mother Jovani was there as well! EDC partners since day 1, I felt incredibly lucky that we also got to share our first UMF experience together.



UMF-SA had a wonderful blend of featured South African artists, as well as the expected international headliners- Armin, Martix Garrix, Axwell & Ingrosso, to name a few.

Of the South African DJs, I really enjoyed Black Coffee. He’s pretty widely known in SA, and is a magnificent example of how sensational and unique South African house music can be.

It would be cliche for me to say Armin Van Buuren’s set was the best of all, (even though it was.) I appreciate his ability to read a crowd and play a set that he feels caters to the majority of the audience, but I wished he played more originals, and I wanted more melodic and soft trance. What we got was hard, pounding, “I wanna see everyone jump!” tracks over and over again. It was still fun though, but talk about a calf workout. Yeesh.

Stepping aside from the expectations and traditions, I’d say my favorite set of the night was DVBBS. They brought this unruly, head-banging energy to the moment, similar to Steve Aoki but with less cake and champagne. I fully enjoyed every track they dropped, especially Pyramids. The whole crowd lost their shiz, including me.

By the 12th hour or so, my feetsies and brain needed a break from the ever-present thumping bass at the main stage, so a couple friends and I headed to another stage to finish up with Gorgon City. They provided a pleasant change of energy; swaying back and forth to some groovy deep house while wiggling my bare toes into the cool grass and getting lost in the fog machines…it was a solid way to end such a magical event.


One trademark of Ultra, and I guess most international festivals, is to bring a national flag to represent where everyone came from. This is a quick and easy way to see how global dance music has become, and how it unites people from all around the world.

UMF – SA was sold out with over 20,000 attendees, and I spotted flags from all over… South Africa (of course), Argentina, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Mozambique, Spain, Tanzania, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe… the list could keep going.

I think it’s important to recognize the significance of what the appearance of all these flags really means…it means that people from every different race, country, culture and religion can be united by music. They can dance and sing and frolic about without any negativity or judgement. Our differences are celebrated and everyone proudly waves their flags in the air while also looking around and taking in the beauty of all the other flags that are present.



The next day, the typical Post-Music-Festival-Stress-Disorder set in. This is happens when the event is over, you are tired, sore, and deeply saddened by the fact that the magic had to end. This feeling can happen after UMF, EDC, or any other music festival where you danced your little heart out and connected with the love and energy of people around you. We stayed at a quaint backpackers which was walking distance to a lot of things so we cured this depression with a big lunch and a trip to the movie theaters to check out Fifty Shades of Grey. Sitting in a cool, air-conditioned theater is a great way to relax post-festival. I highly recommend it.

UMF – SA was a great experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share it with. If I’m still around for UMF 2016- I might just have to go back!



Also check out A Dark Minded Giggle for more of my EDM reviews and satirical humor.



300 days in Africa.

Published November 20, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

Boy, that clock sure has been ticking since I landed in this beautiful place!

Here’s an update of what I’ve been doing lately, a glimpse of what’s gone wrong and a taste what my future plans are.

I haven’t written much about work-related stuff lately, but I swear I’ve been working every day! Sometimes I get so caught up in running and working out that I neglect my writing, but not to worry, I’m committed to my work and making the most of my time here. Not much has changed work-wise; I’m still helping develop the HIV Counseling & Testing outreach program at my organization and every week we go out to different villages/areas to offer free services (HIV counseling & testing, blood sugar testing, blood pressure check, Tuberculosis screening, etc). This type of work has been extremely rewarding for me, but it also has its challenges. Sometimes there are  language barriers, sometimes I get hit on/proposed to, sometimes I get people who cry, etc. It can be emotionally draining, but the rewards far outweigh the minor hindrances.

I’ve started up a couple yoga programs- one is at my gym and the other is held at my organization. The main focus is building strength, flexibility and equanimity amongst the mothers and adult women I instruct. Being a Kinesiology major, obviously I love all things related to fitness and I love opportunities where I can workout with others, share my knowledge and help cultivate healthy lifestyles. Having 7 yoga classes sprinkled throughout my weekly schedule can be taxing at times but I’m finding ways to make it work.

They tell us that our first year in country is all about developing relationships and fine-tuning ideas while the second year is where the real work begins. I am coming close to my 1 year mark and can say that even though I don’t feel I’ve made leaps and bounds towards changing the world, I have found fulfillment in the small victories and I’m looking forward to kicking off some more projects in 2015. As a community health volunteer my main focus is on HIV prevention, but any work I do relating to health promotion and education, nutrition, hygiene, fitness, healthy lifestyles and cultural exchange is acceptable in Peace Corps’ eyes. This gives me a lot of creative room to play and implement project ideas.

Peace Corps service isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and although I strive to preserve my blog for the purpose of sharing positive experiences with my loved ones back home, I wouldn’t be giving an accurate depiction of my life in rural South Africa if I didn’t include the bad with the good. There are more good days than bad, but the bad days/moments do happen. Some days I just don’t want to get out of bed, most days I know once I leave my house I’m going to be faced with uncomfortable amounts of “hey baby”, “come talk to me”, “I love you”, and “I want to marry you” from all the questionable men lurking the streets. These phrases may seem harmless but when you hear them constantly while living in a strange place and not having the secure feeling of being in your normal environment, it can be scary, it can seem threatening, and it is for sure mentally exhausting. I can try to numb myself to it but I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I can accept it as respectable human interaction. It’s just plain obnoxious.

I do, however, have several exciting things to look forward to in the upcoming months. In December I’m attending a Peace Corps conference in Gauteng with PCVs from all over South Africa. I’ll be spending Christmas and NYE in Cape Town with a bunch of other volunteers. Cape Town has a myriad of entertainment options and I know I’ll have plenty of time for the beach, to explore local wineries and to see the nightlife. In February one of my best friends is coming to visit from the States, we’re grouping up with some other volunteers to check out Ultra South Africa. I’ll probably lay low in March & April to focus on training for Comrades in May! Not to mention my 26th birthday, YEESH.

If my math is correct, I have something like 480 days left until my time in South Africa comes to an end. I have no idea what I’m doing yet post-Peace Corps, but I have a lot of time to figure that out. Until then, stay tuned for more adventure stories!