Just as the weather forecast forewarned it rained a lot and as history can attest it usually rains on the 30th and 31st of December in South Africa. No surprises there. And just as Afropunk (AF), the annual arts festival that culminates in to alive music, race relations, solutions dialogue sessions, self-expression and identities, sex and gender, politics, health, activism, and art produced predominately by black artists and allies stated, the festival was billed as rain or sunshine thus everything went forth; mudslinging, stomping or sliding.
Under the music category, ‘let us introduce you to some new shit ‘ AfroPunk billed NomiSupasta who gave an almost-gospel-RNB mash-up performance. Followed by the two-time Grammy-nominated multi-genre music producer and an all-around creator, Flying Lotus’ experimental electronic music set that morphed into hip-hop beats such as the likes of Kendric Lamar’s ‘bitch don’t kill my vibe’, was definitely some unexpected fringe musical offering to those not familiar with the artists.
The southeast Londonites DJ duo, BBZ (Bold Brazen Zamis) or babes’ set offered just the right amount of Angolan Kuduro, Brazilian Funk, Caribbean beats, Gqom and dancehall. Listen, if it has drum-and-bass we good.
Trompies backing track cocooned their vocals, not certain if that can be put against the sound engineer for not properly adjusting their microphones or the chords were not rested and exercised properly in preparation for the show or they are simply not there anymore. Was the stage presence and energy there, suppose you would have to been there to answer that one. It’s always great to see the legends being afforded a platform however there is a risk degree of the audience not adjusting the expectations bar which can result in disappointment when those expectations are not met. Their performance reminded me of how stunning Thebe’s performance at AF 2017 was, a moment in time.
Big Freedia, a New Orleans based rapper who also answers to the Queen of Bounce ‘s bass went in just as much as sis’s sea blue glitter eyeshadow, sparkly embellished nail art, and dancers twerk ability did. That dirty underground bounce beat summoned the inner ratchet within, by fire by force. So much that when the dancers went off stage to twerk-it-up at the front of the stage one audience member deemed it ‘appropriate’ to slap one of the dancers ‘ ass; and just when I thought it couldn’t get worse he continued to pour a drink over her ass. Before security intervened. It was on the monitors for us all to see. A disturbing sight especially because that’s what AP’s building block stand against hashtag: “no unwanted sexual attention” et. el
Another cringe-inducing moment was when Big Freedia sang ‘I got gin in my system, someone is gonna be my victim tonight’. Devoid of context these words are open to personal interpretation by the listeners and some can view them as perpetuating alcohol-induced-violence. However, unless you have asked the artist directly what they meant by these words it would be unjust to assume you know explicitly what they meant. A counter-argument could be that the honours is on the artist to set a context to the words or practice caution on their set selection based on the platform they are performing at.
On the subject of violence, I was physically hustled by the Eyethu Events security personnel whilst we were gaining access into the Hyundai basement activation party. No surprises there Eyethu Events (Pty) Ltd is enjoying their position of power in what seems like a monopoly in the events arena in Johannesburg. You would think that their security staff members would have apt emotional intelligence and crowd control skills by now, given the pedigree contracts the company secures and projects they execute. However, violence, aggression, and lack of crowd management skills is something I have come to expect from them. Sadky, rationalized as an ‘inconvenience situation’. There is bound to be one security member highly intoxicated on their false sense of power to truly believe that they can put their hands on you as they wish, push you around and think it appropriate. And justify it as behaving according to some form of mandate. If that is not enough they still, expect you to be quiet about that nonesense.
Given the controversy around YoungstaCPT inclusion into AP line up after the Joburg based makeup artist Muzi Mabena, accused him of ‘transphobic taunts’ towards him and further stating that he had not received an apology from Youngsta CPT and ‘it would be sad indeed if AfroPunk kept him on the line up, it would be upsetting as transphobia or any of this nature go against the culture of Afropunk.”
