”Written byJosh Raynham
Search Festival is an annual kaleidoscope of contrasts and creativity that brings in the new year with massive intention.
The Search Festival, held from December 30, 2023, to January 2, 2024, at the water-rich cradle of Utopia near Swellendam, South Africa, is a celebration of creative expression and community participation. For four glorious days, there will be a host of music, art, and celebration into the new year.
What began a decade ago as a fun experiment between friends to reimagine the tired trope of New Year’s Eve(nts) has now grown into one of South Africa’s most storied cultural gatherings. This is a festival with humble beginnings that’s steeped in lore, driven by music and upheld through volunteer participation and community care. With dedication and selflessness, the festival thrives with the efforts of bright-eyed Searchers donating their time and skills through theme camps, immersive art installations and workshops. And, of course, as the strikingly passionate volunteers that bind it all together.
So while the festival has shapeshifted several times (and will likely continue to do so), its values and ethos remain central to each reimagining – respecting the environment, empowering its people, and trusting the artists to create sonic soundscapes that challenge the normal music festival experience, all in the hopes to delight and inspire.
Embracing the New Year’s tradition, each edition of Search sets a fresh intention. This year’s theme, ‘Search for illumination”, seeks a lightness and reflective experience to counter the shadows of the world. This year’s edition promises vast improvements based on community feedback – upgraded sound, lighting, and creature comforts to support wherever this Search may take you.
The festival encourages active participation, urging attendees to shape the experience collaboratively. Participation fuels the festival’s spirit. Beyond just witnessing the magic, audiences are encouraged to actively shape it. This collaborative energy results in a medley of artworks, immersive installations, performances, and workshops. Each edition sets a fresh intention, and this year promises improvements based on community feedback, including upgraded sound, lighting, and creature comforts.
Safety is a priority, with a partnership with SheSaidSo, a global community of women and gender-nonconforming people and allies in the music industry, to facilitate training in safety procedures and how to enact them.
Beyond just witnessing the magic, audiences are encouraged to actively shape it. This collaborative energy results in a medley of artworks, immersive installations, performances, and workshops.
Recognizing issues of access, especially in the African context, the festival introduced a price tier model, offering African citizens exclusive access to tickets priced according to economic realities. Search Festival is committed to uplifting independent music, promoting diversity and electricity in South Africa’s creative underground.
It’s a playground for adventurous sounds and boundary-pushing experimentation. The line-ups promote the diversity and electricity of South Africa’s creative underground, also facilitating connections to scenes and subcultures globally. The majority of line-ups will always be proudly local, with foreign acts who have a genuine interest and appreciation for Search’s values and community considered.
Having hosted acts such as Nabihah Iqbal, DJ Lag, Esa and Alice Phoebe Lou converging on their stages, Search has featured artists working across a range of genres and disciplines, unified by a collective love for and understanding of the human condition. For their fourth time at Utopia and ninth instalment overall, Search once again illuminates a finely curated program of local and international artists across three intimate stages.
Key Performers for 2023
Jamz Supernova (UK)
Donna Leake (UK)
Jumping Back Slash (UK / ZA)
Atiyyah (Future Nostalgia) (ZA)
Esa (UK / ZA)
…and over thirty other artists set to grace their stages.
While Search is many things, at its core, it stands for curiosity, sincerity, friendship, care, anarchy, and love. “Illumination,” sums that up rather well. That’s how they keep the vibe crisp and the music surprising. If you decide to engage with it, plant your feet in it, take responsibility for it, and connect to it, you might just be the light in the dark that someone has been searching for.