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Die Vraag

Die Vraag

by Mungo Adonis / 15.03.2010

Die Antwoord have just signed a major record deal with Interscope. They’re shooting music videos with Neill Blomkamp and having lunch with David Lynch. But back in the Cape Flats, people still don’t know who they are.

I don’t like Die Antwoord. I’ve bought into Waddy’s other incarnations before and I’m running low on indulgence this time around. Mildly ironic, as it’s his current project that’s threatening to garner the success that he’s been dodging for decades.

The interweb is eating him and his Zef-rap up whole. I just wonder when it will get full and need to kots. Because Die Antwoord is like a droe snoek pizza delivered by Eminem: cheesy, fishy, aggressive, bound to make you ill and a fundamentally bad idea.

I wouldn’t mind having him appropriate another culture if it was done in a less cynical way. See, what’s novel and funny to white people smells like plastic and opportunism to coloured people.

For my part, I know the Flats. I grew up with the people that Die Antwoord is pastiching. They’re my uncles and friends and teachers and the girls that I hit on and the guys who used to chase me around on Guy Fawkes Day and the gangsters on the corners that my mother warned me about and the aunties reading The Voice on the train and the shopkeepers who let me buy on credit because they knew my grandfather and the brasse that I used to go half on a gatsby with at school but are vuil tikkoppe now. They are not Die Antwoord. No question.

Kaapse Flets

Waddy has always ninja-stepped the razor line between irony and sincerity, with many people believing that his varying personas were for real. This makes Ninja’s assertion that he is an embodiment of South African culture dangerous, particularly in the face of global attention. An entire people’s representation hangs on what is at best performance art and at worst commercial exploitation.

So while The Guardian, Pitchfork Media and uh… Katy Perry and Fred Durst are smaaking Die Antwoord, what about the people whose culture they are appropriating?

I take my laptop around to Grassy Park and played some songs from www.dieantwoord.com for my grandmother. “Hoekom moet hy so die heel tyd vloek  (Why does he have to swear all the time) ?” my grandmother wants to know. Me too, for that matter. Now, this is the woman who routinely referred to my German girlfriend as “plank-poes”. So she’s not afraid of a bit of profanity. But Die Antwoord’s swearing is cynical and not very clever. It’s not even gratuitous: it’s calculated to manufacture edginess and the illusion of street-cred.

Hotel Grassy Park

“Huh-uh. Ek lyk die gladtie  (Nope. I don’t like this at all) ,” Mama says. “Wat se hy? Huh-uh. Vat die kak weg!  (What’s he saying? Nope. Take this kak away) ”

I head around the corner to Bronwyn’s house. She was my Matric year girlfriend but we still chat regularly on Facebook. She still lives with her folks and her father still hates me and her room still reminds me of gangly teenage sex.

“I can’t actually hear what he’s saying,” she says after listening to ‘Enter the Ninja’. “Um… He raps very fast, hey. Umm… What’s Zef? And why’s she singing about his production?”

Things get a bit awkward during ‘Beat Boy’s graphic porno-rap. Memories, I suppose.

Bronwyn is not stoked about his accent either. To our ears it’s as authentic as Matt Damon’s South African accent is in Invictus. Americans might not notice the discrepancy, but the misplaced flat/sharp mispronunciations ring loudly in our ears.

Streets

Next, I go to visit my cousin in Heideveld. His mother hugs me, shoves a polony and cheese sandwich at me and says that Rashied is in his room. Aunty Tiefa loves her son but isn’t quite able to acknowledge that he is a full time drug dealer and low-ranking gang member. He’s sitting on his bed listening to his beloved Tupac’s Hit ‘Em Up. I worry about my laptop when I see that he’s got a scary looking friend there too who remains unintroduced. I play ‘Wie Maak Die Jol Vol’, ‘Wat Pomp’ and ‘Dagga Puff’ for them.

“Bwwwhahahhaaaahhaaa,” they laugh during ‘Wie Maak Die Jol Vol’ and ‘Wat Pomp’. “Befok ja!”

It seems that they dig the party stuff. They’re less enthused about ‘Dagga Puff’ and its intro supposedly detailing a dagga deal followed by music-box beats and kiddie rhymes. “It werk ‘ie ‘n fok soe nie  (it doesn’t go like that at all) ,” says Rashied. Die ou het nooit gemurt ‘ie, ‘n mens kan soema hoor  (this guy has never dealt before, you can easily hear).”

I show them the pics and they laugh more. “Ninja, huh?”, says Rashied’s friend. “Ek sal hom in sy poes in skop. Ouens innie mang sallie sy koukie tchappies grand ‘ie  (I’ll fuck him up. Guys in prison won’t dig his magic-marker tattoos).”

Coloured people are history’s middlemen – nie te wit ‘ie, nie te swart ‘ie, net reg. It must sound a bit rich to be defending Cape Flat’s culture from appropriation when the entire race springs from interracial banging and slave sex.

But it’s the manner in which Die Anwtoord goes about their business. The whole affair feels aggressive, high-concept and insincere. There’s nothing wrong with Ninja embracing his inner coloured and getting down at Galaxy with his darker-skinned brethren. He just shouldn’t shout that he is all of us. If he continues doing this it’s quite likely that one of Rashied’s friends will find him and kick him in his poes.