YoungstaCPT was in the lineup and his set had moments that came across as addressing that issue implicitly. Like, during his freestyle set where he took keywords from asking the audience to lift any item in the air and infusing that particular item in his rap. Someone lifted an LGBTIQ flag that got panned on the monitor screens and the artist casually noted the flag as part of his rhythm. Does that constitute as an apology for those transphobia accusations and the community, absolutely not, nevertheless, it was an interesting observation.
His socio-political spoken word rap style was felt and spinal-cord-straightening as he didn’t eggshell walk on topical issues such as racism, apartheid, colonialism, and the theft of land amongst many resources which left the native South Africans in poverty and at a disadvantage still to date. His annunciation is incredible, he articulately drives the audible message home. I am one of those people who really struggle to hear what most rap artists say when they share their message through songs. Sometimes it sounds like words stringed along to form an off-beat sentence or at times words that do not qualify as sentences. Or it could totally be a fault on my part. Ask me I know, at times my attempts at writing are just as questionable.
In an era where scratch DJing style has been discussed under the subject lines ‘Dying Art Of Turntablism ‘ due to cultural taste change or evolution. And the fact that advanced technology has made it possible for rewind-forward-and-repeat DJs to be a thing. Or the use of beat matching applications has made it easier to become a DJ.
Ready D was a refreshing element on the turntables too. He is still carrying the torch and leading the way as one of the most popular and talented turntablists in SA. Even though at some point during his set I craved to hear him play something a little more current that reflects the music offering of today. Like scratching some Gqom beats into the set. In his defense, he did play Mgarimbe’s ‘Sister Bethina ‘ it has been agreed that song transcends time, therefore, it qualifies as current despite the fact that it was released in 2013.
One has to stick to what they know best. I say Ready D, light on the fire and continue being the turntablist card-carrying member of all time. Do not let our silly little craving deter you. Like the Sowetan Afro psychedelic band, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC) do with their enchanting spiritual sound. They chant, they beat the drum, they whistle, they sing and awaken a level of consciousness from within and to expect anything other than would be unjust to their unique selling point.
I could never tire of seeing BCUC and their sets are always tailored and different from the last. Delivered with the same enigmatic energy as the last if not better. Their performance felt more like what an Afropunk music lineup should be majorly be composed of. There was just the right amount of Afro, Punk and other musical elements to reclaim the substance of punk back beyond the optics.
One of my favourite things about watching BCUC performance are the brief moments the lead vocalist, Zithulele ‘Jovi’ Zabani Nkosi stands still on stage staring into the crowd with an alpha-male conviction hinting that he has transcended and seeing things beyond the physical form of the roaring crowd. The stillness-stand-stare into the crowd posture he assumes occasionally is as if he is surrounded by an army of spirits from his lineage who have walked paths before him. It is surreal and daunting at the same time. A visual representation of Maya Angelou’s line “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000” from her poem called ‘Our Grandmothers”.
Kgomotso Mokone’s vocals on their rendition of Boom Shaka’s ‘Xwala’ came all the way through. A voice piercingly crisp it begged for an acoustic solo performance moment. I had never heard the group perform that particular song before therefore, I was pleased to hear some new material.
It was the first time experiencing DJ Maphorisa’s set . Give or take 15 minutes towards the end of this set he brought out Moonchild to perform some of the work they had done together such as ‘iWalk Ye Phara’, ‘Makhe’ and their latest project “Ohh Nkosi Yami”. Naturally, sis and her dancers ate that shit the fuck up! I missed her solo act earlier during the day so it was great to get a glimpse of what she delivered in the afternoon before calling it a night. Moon’s light is as radiant as the sequined top she wore over the fishnet stocking and leotard combo. If it wasn’t for the wet soil I would have whipped out my gemstone, buried them in the soil to recharge and carried on to perform all the necessary full moon rituals because that child’s light sure knows how to work a crowd.