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Mar-29-2012 23:11printcomments

South Africa's 'Die Antwoord' is The Answer

Cape Town's Zef culture delivers a band like nothing you have ever seen.

Cape Town's 'Die Antwoord'
South Africa's 'Die Antwoord' -

(SALEM) - Sometimes you just have to ask the question in life, 'How the Hell did this happen"? Well maybe it is a more common phrase than I'm giving it credit for.

At any rate, while many will surely disagree, I see Die Antwoord as one of the coolest and most unique, albeit bizarre musical acts to emerge over the last couple of years, and it is well deserved. Their South African Zef is contagious, and I am getting ample doses.

I've heard so many accounts of what is taking place in South Africa over the last few years- since it banned racist laws that made Blacks second-class citizens.

Now we get to see the manifestation of its aftermath, welcome to Die Antwoord, Afrikaans for 'The Answer'. Here you learn that 'coloured' in South Africa represents people of mixed-race heritage who live in gang-oriented neighborhoods.

What happens to a country after political desegregation?

SA's Post-Apartheid Culture

When I look back at life in California during the 1980's, I recall the anti-apartheid campaigns against South Africa's institutionalized system of racial equality.

These memories stand out; I had a hard time as a kid comprehending that South Africa actually had a set of different laws for Black people. Bumper stickers carried the anti-apartheid message, as did live conversations, t-shirts, news articles, concerts, rallies and other solidarity events.

People could not stand the idea of a modern government dividing rights over skin color, yet that is exactly what South Africa did officially and on the record in front of the entire world and in spite of the objections of many nations, and both Great Britain and the United States solidly backed this racist, highly oppressive government. That's how the west rolls.

Of course it isn't like the U.S. is a stranger when it comes to supporting oppressive governments. The motto here really should be, 'Do as we say, not as we do' This country supported the British occupation of Northern Ireland, and today it backs the terribly racist apartheid government of Israel.

One thing the good old Estados Unidos has done in recent time, is to lead a war crime resolution against Sri Lanka for its recent, ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Christians.

I've heard the painful story of South Africa's apartheid years from people raised there; from both sides. It is a culture that has been turned upside down and returned to the political control of the indigenous people.

In this incredibly unique band, I see a merger of so many parts of Africa, white and black; it is in our face. I was initially shocked, however if you get past that, you too might find their music, at least some of it, very addicting.

Die Antwoord has three core members, and they feature many other, unique and talented people in their videos. I've never seen anything like what they do, absolutely scary-genius type stuff.

Die Antwoord has been around since 2008. The members are Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er (Yolandi Visser), and DJ Hi-Tek (Justin de Nobrega). Their debut album $O$ was made available as a free download on their official website. Their popularity was so epic so fast that their Web provider gave their site the boot and they were forced to contract with a U.S. firm to reestablish their presence.


I don't think there is any way to dress this up: Die Atwoord takes a little getting accustomed to, but delivers a sense-numbing, shocking and abrasive presentation of music, human energy and creative madness.

In a style that is reminiscent of Annabelle from Bow Wow Wow and other noted performers, with her nearly patented hard-to-get-used-to hair style, singer Yo-Landi brings an undeniably sexy, tainted presence to the screen and stage.

Here is a performer with an endless array of mind-blowing accompaniments; unlimited moves and boundless energy to compliment 'Ninja' and DJ Hi-Tek. It gets really weird, but also reveals a great deal about a culture far from the U.S., though never far from our interest.

The speed at which they deliver is blinding; that also applies to the way their presentation constantly changes and brings in new elements, and then there is the shocking side, it seems we are always looking for that in life and this band delivers in new dimensions.

Die Antwoord's Music

Raw talent is an undeniable commodity and the worst thing is when people don't take advantage of it. No problems with this band when it comes to this.