Vox Pop
Mungo asks a bunch of Grassy Park residents if they’ve heard of Die Antwoord.

Gakkie: No, not yet. I'm a busy man. No time to listen to music. When people pull up in cars, I listen. They must come here to the food stoep.

Gakkie: No, not yet. I'm a busy man. No time to listen to music. When people pull up in cars, I listen. They must come here to the food stoep.

Enriko: Who? Never heard of them.

Enriko: Who? Never heard of them.

Ahmed: No, no, never heard of them.

Ahmed: No, no, never heard of them.

Wayne: No sir. Never heard of that band.

Wayne: No sir. Never heard of that band.

The steak-masala Gatsby I had for lunch

The steak-masala Gatsby I had for lunch

Nathan: Die-who? No I don't know them. I'm a Tupac fan.

Nathan: Die-who? No I don't know them. I'm a Tupac fan.

Shakira: Who's this?

Shakira: Who's this?

Taliep: Never!

Taliep: Never!

Angie and Raynor: Hoezat?

Angie and Raynor: Hoezat?

Azarh: I never heard of Die Antwoord

Azarh: I never heard of Die Antwoord

Piel

All images © Andy Davis

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RESPONSES (124)
  1. masehare says:

    A parody (pronounced /ˈpærədiː/; also called send-up or spoof), in contemporary usage, is a work created to mock, comment on, or poke fun at an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. As the literary theorist Linda Hutcheon (2000: 7) puts it, “parody … is imitation, not always at the expense of the parodied text.” Another critic, Simon Dentith (2000: 9), defines parody as “any cultural practice which provides a relatively polemical allusive imitation of another cultural production or practice.” Often, the most satisfying element of a good parody is seeing others mistake it for the genuine article.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parody

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  2. Domkop says:

    Can anyone please tell me what Die Antwoord is actually making a parody off?

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  3. Sarah says:

    Nice article 🙂 Particularly nice angle to take. Thanks!

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  4. Andy says:

    you domkop… it’s all about you

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  5. alexd says:

    Great piece! I dig the portraits with response captions at the end too. The title is freakin’ hysterical too.

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  6. Zeffer says:

    Mungo – how the fuck is Die Antwoord about coloured culture? Next time you leave the Republic of the Western Fake – go visit Jan Hofmeyer there next to Brixton. There is life behyond the Flats bra!

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  7. Burnsides says:

    I’m pretty sure that Die Antwoord is supposed to be a parody South African “white trash”, and that any references to coloured culture is made in relation to this.

    Here is a quote from their entry on Wikipedia:
    “Zef being an Afrikaans term which loosely translates to the American equivalent of Redneck.”

    (And here is the definition of Redneck: a poor White person in the southern United States)

    I know that Wikipedia is not the most trustworthy of sources, but this is what I thought when I first watched/listened to them.

    You also mentioned his Accent. His accent is very similar to a lot of Afrikaans South Africans that I used to live with (all of whom are white). If you go to the Northern Suburbs, then I am sure that you would hear a lot of young men with exactly the same accent as his.

    Feel free to be as offended as you like, (I know how much South Africans enjoy being offended for no reason), but I do not think that ‘Die Antwoord’ is trying to offend, or (even parody) your culture.

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  8. Catharina says:

    Mungo, jy laat my lekker lag! Dis hoog tyd dat iemand dit se. Ek cringe as ek ‘die Antwoord’ hoor, want dis so obvious hulle sit an. Damn obvious, even vir my pienkerige ore. Wat maklik kan gebeur: dat hulle nog die kak uit almal irriteer, dan gaan die gier oorwaai, en dan gaan hulle saam met Kurt Darren die jol vol maak by die Huisgenoot tent. Daarna word Yolandi ‘n TV presenter, trou met ‘n doos, en share haar gunsteling resepte in die SARIE. ens.

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  9. Andrew says:

    Die Antwoord certainly have a lot of talent and are out there doing their own insane, eclectic shit. As a Capetonian born and bred I find it’s putting some of the more amusing elements of our culture out there in humorous ways. If some haven’t heard of it, it doesn’t mean they’re not good, just that radio here is complete load of shite that plays garbage pop before supporting local talent. Big up to all the dysfunctional crew that makes Die Antwoord – keep blazing your own trail.

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  10. […] The most powerful, thoughtful objection so far comes from Mungo Adonis at Mahala, who actually took Die Antwoord’s music around the Cape Flats and played it for the Coloured people she’d grown up with. The verdict is that a lot of people in […]

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  11. plank says:

    just as a beside: not one coloured in the zef side video…
    methinks this article is ‘n klomp kak, van ‘n hater wat te veel tyd op hande het, en probeer claim met al die references na real drug dealers, gatsby’s ens.
    my vraag: wie gee ‘n fok om…jirre, beweeg aan…get the fok over it…
    moenie luister as jy dit nie smaak nie…
    poephol

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  12. ja says:

    kak article

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  13. Fani says:

    This is possibly the coolest article i’ve read in ages.
    Well fucking done.

