Archive for October, 2007

Hip hop have always thrived on Cape Town’s Cape Flats; that vast expanse of coloured and African working class (and dotted with occasional middle class) neighborhoods on the periphery of the city’s mostly white and wealthy center.

Rap pioneers Prophets of da City (the subject of the new documentary by Dylan Valley and Sean Drummond), Black Noise (reinterpreting Afrika Bambataa back in Africa), and Brasse vannie Kaap (probably the closest thing to hip hop rockers; their song ‘Cape Flats’ a romp with reggae rockers Nine the best example) are all products of the Flats’ townships.

The success and visibility of these bands — in the days before Youtube, MySpace, MP3s, streaming and the partial democratization of technology — was tied down by legal apartheid or the uncertainty of immediate post-1994 music industry and dependent on television, radio spins, fanatical local followings (I saw Brasse in civic centers and school halls all over Cape Town), mainstream breakthroughts (playing at overwhelmingly white venues or festivals was the key to mainstream media pick-up) or international recognition (mainly in Europe). They often got plenty of attention (and got paid), but often struggled to be artists in their own right.

Artists like the late Devious present a transitional case: Attuned to the new technology (but with limited access), he faced up to a skeptical record company environment (kwaito’s bling guaranteed huge returns), but he was murdered before he could really take advantage of new opportunities.

The new artists and bands — as varied as Jitsvinger, Ben Sharpa, Konfab and Kallitz — may want all of that, but could care less. They can make music, despite and at the expense of record labels, commercial (and what’s left of community radio) or mainstream acceptance. For one, technology has changed. They’re all over Youtube, MySpace, Mp3, — and some put all their music online for downloading, while others sell online to fans from Reukjavik to Brooklyn.

The most exciting exponent is Terror MC, set to emerge as the representative of the genre’s hard-core. Rapping over dancehall beats, full of braggadacio, and doing so in his mother tongue Afrikaans, this 21 year old MC from Kuilsriver, to the northwest of Cape Town, seems to have the farthest reach and a grasp of the technology and access to Cape Town’s mainstream and underground artistic set.

The best example is his track ‘Liberate Yourself’ produced by DPlanet and released on DPlanet’s Planetary Assault compilation). The video above is edited/produced/mashed-up by visual artist Mustafa Maluka (originally from Cape Town’s Bishop Lavis township, but now based in Berlin).

Recently I asked Mustafa about the video (the still images in the video are Mustafa’s own as well as the work of photographers Mikhael Subotsky and Scott Eric Williams), and about Terror MC:

Terror is someone who has gone through a lot for someone just aged 21. When I first met him, he was living in a shack with his mother and her boyfriend on the sandy dunes of Kuilsrivier. He was robbed of two years of his life after being sent from jail to reform school, back to jail and eventually escaped from a reform school. The charge: he beat up his mom’s boyfriend who had been abusing her. The case was eventually dropped after he spent 2 years in the system. None of his family members were willing to pay the low bail that was set each time he appeared in court.

‘He is currently finishing high school by attending night school classes. He uses money generated from the sales of his music to survive.

His independently released solo album will be released mid December 2007.

Keep checking his MySpace page for further details.


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Simon Kuper in the Financial Times reports on Luol Deng of the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls .

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Awesome Tapes from Africa, a site that collects and streams obscure and familiar African music. Recently the site owner was featured on New York’s WFMU Radio). For background on the site and its owner, read here.

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‘The Ravaging of Africa, ‘… a four-part radio documentary series about the destructive impact of U.S. imperialism on Africa, featuring voices of African activists interviewed at the 2007 World Social Forum held in Nairobi, Kenya,’ that will not make the World Bank, IMF, African Union or various African governments happy, will be launched this week in Toronto, Canada.

It will then broadcast on at least 200 radio stations in the U.S., Canada, South Africa and Ireland (plans include to get CDs of the documentary to 45 community radio stations in South Africa.)

But you don’t have to be in Toronto or wait for it to get on radio. The entire series (episodes: ‘Militarizing Africa,’ ‘Economic War,’ ‘Corporate Plunder,’ and ‘African Renaissance,’ can be streamed here (scroll down).

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Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office has placed online a series of video interviews done as part of the Carnegie Corporation Oral History Project. Among these are interviews with South African political personalities, including the documentary photographer , former Robben Island political prisoner and postapartheid president of the Land Claims Court Fikile Bam, lawyer Geoff Budlender, president of the Constitional Court Arthur Chaskalson, human rights lawyer John Dugard, labor researcher Mary-Jane Moriri, medical doctor and political activist (and later deputy president of the World Bank) Mamphele Ramphele, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and economist Francis Wilson.

The excellent series (including biographical descriptions of the participants) — I have listened to some of these interviews — can be downloaded here.

* The image is by Omar Badsha.

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The Spring 2007 issue of Private Photo Review, the Italian magazine of ‘black and white photographs and texts’ focuses on African photographers.

The editors note in the introduction:

… Next to exogenous images of ourselves [meaning Westerners], which are relayed by media and advertising and threaten to surround and close us in archetypes, there are endogenous images waiting to burst out and express what [the French psychologist Henri] Delacroix calls the ‘chaotic world of sensations.’ … Mastering this split image is the role which photographers of African origin have assigned themselves, sometimes against their better judgement, in order to avoid misunderstandings…

Private Photo Review‘s website previews the issue (which looks better in hard copy).

I copied some of my favorites above (Yolande Snyders’ pictures of the Cape Town, South African based hip hop crew, Brasse vannie Kaap) and below:

Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Boubacar Toure Mandemory

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Martina Kudláček interviews Isaac Julien in the latest issue of BOMB magazine about his triptych of films about journing across continents and cultures – True North, Fantôme Afrique and Small Boats, a film about African immigration to Italy.

Small Boats can be viewed at Metro Pictures in New York City from 26 October through to 17 November.

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