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HIP HOP: TURNING POP CULTURE INTO A CULTURE OF RESISTANCE

RearrangedReality

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http://phreshmagazine.co.za/?p=548
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I listened with shock to Mdu Masilela, the godfather of Kwaito admit without a trace of shame in his voice that around 1994 the powers that were invested a lot in Kwaito music as they saw it as a tool to calm down the extremely angry youth of that time (this was during a show called Evolution broadcast during the world cup). The question is; why was there a need to calm down the youth? Is not an angry youth a necessary ingredient for a revolutionary moment, the only need then becoming that of giving proper direction to the anger? The answer to this is that the ANC, as led by Nelson Mandela sold out Black people in the 94 negotiations (negotiations are by definition a sell out) and so needed something to take people’s minds off what was really happening. Critical thinking would have to be suspended as this would be of serious detriment to their sell out project.

Speaking at a meeting in Soweto in 1989, to the dismay of everyone there Frank Wilderson said the following about Mandela ‘If he is released then he will use his biblical stature to justify an accomodationist stance whereby cosmetic changes will be heralded as essential’ (Frank Wilderson III, Incognegro). If lacking Wilderson’s foresight then with the benefit of hindsight this is a perfect description of the post-94 project carried out by the ANC with Nelson Mandela as its poster boy. The ANC agreed to, perhaps even suggested a constitution internationally heralded as one of the most progressive in the world. This constitution declares that ‘everyone has a right to private property and for that property to be protected’. This was adopted in one of the most unequal societies in the world where one group of people (whites) had enriched themselves through sheer thieving from and exploitation of the other group (Blacks). In simple terms, the constitution said that white (ill gained) wealth will not be touched. To Mandela and his gang there was therefore no past; no slavery, colonisation nor apartheid (which was declared a crime against humanity, the effect of protecting wealth accumulated during it is to protect proceeds from crime) or the past had no bearing on the present and future, there was also no present; no Alexandra (which “normally” exists along the splendour of Sandton), no Khayelitsha, Kliptown or Gugulethu to name a few, there was only their romantic dream of reconciliation and racial harmony without justice. The ANC then sought to buy back stolen land; how pussy is that? To this end it has only achieved to return back around 6% of the Land which means that over 70% of it is still in white hands. This ensures the continuation of the horrors of farm workers and shack dwellers in our “rainbow nation”.

My interest as a Hip Hop head is, would Hip Hop have made a different call to that of “calm down, put away your dream journals and dance”? Put differently, did the absence of, say Ben Sharpa on that rooftop enable Mdu to shout gibela phezu kwendlu ubatshele uMaZola sekada and not “f*** the rainbow nation because 94 changed fokol”? Here I make the argument that the ma** popularisation of Kwaito provided and still provides a crowding out scenario for Hip Hop and thus for consciousness and critical thinking. My point is that this anti-Black system would never allow Hip Hop to thrive until it waters itself down because in its “unwatered down” state it provokes thought and thought is the basis for rebellion; a threat to the system. When Andries Tatane was shot while protesting one would have expected that the next day Ben Sharpa’s Hegemony would have received record breaking radio airplay and downloads but alas we continued singing imot’ entshontsh’ imali. The banning of Zubz’ track “Get out” for apparently inciting violence comes to mind at this point (In the same album Zubz showed the shallowness of his politics when he declared Mandela “The greatest revolutionary of our time”). Here the perceived incitement of violence calls for a crisis and nothing is said of the state violence that Black people encounter on the daily. Therefore it’s not so much a detesting of violence per se but a ‘preference for state violence over the [liberating] violence of the people’ (Slavoj Zizek). So the system lets Zola, El’vovo, Cleo and Professor to succeed because they keep the ma**es entertained and pacified. The Blackwash dream writes beautifully on this when it says “when a Black infant draws its last breath in a cardboard box, the machine is there to turn up the volume of our of favourite kwaito song so we refuse to hear the sound of life escaping little bodies by the hundreds. When a rock crushes the bones of a miner it is there with the thud-thud of our favourite Jika Majika dancers so we refuse to see what lies behind the happy young natives.” So the tactic becomes this; keep them chanting more and thinking less.

But kwaito has another role it plays which is the glorification of township life; think Zola’s Ghetto Fabulous which is nothing but a glorification of these “labour reserves” we call townships. A friend on facebook (who I am at pains to remember) made a point of how this is like Jews singing “Concentration camp fabulous”. Here we are made to celebrate township life and thus we accept our systematic relegation to it and never question it. Heck, we even argue about who comes from the roughest ghetto or who comes from the “most hip and happening”. This is slaves seeing their chains as bling and as Talib Kweli beautifully put it “arguing about who’s got the fliest chain”. The ghetto is a motif in kwaito music, so kwaito has a direct interest in maintaining the ghetto; so there actually has to be amagenge ekoneni for Mandoza to ask “uzoyithola kanjani uhlel’ ekoneni”. The destruction of the ghetto then removes a major subject, a source of enjoyment, a large contributor in the million copies sold (with lots of the profits going to white Label bosses), so kwaito can never fight for the destruction of the ghetto. Hip Hop heads must understand that they can only speak of love for the ghetto if by that they are speaking of the people in the ghetto and not the place itself because that place was created to keep us there.