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  14. OG says:

    Haters gonna hate.

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  15. janifa says:

    Die Antwoord is a marketing and creative strategy and its working for sure. i think of cabaret work in the 80’s when things were really boiling and bleeding and we didn’t have to fabricate for shock because we were living it…Cabaret work dense with brilliant satire and shocking in your face, so close you couldn’t breathe in the Black Sun. I think of Matthew Krouse’s and Robert Coleman’s ‘Famous Dead Man He’ll Fuck You Up’ which was banned, based on Tsafendas and Verwoerd, and Kentucky Fried Chickies of Ferguson and Kruskal( which was the name for the tyre around the neck immolation so popular at the time)…When they sang *Drop Kick me Jesus, thro the goalposts of life…* for Ray McCauley and *Naai my Nasie naai my* a dedication to Naas Botha and The Nation, and Pik Botha was a climax in the kitchen scene::PikPikPik BOTHA!!! and it was devoid of light and yet life lines of truth when news/papers were blacked out for real….it was real pressure cooker time and the steam was blistering. But it was an unrecorded time. imploding like meteors in the gravitational field. there was no Utube and no tomorrow and boys who weren’t getting fucked up on the border were getting fucked up in bed by the girls who wanted them to be heroes and maybe that’s why The Answer is not..because there no more real quest/ion/s anymore. …?

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  16. Ned Seagoone says:

    Janifa: love your comment – vivid and insightful 🙂

    I hope you’ll consider putting these thoughts into an article for Mahala and contributing to recording the era. Think it’d make an interesting read.

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  17. […] and funny to white people smells like plastic and opportunism to coloured people.” Cape Flats writer Mungo Adonis continues, Waddy has always ninja-stepped the razor line between irony and sincerity, with many […]

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  18. […] uitbeeld. Een van die beste ontledings in laasgenoemde kamp behoort myns insiens aan Mungo Adonis, wat skryf: The interweb is eating [Ninja] and his Zef-rap up whole. I just wonder when it will get full and […]

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  19. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Your making the same point as Dan Roodt, except he got upset about the portrayal of Afrikaners by Die Antwoord.

    http://mhambi.com/2010/06/die-antwoord-is-the-answer-to-the-end-of-afrikanerdom-dan-roodt/

    I’m a huge fan of Die Antwoord, but I have to agree with you though – the recent – aggressive slant in their music is off-putting. I prefer the humour of their older stuff.

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  20. […] complaints. That they were disparaging Afrikaner culture. That they were appropriating and exploiting coloured culture. Snot, I said. They were a wonderful fusion of the […]

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  21. GhibliFan says:

    Right…so Waddy Jones, born and raised in South Africa has a..um…fake South African accent, and him being a man who has smoked more ‘dagga’ than most would know what to do with doesn’t know how a dagga deal goes down? Right…um…OK.

    Also, I am a white working class person from the area that Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen’s infamous satirical parody character hails from in the UK…so I take it I have to take offence to Ali G? Worry that the rest of the world thinks people like me a wannabe black street ‘gangstas’? No thanks….he is funny as hell, and I grant others of my colour and class the intelligence to see him for what he is. Just as I grant people from your walk of life the same.

    I’ve been a fan of Waddy for years…since The Original Evergreens, Max Normal TV and The Constructus Corporation…the man is a total genius. He isn’t trying to convince anyone that Ninja’s the real deal…he openly discusses his previous work in several interviews on Youtube. The next logical step for any self respecting Youtuber is to watch a Max Normal video…and BAM….even the dumbest poes in the room knows that Die Antwoord are just a satirical parody act. So what?

    More power to him…and white middle class school or not, I reckon he can handle himself…so let your cousin’s friends pay him a little visit. I reckon Anica (Yolandi) could take at least half of them.

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  22. Amsterdammer says:

    Hurray for GhibliFan. Totally agree. It might feel uncomfortable to have an artist appropriate your subculture if he’s not a member of it, especially if he’s not very complimentary, I understand that. The music and videos (and personas) that Die Antwoord come up with are so good and enjoyable as works of art in themselves, and they seem so dedicated, it’s hard for an outsider to feel offended by this appropriation and not to just completely enjoy them. Totally mesmerizing stuff.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    This is what I want to do, their is so
    Much more to the colored race. We to
    O hve a culture, their is this certain
    Charm that the community has that
    No matter what class colord you are
    It brings out the pride.

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  24. Spenceer says:

    Living in Australia, we heard Die Antwoord and though cool some South African music is getting play. Saw Waddy and heard his intro in Ninja explaining how he is the arcitype of South African people (Im Coloured) and I looked at him thinking is he coloured? (Must be the german side) cool, then I heard him spit and really dug his flow, the way he can mix sillables and words as an MC is comendable even thogh he goes off the rythim every now and then but thats just his swagger.
    Also good to see ‘Grassy Park’ I was staying there for a while last year at my families and really like the community aspect of the place (Grassy Park hotel, represent) Made a documentary while I was there called ‘What colour is freedom’ about people like my family who migrated to Australia.
    Trailer can be seen at:

    vimeo.com/44922009

    Hustle

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