We had only been performing at the Shearwater Cafe in Victoria Falls for a week or so when Goose (a.k.a Angus Ross of The Harare Collective) and I found ourselves packing all our gear back into the truck and crossing the border into Livingstone, Zambia. After following some highly specific directions out of town through intricate networks of dirt roads and dense bush, lugging ourselves and gear down a zigzagging path descending 180m into the Batoka Gorge, we arrived at an enchanted little spot: The Rose Rabbit.
I met Adam Van Wyk and Perrin Banks quite coincidentally two years ago on a mysterious little island called Bovu in the middle of the Zambezi River. The couple sauntered in unexpectedly as we were setting up camp in a little clearing – complete with Bedouin tents and sound rig – and hidden by the island’s dense low growing trees. Adam brandished a striking tattoo of a watercolour-painted leopard on his arm and a strong gaze. Perrin’s eyes were contagiously joyful. We all hit it off immediately. They told us about a dream that was taking shape, a camp they were building not so far from there on a white sandy beach on the banks of the Zambezi at Rapid 21 and that we simply had to come visit. After leading us all on a hilarious guided tour of Bovu, pointing out the flora and fauna, Adam slipped his email address into Leaves of Grass, a book of Whitman’s poetry that I carried with me. Months later with the events at Bovu Island almost out of mind, I picked up the book of poems and out fell Adam’s address, scribbled on a scrap of cardboard torn from a box of Camel cigarettes.
As Goose and I hiked down the gorge with careful steps, I looked down onto the beach where my friends and I had spent an unforgettable New Years Eve earlier that year. We had indeed visited Adam, Perrin and friend Warren West in their little corner of paradise, carried four bass bins and a freezer down the treacherous slope, thrown a festival, danced together, burnt our feet in the hot sand, swam in the shallows of the river clinging to a rope, feeling the current whip at our legs beneath the surface and creating memories that have coloured and shaped my thoughts from thereafter. It was different now. Adam had left us in March 2016, swept away by a strong surge in the current after the heavy summer rains. A passionate and enigmatic soul in this world, he died in the arms of a powerful, raging river. The beach had changed its shape as it does every year when the river rises, floods its banks and re-arranges things. I looked down at the wild beauty and the wild indifference of that ancient body of white water. We were there to remember and celebrate Adam. And we were there for the resurrection of The Rose Rabbit.
The festival took place over three days in the hot sand on the banks of the Zambezi River. Warren and his team had spent weeks building an epic stage out of sandbags and poles and beach sand which stood facing up the beach, framed by the river behind and sheltered by large Bedouin tents courtesy of Africa Sun’s Zuga Kruger. There was a brand new bar at the water’s edge, and camping spots nestled around in the wooded slopes of the gorge. Goose and I were on the bill, along with Flying Bantu and Livingstone based reggae band, Yes Rasta. Also on the line up were DJs Ben Hodgeson (Lusaka), James Honey (Harare) and our own Doc Martyn from Skies (Bulawayo) who carried us through until the sunrise with some absolutely banging tunes. A crowd gathered from across the country, from Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo; even some folks from Zambia pulled in. We celebrated the life that had been such an integral part of The Rose Rabbit. We did so with three days of continuous music and dancing, all the while paying respect to the powerful river that rumbles every minute of every hour, surging with an old energy that teaches you a very particular type of humility – and strength.
‘I am thinking that when the great silence descends upon all and everywhere, music will finally triumph. When into the womb of time everything is again withdrawn, chaos will be restored and chaos is the score upon which reality is written.’