Kwaito plays another role in the post 94 project which is quite similar to that played by your mainstream US Hip Hop artists. Kwaito is the face of the (few) Blacks who have “made it”. This we see in the Durban music videos of Tshisa nyama’s and pool parties in big mansions. This new cla** of Blacks is often characterised by cra** spending often funded by credit. They then shout “uzoyithola kanjani uhlel’ ekoneni”. Here they miss the point that it’s not that we don’t get success because of chilling at the corner but we chill at the corner because we are not succeeding. Here they play the cla**ic liberal politics of blaming the victim, the truth is that not all of us can “make it” and way too often those who are lucky enough to do so do so by exploiting their own people. I am not at all against success and I take nothing away from the Blacks who achieved it but they must be aware that they are being a**imilated into this anti-Black system and used as an excuse for its failures. A better example was Tupac, who, despite his glories stayed conscious of the condition of his people and what perpetuates them.

It is interesting to note how the ANC uses kwaito and gospel stars in its rallies and campaigns such as Chomi. Kwaito and gospel work in similar ways in that (most of the time) they appeal to emotion, often happy emotion and crowd out any thought. The ANC is now launching its own pop talent search show; it would be interesting to see if singing a politically charged, anti-state audition song would make the contender stand any chance. Key to maintaining the status quo is forgetting, so Tha Hymphatic thabz writing as Jan Van Riebeeck urges us to “forget that past” for that will “do a lot of harm to what he’s done”. The (Black) MC must therefore be that voice that constantly reminds us of the injustices our people have to bear, urging us to heighten our sense of injustice. So as kwaito is the face of the (few) credit funded Black elites, Hip Hop must be the face and voice of the (many) poor and forgotten Black people. We must understand that we cannot merely be observers because our Black skin makes us available to the same violence we write about and so we must be actively involved in struggles to destroy the power that unleashes such violence.

I think Hip Hop has a task on her hand to create out of pop culture a culture of resistance. As Kwame Ture best said it, “The culture of all oppressed is the culture of resistance… Thus all artists coming from an oppressed people must represent resistance in their art form”.

Black Molar.


K'niep Tang

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Read this last night after DPlanet tweeted about it.

Many interesting and valid points here.

Then this morning I thought to myself: What was that "Trafiek Kop" kwaito joint about? Anybody got it or remember what it was about?

Is it fair to dismiss all kwaito as something to "keep the ma**es entertained and pacified", something to "crowd out... consciousness and critical thinking"?
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Interesting read. Things are never so black and white for me. Not all kwaito is frivolous and happy. Songs like Dont cry by Zola were certainly meaningful. Hip hop often times does not speak to South African culture, the ryhthms and language and mannerisms are alien. Maskandi does a better job of raising social awareness to the poor of the poor. With hip hop oftentimes there's a cla** element. It seems to appeal to the higher sectors of our society.


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Is it fair to dismiss all kwaito as something to "keep the ma**es entertained and pacified", something to "crowd out... consciousness and critical thinking"?

yes




RearrangedReality

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Is it fair to dismiss all kwaito as something to "keep the ma**es entertained and pacified", something to "crowd out... consciousness and critical thinking"?

That's the part I don't like about the article. 


RearrangedReality

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Is it fair to dismiss all kwaito as something to "keep the ma**es entertained and pacified", something to "crowd out... consciousness and critical thinking"?

yes

hahah!


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Kwaito doesn't stand alone though.

Note how hip hop has become less and less about issues, and more and more about who has the most nut-hugging jeans and silly dance steps, while those artists who still try to make music with a message, are shunned at home and enjoy cult following overseas. This indicates that something in what they are saying doesn't sit well with the powers that be and its in their interest to keep them in the shadows, rahter than having them get the same exposure as say a JR or Jozi.

There are a few exceptions, like Tumi and  the V, but I think this may have something to do with him being less militant and in your face with a f*** you.




RearrangedReality

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Interesting read. Things are never so black and white for me. Not all kwaito is frivolous and happy. Songs like Dont cry by Zola were certainly meaningful. Hip hop often times does not speak to South African culture, the ryhthms and language and mannerisms are alien. Maskandi does a better job of raising social awareness to the poor of the poor. With hip hop oftentimes there's a cla** element. It seems to appeal to the higher sectors of our society.

on point...

There is no genre of music with more revolutionary lyrics in SA than maskandi


K'niep Tang

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Kwaito doesn't stand alone though.

Note how hip hop has become less and less about issues, and more and more about who has the most nut-hugging jeans and silly dance steps, while those artists who still try to make music with a message, are shunned at home and enjoy cult following overseas.

