Die Antwoord: On the Fickleness of Music Consumption
Back in 2008 I was milling about on campus when I saw an A4 sized black & white poster advertising a show happening in the top floor of the Neelsie Student Centre. The show? Max Normal TV (now known as Die Antwoord – world famous, record breaking South African music group). They were doing some kind of poetry show of sorts. As I stepped a little closer, I saw that Ninja (Waddy Jones) had hand-written on the poster: “Guys, please, please come watch my show and bring as many of your friends as you can. I’ll really appreciate it if you could come!”. I thought this was a shame. I mean, I knew this guy was a gifted wordsmith and here he was literally begging people to come to his gig. I can almost guarantee that no-one attended that show, people generally don’t do shows in the top floor of that building. At the time, nobody cared who Max Normal was (much less knew any of the string of projects Jones had running prior) – in fact, his poetry and rap music made then was probably 100 times better than what they do now as Die Antwoord. One year later, as Die Antwoord everyone thought they were an overnight success. You can almost go anywhere in the world now and next to the typical questions of whether lions walk freely in the streets in South Africa, you’ll get asked if you know Die Antwoord. Now, suddenly everyone wants to be associated with Waddy Jones. Human nature and music consumption is a fickle thing…
At the time I’d only heard one song by Max Normal TV on a electro/hip hop compilation released by Cape of Good Dope Records (which I scored for free from the radio station I used to work at). It was only until I heard Waddy Jones do a spoken word poem on jazz trumpeter Marcus Wyatt‘s 2005 (in my opinion – groundbreaking) release Language 12, that I was truly blown away. I still listen to the track to this day. I was blown away by Jones’ meta-narrative, almost self-referential words and how he really got under your skin without being vulgar or obscene (much like Die Antwoord does now).
Ironically in 2009, one of my friends came back from RAMfest (the festival Brother & Brother played two weeks ago) saying that Die Antwoord (then a relatively new project – a rebranding of sorts) were the crappest act at the festival. No one raved. A couple of months later, the video for their single Enter the Ninja (which had then already been online for something like 9 months was discovered by Boing Boing and shot the group to instant, overnight fame – worldwide. When Fred Durst and Katy Perry started tweeting about Die Antwoord, the South African public (including the radio station I worked at) were suddenly the group’s praise singers – claiming them for themselves, and taking great pride in the fact that this was a South African, home grown, local band. Later, Die Antwoord became the first South African act to sign with Interscope Records, label home of Lady Gaga, Eminem and the Black Eyed Peas.
At the time of Die Antwoord’s overnight discovery, I was playing in a run of the mill stoner rock band whose manager was somewhat of a gig mafioso. On the night Die Antwoord intended on playing in Stellenbosch, our band’s manager had already booked the biggest rock music venue in the town for our own show – Klein Libertas Theatre. Upon hearing that we had already booked the venue, Die Antwoord’s management threatened to book the town hall if they couldn’t use Klein Libertas Theatre. Seeing an opportunity for cross-pollination (and a possible one way ticket to fame), our manager reached a consensus with the venue that Die Antwoord could play provided our band opened for them.
Suddenly, I was an overnight celebrity amongst all my friends at work and amongst those who knew me! I was opening up for Die Antwoord! To this day, people still can’t believe I opened up for them.
The gig came and went in my opinion. Despite the fact that we played on this huge stage with LCD monitors behind us the size of eye-balls – we as the opening band, were pretty much ignored. Not that I blame anyone, the music we were playing was crap. It’s one of the reasons I quit the band. The ‘dancefloor’ was empty when we played. When it was Die Antwoord’s turn to play, there wasn’t even a blade of grass to stand on because the place was packed. People got drunk, Die Antwoord threw curse words at them, the bass was heavy, the loops repetitive.
Die Antwoord hasn’t since done a venue as small as Klein Libertas Theatre (which is the biggest venue in this town). They are now doing their second countrywide tour of the USA and have even opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers (despite declining Lady Gaga on her offer to be supporting act on her world tour).
But even now, it seems that they’re running out of ideas on how to shock people. I mean now, when they release a new shocking video – I don’t even watch it anymore. I wonder if the public is over it?
18 March – Jerome Rex en Geselskap on KykNet’s Kollig (9pm)
22 March – Oesfees at Solms Delta/Brother & Brother at Aandklas with Four a Penny and Sexy Bamboo
27 March – Solms Delta Soetstemme at Fyndraai
30 March – Kuila Expression Session
3 April – Brother & Brother at Bohemia
26 April – Brother & Brother at Roeshdien Jaz’s EP Launch with Siphokazi Jonas, Nassau Auditorium