Anatomy of a Street Culture Festivalby Atiyyah Khan / Images by Lee-Roy Jason / 04.10.2011
It was exactly the moment when the Blk Jks took to the stage, front man Lindani thrashing around, with the bright lights of Ponte Towers illuminated in the background, that the realisation was brought home that no place holds it down with as much “street” as inner-city Joburg. Nothing comes close to feeling that mix of grit and urban energy. This might have even been the reason that Capetonians materialised en masse in the big city for the event.
STR.CRD, billed as “Africa’s largest street culture showcase”, exploded onto the streets of the Maboneng Precinct last Saturday. Music, graffiti, dancing, cool kids in their pimped up kicks, hipsters and haters collided. Last year the event took over the Cape Town Train Station, and for its second incarnation it stepped up a level on Commissioner Street in Jozi.
Local and international brands represented, showcasing their latest gear with a particular emphasis on sneakers. Cameras clicked and whirred. Cool kids abided. But perhaps the best part about STR.CRD was its ability to attract people not even vaguely interested in street culture.
Despite a rash of last minute obstacles, the festival organisers used the space wisely and on a technical level, there were no major delays. In fact there was so much going on that it was easy to get caught up in the breakdancing, skateboarding, sneaker customising, graffiti and music. There was even some kind of sumo-wrestling thing going on…
The food options were dismal, but the crowd just shifted focus and got their drink on. Those not interested in paying Sandton prices for their alcohol headed around the corner to the ghetto-price bottle store. God bless inner city Jozi.
Music acts like Popskarr, P.h.Fat, AKA, Ill Skillz and all the DJs in between spent their afternoon warming up the crowd, encouraging hands to be thrown in the air, amongst chants of “hey ho” and some regular booty-grinding. In contrast, the quirky left fieldsim of the Blk Jks space rock stood out as the evening’s highlight. But they still had their struggles to overcome. The sound system fucked out and the crowd was slow to be moved. But soon people who had no idea what these four black dudes were doing on stage, joined the hypnotized flow of Linda’s black patent leather dress. By the end of their set, fists pumped and legs rose high for a black hipster toyi-toyi, with the entire crowd singing popular protest chant Mzabalazo – a classic Heritage Day moment.
The line-up got a little confused with Desmond and the Tutus playing right before headliner Theophilus London, but the disconnection was short lived. It’s rare for South Africa to be placed on the touring schedule of artists on the cusp of “exploding internationally” and Theophilus London was given enough love even from people unaware of his music, but were charmed by his ability to genre-hop with ease. The Brooklyn-based performer appeared on stage in a Springbok Rugby Jersey and later stripped to reveal a blinged out vest. His signature tune, “Flying Overseas” caused a riot and as an exclusive for the STR.CRD crowd, London performed new material from his upcoming mixtape. New York based artist and designer Va$htie, popped on stage only briefly to “show support” but ended up disappointing the many people who would have loved to see her spin some tunes. The set still ended on a high note when Blk Jks guitarist Mpumi Mcata accompanied London on stage for his rendition of “Calypso Blues” by Nat King Cole.
In a place like Joburg, where scenes tend to develop, rise and die in isolation, STR.CRD offered a rare opportunity for people from vastly diverse backgrounds and interests to get together, get down and flirt with (or go all the way and purchase) the latest in street culture retail. While many remain critical of the Maboneng Precinct’s role in the development of the inner city, partying on the streets of Joburg should not feel like a novelty. STR.CRD offered the three ingredients of a great urban event. A successful menage a trois, as it were, of fashion, music and the more abstract energy of a rising urban public space… and that’s what made STR.CRD a success.
*Tune in tomorrow for Montle Moorosi‘s take.
*All images © Lee-Roy Jason / STR CRD.