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Should we still be supporting Afropunk?

2018-12-29 17:00

In September City Press reported on local artists unhappy about their treatment last year’s Afropunk Joburg, as well as allegations of mistreatment of guests at Afropunk Brooklyn. Against these accusations, should we still be supporting them, asks Phumlani S Langa

The Afropunk music festival, taking place at Constitution Hill at the end of this month, has been a point of contention on the streets – and even in the City Press newsroom.

In September this year we reported on artists alleging they were treated unfairly during the festival last year, with The Brother Moves On saying one of their photographers had her camera yanked by an Afropunk crew member and graphic designer Sindiso Nyoni saying he had to wait months to be paid.

Other artists were unhappy about their images being used by an alcohol sponsor.

At Afropunk Brooklyn, guests were allegedly removed from the festival because one of them was wearing aT-shirt that read “Afropunk sold out for white consumption”.

There are those who will not attend this year’s event because, they say, the actions of the organisers in the US go against what this festival stands for – free expression and creative unity.

But the line-up is mind-boggling, which is what people like me – woke-ish homies – are struggling with.

On the line-up will be international acts The Internet, Kaytranada, Public Enemy, Big Freedia, Flying Lotus and Thundercat, alongside local heavyhitters, such as Thandiswa Mazwai, Moonchild Sanelly, FAKA and Dope Saint Jude.

I get that what happened to the artists was wrong. But I also find the prospect of watching Flying Lotus and Thundercat on New Year’s Eve enticing.

Moonchild Sanelly played Afropunk last year and her set was well received. I remember first seeing her at Basha Uhuru Freedom Fest when her sound was still more indie-pop than gqom.

The switch or addition of this new sound has seen her star soar and the single iWalk Ye Phara – with DJ Maphorisa, DJ Raybel, K.O and Zulu Mkhathini – is, in my opinion, the one for the year. Beyoncé even used it on an Instagram post she shared of her recent visit to South Africa.

The energetic singer says: “It has been a crazy f*cken year, the song is doing so well and the love is amazing. I got tagged by someone on Beyoncé’s post yesterday and I still can’t believe it.”

Next year we should be getting a new project from the eccentric and sultry singer as she is embarking on a process of collaboration both locally and abroad. “I’ll be recording a new album, as well as recording in London with Damon Albarn from the Gorillaz. It’s going to be surprise after surprise and lots of collaboration.”

Moonchild couldn’t say too much about the controversy surrounding the festival in Brooklyn as her experience had been fairly smooth. She says she usually rocks up and gets things pumping. “I’m going to have a crazy surprise on the night, tons of energy and new songs, it’s going to be so lit,” she says.

The singer is excited about seeing a few acts at Afropunk: “Kaytranada man, I saw him once, but it was just as I passed by his dressing room and now I’ll actually get to see him perform. Oh, and The Internet, oh my goodness, they should be great.”

We also caught up with a local drawcard to this festival and icon of South African pop culture, Thandiswa Mazwai, who might very well be the quintessential Afro punk.

She performed at the festival last year as King Tha with the BLK JKS. “Afropunk, as with any festival in SA, is filled with loads of happy and beautiful black people. The audience is similar to that of Basha Uhuru. It’s alternative and loads of fun,” she tells #Trending.

She has been going to the festival since it first started in Brooklyn, New York. She says: “Then it was a small block party with no more than 100 alternative black kids that loved punk music and anything that looked like free expression. Since then it has grown exponentially and has begun to explore more genres of ‘black music’.”

Mazwai didn’t seem to have any problems with festival organisers; her interactions so far have been pretty straight forward.

She says: “It has been cool. Festivals are mostly all the same. You send a quote, negotiate what works for you, send your technical and hospitality riders, then head over to the gig and kick ass.”

She says we can expect her set to be ritual as usual. “I have been to countless festivals around the world and have never expected the festival to create opportunities for collaboration. If artists want to collaborate they usually get in touch with the management of the artist they want.” She says sharing her energy is important but the energy the crowd throws back is as important. “Joburg does have particularly tough crowds.”

Mazwai says she is looking forward to sets by Busiswa and Nakhane. She’s really feeling FAKA and all their drip factor.

Mazwai also has big plans for the future: “Next year I hope to get Amandla Womxn Fest up on its feet and to start recording my next solo album, while working on Bongo Maffin as well.”

With Moonchild and Mazwai on the act, supported by a host of heavy hitters from abroad, this could be the ideal way to break into the new year. I just hope it won’t leave me feeling guilty.

Afropunk Joburg 2018 takes place December 30 and 31 at Constitution Hill. Tickets R600 to R1 100 at afropunk.howler.co.za/events/3738/tickets

No money? You can also earn a ticket by volunteering your time, passion and talents. Go to afropunkfest.com/johannesburg/tickets/earn-a-ticket/ to find out

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May 19 2019