My evolution and upbringing had nothing to do with Hop-Hop, it hadn't been invented when I was a kid, and when it came around it wasn't my thing at all. Slowly, over time, I have come to appreciate much in the way of music that I was once closed-minded to.

And I have to say that when I first began to see this music being performed in other parts of the world, like Morocco and Palestine, even Afghanistan... I couldn't avoid having a great deal of interest.

Americans don't all have it easy, but people in 3rd world countries, or Afghanistan, 4th world in my opinion; have it infinitely harder in nearly every imaginable way. South Africa has not been on easy street for a long time, if it ever was.

The world is more open today it seems when it comes to music, and if we could ever move past this time of war and strife, particularly in the Middle east. but also throughout much of Asia, Africa and the Americas, we could all learn so much.

As Wikipedia states on their page about Die Antwoord:

Die Antwoord lead vocalist Ninja (born Watkin Tudor Jones) was part of the South African hip-hop scene for many years, fronting acts such as The Original Evergreens, MaxNormal.TV and The Constructus Corporation. He is known for adopting different stage personas. In the case of Die Antwoord, his persona is Ninja: a vulgar and aggressive character who is very different from his previous incarnations. When asked whether Ninja was a character he said, 'Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is, I don't take off this fokken Superman suit.'

The song 'Evil Boy' might be the single strangest music video in existence, it is heavy on penis images and represents the movement in South Africa to revers trends of male circumcision, a western medical procedure Africans are told will protect them from HIV and AIDS. All that has done is drive the rates of the disease higher, as circumcision has little to do with contracting this virus. However that only accounts for part of the circumcision controversy gripping much of Africa.

As Wikipedia explains:

The single Evil Boy contained a verse by guest vocalist Wanga (a Xhosa rapper) in his native language, which rejects the traditional Xhosa passage to manhood achieved in part by circumcision, electing to remain uncircumcised; thus an "evil boy for life". The video has garnered over 6.5 million views as of 29 Feb 2012

A Little Zef for your Day

Kameraad Mhambi noted that there is some confusion online over what the term Zef means. (Die Antwoord does Zef Afrikaans So what is Zef?)

Well its similar to Chav in the UK, as explained in a comment on the Guardian website, in the article, Scene and heard: Zef - This is a sweat-stained South African cousin to the UK's own white, working-class rap variant. It's District 9 donk.

The question to Die Antwoord, I believe, is an Afrikaans website called Wat Kyk Jy? (“What are you looking at, mate?”, that ominous last sentence you’ll hear in a pub before waking up on the ground).

The site pays homage to Afrikaans slang and zef ? an Afrikaans term that roughly translates to what we in South Africa also refer to as “common”: clapped-out Ford Cortinas with fur on the dashboard, tight mom jeans pulled up too high, “synth-heavy ringtone rave”, mullets. Zef isn’t a music style, and it’s not limited to any one culture or location, obviously, but celebrates it particularly well in Afrikaans (the site was born, incidentally, in Pretoria, 1000km north of CT).

So yes, Cape Town is also full of zef, and what Ninja, Yo-lande and their crew are tapping into brilliantly is zef in the coloured community (the official SA term for mixed-race people) of the gangster-ridden Cape Flats, which would include rap in the street venac mix of English and Afrikaans.
- Kameraad Mhambiaka aka wildebees

So now you know about this unique new three-member band from Cape Town that is changing the way young people see South Africa, very hip in this multi-cultural world we collectively share.


Scene and heard: Zef

Die Antwoord’s $O$


Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Jen June 15, 2012 8:41 pm (Pacific time)

I've just discovered Die Antwoord and this is my favourite article on the group. Thanks!

Tim King: Thanks so much, I really like this band too, cool!

ANWAR BALUCH March 30, 2012 8:36 am (Pacific time)

This is very true, people should hear the cruel stories of apartheid S.Africa how the blacks were treated in that era.Today if someone visiting S.Africa they must visit Apartheid museum, they will have idea what actually happened during the apartheid regime

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