“We The People” – Afropunk Extends Their Franchise to Johannesburg, South Africa
Having followed the Afropunk movement for years, yes it is a force that cannot simply be reduced to just a music festival or as I have seen a few on Twitter as “that Solange festival”. The festival launched in Brooklyn, New York 14 years ago, Afropunk has been defining culture in the music world; a triumph of multiculturalism, diversity and championing all races, genders, colours, creeds and tastes. Each year, Afropunk unites over 90,000 people across their festivals and another 40,000 at their other events. Over 160 bands and DJ’s have become part of the Afropunk family. Artists who have performed at past Afropunk festivals include Grace Jones, D’Angelo, Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Erykah Badu, Ice Cube, Janelle Monae, Chuck D, Bad Brains, George Clinton, TV on the Radio, Flying Lotus, Kaytranada, Lianne La Havas, Death Grips, and many others.
When I heard that the franchise was extending to South Africa. I had what Oprah Winfrey would call an “aha! moment” this only confirmed what has been preached for years now “Africa is where it is happening”. From Afropunk Brooklyn, Paris, London, Atlant to now Johannesburg. In 2016 when Grace Jones replaced MIA as the headliner at inaugural Afropunk festival in London, I completely lost my shit. I had never wanted to go to London so badly. Not only that but just go to London for Afropunk, spur of the moment type of trip. Then I remembered I hold a South African passport and the currency I get paid in is South African rand.
For those who are not familiar with the Afropunk Festival brand, it described as a “musical institution” defining culture in the music world for over 14 years, a triumph of multiculturalism and diversity for people of all races, genders, colours, creeds and tastes. New York, Atlanta, London, and Paris are all home to global Afropunk events.
Last night I attended the Afropunk Johannesburg inaugural festival lineup announcement party, at the Constitution Hill’s Women’s Jail which was attended by an eclectic mix of guests. Being in that space you could somewhat have a strong sense of what is usually referred to as the “Johannesburg creative scene” was about. So much gold in one confined space. Sal Masekela, yes Bra Hugh’s son was the host and announced the line up which include: Solange, Laura Mvula, King Tha vs. Blk Jks, Theo Parrish, The Brother Moves On, Spoek Mathambo, Black Motion, Gods Sons & Daughters, Manthe Ribane & OKZharp, DJ Lag, Urban Village, Nakhane Toure, Nonku Phiri and TCIYF, with more performers set to be announced.
“Thoughtful curation sees house, kwaito, punk, hip-hop, soul, reggae, roots, pop and other genres all a part of the Afropunk Johannesburg celebration that will culminate in an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party in this awesome African city.” – festival co-creator Matthew Morgan
This year’s AFROPUNK theme is WE THE PEOPLE, and it is reflected in the musical lineup as well as the food, art and style marketplace aspects of AFROPUNK. “The theme of WE THE PEOPLE, a phrase that begins both the American and South African constitutions, and was chosen specifically to coincide with AFROPUNK’s first outing in Johannesburg. Which makes the Constitution Hill venue even more poignant“ says Morgan.
The Afropunk Johannesburg festival will take place on December 30-31, at Constitution Hill. A date I think is rather unfair. I suppose my subjective view is influenced by the fact that spending December holidays in Johannesburg was never part of my plans let alone celebrating new years eve at a music festival and welcoming 2018 jamming to Solange was definitely not part of my plans. Solange is one of the most celebrate headline act so one is inclined to assume she will play prime time slot. When you live and work in Johannesburg city, the first thing you want to do is leave the city and go unwind and let your hair down in a different city, country, town or village. It is common fact that Johannesburg is uninspiring during the December holiday period. For the tourists that are in town during that period they do not stay long and treat the city as two, three days stop over before continuing their journey to coastline cities, safari destinations or other neighbouring countries. Perhaps this is where the strategic partnership between the Gauteng Tourism and the Afropunk entity comes in. To try and make Johannesburg a destination of choice for travelers and a staycation for those who live or work in the city. Besides all this being good for the culture let us not forget that this also will act as a great economic driving force via the travel and tourism sector. We do need any form of economic spike considering our junk status and socio-political and socioeconomic standing at the moment.
As it stands I am conflicted. Do I become part of the history and attend the inaugural Afropunk Johannesburg festival or continue with my initial December 2017 holiday plans as planned from the beginning of the year. Do I resist or crumble? Last night, left with a soul full after King Tha vs Blk Jks performance yet disappointed by the prospect of me not being there for the actual festival. If you know where you stand at the moment you can buy tickets HERE.
Images credit: © Jerri Mokgofe Photography