This is something we can't deny. And the situation wtih Zubz's Get Out is a clear example of the powers that be trying to hush music that may spark some sort of a revolt, or even just an iota of thought from the listeners. But we musn't forget the business element behind the Souljaboy's and Jozi's of the world - the ma**es out there (at least those being targeted by our media/corporates/advertisers) aren't really crying out for a Ben Sharpa to take the stage coz he won't make'em dance. So the endorsement of a Ben Sharpa by a big corporate or even a major record label doesn't really serve their best interests, which is to make money.

Which brings me to this question:

"Is pop music popular coz it's what the peeps want/ or is it popular because it's what the powers that be punt?"

I mean if it was a Ben Sharpa getting played 24/7 on 24 different radio and TV channels, 7 times a day, would that be what's deemed cool? That whole force feed'em til they like it thing?
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Which brings me to this question:

"Is pop music popular coz it's what the peeps want/ or is it popular because it's what the powers that be punt?"

I mean if it was a Ben Sharpa getting played 24/7 on 24 different radio and TV channels, 7 times a day, would that be what's deemed cool? That whole force feed'em til they like it thing?

im my opinion the two have to work together. u dont expect people to move to something that doesnt move them.

the message could be profound but if it doesn't cater for the sensibilities of the market it wont get consumed.

put B sharpa's words on a far east movement sound and then play it on radio all day everyday, the connection will be made.


thats what id do if i was Someone like sharpa or Zubz's A&R
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RearrangedReality

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Kwaito doesn't stand alone though.

Note how hip hop has become less and less about issues, and more and more about who has the most nut-hugging jeans and silly dance steps, while those artists who still try to make music with a message, are shunned at home and enjoy cult following overseas.

This is something we can't deny. And the situation wtih Zubz's Get Out is a clear example of the powers that be trying to hush music that may spark some sort of a revolt, or even just an iota of thought from the listeners. But we musn't forget the business element behind the Souljaboy's and Jozi's of the world - the ma**es out there (at least those being targeted by our media/corporates/advertisers) aren't really crying out for a Ben Sharpa to take the stage coz he won't make'em dance. So the endorsement of a Ben Sharpa by a big corporate or even a major record label doesn't really serve their best interests, which is to make money.

Which brings me to this question:

"Is pop music popular coz it's what the peeps want/ or is it popular because it's what the powers that be punt?"

I mean if it was a Ben Sharpa getting played 24/7 on 24 different radio and TV channels, 7 times a day, would that be what's deemed cool? That whole force feed'em til they like it thing?

Yes, play it often enough it will be liked. How long did it take before house music became this popular? I think that midtempo thing did the trick, then it got to the more up tempo, then can u believe SA black folk listen to electro(if that's the correct term) when we  actually never used to f*** with uptempo music, calling it white or coloured music. 


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I just skimmed through the article due to time constraints. It brings about some interesting points but it also sounds like the old south african hiphop heads acting "holier than thou" and we been through this before?

Kwaito is almost dead due to house music why would you pick on it now?  ;D

Also, I found that the south african hiphop community was very quiet about Andreas Tetane. How are we going to diss kwaito then? Thats just hypocritical.
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Ahhhh this article is all about  the ANC's Election Campaign Ad??? I have been tricked! I don't give a damn about a Chomi song. The ANC is going to loose a lot of votes because of Chomi's bad singing.
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I just skimmed through the article due to time constraints. It brings about some interesting points but it also sounds like the old south african hiphop heads acting "holier than thou" and we been through this before?

Kwaito is almost dead due to house music why would you pick on it now?  ;D

Also, I found that the south african hiphop community was very quiet about Andreas Tetane. How are we going to diss kwaito then? Thats just hypocritical.

Concerning Andries Tatane,I do not think it is fair to expect Hip Hop to act on ad hoc basis, that is to say it must say something according to events. I think it is enough (and this is so for any discourse) to have a basic perspective on issues with people being able to use this perspective to understand events. What i mean is, Hip hop didn't have to say anything about Tatane but if people had heard say Sharpa's Hegemony or KRS' Sound of the police and Black cop then they would have been able to understand Tatane's murder as not just police killing a protestor but as an anti-Black state with the popo as its button men killing a Black man.
"Why was the worker shot? Because he protested... Why was the negro shot? Because he was there. This is the gratuitous (without cause) violence against Black people that so called pure marxist can't comprehend" Frank Wilderson.


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I just skimmed through the article due to time constraints. It brings about some interesting points but it also sounds like the old south african hiphop heads acting "holier than thou" and we been through this before?

Kwaito is almost dead due to house music why would you pick on it now?  ;D

Also, I found that the south african hiphop community was very quiet about Andreas Tetane. How are we going to diss kwaito then? Thats just hypocritical.

Concerning Andries Tatane,I do not think it is fair to expect Hip Hop to act on ad hoc basis, that is to say it must say something according to events. I think it is enough (and this is so for any discourse) to have a basic perspective on issues with people being able to use this perspective to understand events. What i mean is, Hip hop didn't have to say anything about Tatane but if people had heard say Sharpa's Hegemony or KRS' Sound of the police and Black cop then they would have been able to understand Tatane's murder as not just police killing a protestor but as an anti-Black state with the popo as its button men killing a Black man.

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