What was the question again?

Last Thursday night I was standing in Westdene after watching Boo!. Friends and I were discussing the weekend’s plans. When I mentioned my plan to go check out Die Antwoord in Newtown, the reaction was lukewarm. “I’m so over zef,” somebody may have said. Were the zef thing the main draw card, I might have cared.

Honest to die hemel himself, I love Ninja’s rhymes and Hi-Tek’s beats more than I give two rat’s asses about their crew’s style. Consider the music a potent cure for boredom with “zef” being nothing more than its delivery system: the scuffed and scratched CD case that carries an album of awesome hip hop and rave-rap beats. I’m not known for my love of rap, but local acts were starting to bore me, so maybe Die Antwoord managed to capture my imagination at just the right moment. On Friday night, they were going to provide me something to jump to, to shout to, and to review, and 5FM and PUMA had finally cottoned on to what most people knew for maybe a year or more before them.

The party opened at The Woods Live with the bouncers proving that club owners across the country are the same guys who hire the same twats. 5FM’s Roger Goode started things off, getting the okes and binnits two-stepping and shoulder-shuffling awkwardly while waiting for the main act. I know Roger Goode has his fans (many of whom were there on Friday), but to me the man is a musical butcher, his beats the equivalent of a smooth pink vienna. It’s not that he destroys beautiful pieces of music so much as he’s reached the absolute apex of his talent, unable to deliver anything new or interesting to the public. He combines sounds with such precise disinterest that they cannot fail to appease his targets, but that also leaves his tracks feeling soulless, unimaginative and boring. He was, however, probably the best opener the organizers could provide: a perfect bland medium between dance beats and elevator music.

Needless to say, when Hi-Tek took the stage, he took the club along with him.

There was something surreal about watching Die Antwoord arrive, zef styles and all. I’ve followed the internet craze and all the hype as it built up, but I’ve never seen them live before, so there was this strange sense of Muhammad finally coming to The Mountain. I was aware of their blatant South African-ness; of our ownership of their culture and brand, and yet I felt like I was watching an international act. Ninja and Yo-Landi presented themselves as a blend of the surreal and the tangible, giving the crowd the characters they had come to expect but reduced to actual flesh only a few feet away. While chanting “jou ma se poes in ‘n vis paste jar” along with Yo-Landi and the mismatched partygoers, I thought back to my friends’ reaction to Die Antwoord. Here I was, standing in a room full of people who, it seemed, hadn’t fully experienced this cultural sensation yet. They knew about it, and could jam along to it, but this was their first dip into some purer counterculture. Counterculture which, as it grows ever rapidly, will expand violently into the pop hemisphere and become something else. Die Antwoord’s road to dominance of this strange new place has been frighteningly fast. So fast, in fact, that your average South African youth may be weary of latching onto them. They’re already big/pop/a phenomenon in many ways: the old disguised as the new.

In South Africa, we crave 11th-hour heroes (Madiba) and the derision of success (Jacob Zuma) in the same breath. We want to ascend to international fame and fortune, but somehow preserve a sense of authenticity that never existed in the first place. Die Antwoord knows this, and the flaw that most people perceive in their strategic self-awareness, typified by Ninja’s expectant posing for the flashbulbs, seems to be the key to their success. Like I said, “zef” is the deliverer from boredom, and they milk every inch of their disgusting but successful images in a way Ninja’s proto-profiles like MaxNormal probably couldn’t. They know what they’re about and maintaining that 100% of the time is the only way to continue to ride the wave of success they’re experiencing. There’s talent and originality here, and it’s loaded right there in and amongst the filth.

After the show, I ran into a friend whose New Yorker cousin had asked to be taken to Newtown to see Die Antwoord. It may seem like an arbitrary notion, but a brand that permeates the international subculture so effectively is something other South African pop groups like The Parlotones only dream of. If that isn’t indicative of what Die Antwoord has achieved so far, I’m not sure what is.

3 Responses to “What was the question again?”
  1. RiaanWest says:

    Interesting take on the biggest thing coming out of SA since Mandela.

    I was at the CT show on Saturday, and was impressed with the trio’s stage presence. I agree with “Zef is the boredom killer” – the show was thoroughly enjoyable. Never have I smiled so broadly while being insulted every few seconds.

    Unique, semi-mindless and hilarious!

  2. IvanThe Burninator says:

    Nigga, I haven’t listened to these dudes in weeks. Thanks for reminding me of the awesomeness!

  3. Johnb9 says:

    I am impressed with this website, rattling I am a big fan. eeagebkkdagk

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