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Culture, Music

Jack Parow’s Groot Trek

by Petra Mason, image by Sean Brand / 19.03.2010

In the neo South Africa, taxis, clubs, bars, and radio stations have had local talent “Show Dem – Make the Circle Bigger” by JR featuring HHP and “rapper Jack Parow’s “Cooler as Ekke” in heavy rotation. But recently I listened to Driemanskap’s “Camagu” and was reminded who is boss. The Xhosa hip-hop mash-up, about keeping African tradition alive, even if you live the life of a modern gent, takes the boys to school and leaves them out in the bush, ready for a ritual circumcision. So this tjerrie is on to the next, and Driemanskap’s track is topping my pops. Sure, I may not entirely understand what they are rapping about, and those traditional weapons terrify my inner liberal, but that’s part of the fun of life as a settler, you can mix it up and make it up as you go, without any tribal considerations, offending everyone equally. Besides, am I really expected to understand all of South Africa’s 11 official languages? But I can fake it.

As a junior joller in Jo’burg in the 80s, I grew up fast and started going out far too young. I’m glad that I did, because now I can wax lyrical as an Afropop historian. Back then, Boere Boroque was the Zef, and the Voëlvry movement showcased the talent of the rock-spider stars of the time: Kerkorrel, Die Gereformeerde Blues Band, Koos Kombuis, Bernoldus Niemand, Dagga-Dirk, Die Swart Gevaar en wat ook al. Then the Mahala was an Afrikaans newspaper called Die Vrye Weekblad and it tirelessly promoted the music and the mood of the times. For a couple of months it seemed like the entire planet was over-run by alternative Boere punks both celebrating and giving their culture the finger.

Now it’s 2010 and I am jaded muse living in New York City. As a culture surfer, my high-speed Internet connection keeps me company. Recently I’ve been ignoring the city that never sleeps, and seriously feeling like I’m missing out on the jol down South. The best parties seem to be a 16-hour flight away, and that’s not counting the time it takes to get the Arrow to Parow. Of the 307640 YouTube views of romantic Afrikaans rap superstar Jack Parow’s video “Cooler as Ekke” my personal hits make up a chunk of that figure. What’s even weirder is that I’ve even been pretending to be a 100% Boere meisie. Inspired by Jack’s hilarious lyrics: from “Cooler as Ekke” the rhyme: “Jy hang saam met models en ek hang saam met slette“, I started a Facebook Group called “Slette vir Jack Parow”. It’s been a hit: so far almost 500 heavy uitgeskollie sexy aunties, naughty schoolgirls, moms, mistresses, moffies, obsessiewe getroude mans, boyfriends, main manne, rugby players and perverts and counting. Arme Jack. But with everyone getting poes woes about local music and the virtual gang fighting going on about “Die Antwoord” blowing up, it’s time for us to lighten up and stop behaving like everything is a personal attack on Hip-fokken Hop.

But why is the Southern most tip of Africa suddenly sprouting white rappers? And wie is Jack Parow in die moeder fokken huisie?

Zander, (Jack) is just a shy, sweet guy, with a huge collection of plastic toys and a very tidy bedroom. Like most kids, he dreamt of being a pirate or a Hip-Hop star, and now he’s both. The gevaarlike Afrikaanse romantiese rap superstar van die rowwe gange van N1 City has 32 018 Facebook fans who are deur die naai vir Jack Parow (that’s more fans than Julius Malema!). His lazy, hazy summertime back yard pool party hit, “Cooler as Ekke” has 26 647 Facebook fans alone, for just one song. According to his agent, he has collaborations with bands and visual artists, a new music video, a video game and an album in the works. So let’s wait and see if Jack, the mall rat, has an entire album worth of kak to talk and if he really can rap soos ‘n woorde boek. What makes me nervous is that his swift rise to fame as a white working class Hip-Hop hero is that it might be a case of premature ejaculation. Just writing this story, with so little material to work with other than Jack’s inspiration “braaivleis” and quotes “fokken hos bra”, and “awe”, I do hope I am not “fattening up frogs for snakes”.

A music industry insider, who shall remain anonymous (for fear of his life), says that Jack “Is the real Zef deal. Not a character like Ninja of “Die Antwoord”. He’s kak funny but I dunno if the joke has legs beyond the gimmick, that it’s okay for some lighthearted ‘Klippies wif cokes’ drunk college party, but that’s it”.

Mickey Mouse from Parow
Image by The President.

Jack sure has style though, and he has proved to be a muse for the Zef-ling generation. Peet Pienaar at The President designed Jack’s ring logo and devoted an entire issue of the music magazine “Bruce Lee” to Afrikaans lyrics and included a massive Jack Parow image puzzle. Jack’s look, that of a slightly hung over animated cartoon character, with an exaggerated duck bill baseball cap, those silly vakansie shorts, and that fake Parow play on the Puma t-shirt. Jack is way too irreverant to be a wigger. He’s not angry nor energetic enough to be Eminem. He has a beer boep, not Hip-Hop abs. And I do wonder if he’d cope in a pound for pound rap smack down with a real rapper. But that’s not the point: like all South Africans, whatever their tribe, his chief interests in life echo the rest of the nation: waar is die afterparty? party party party, dans dans dans, get doos dronk, val oppi grond.

But there is something vulnerable and sweet about Jack. He’s adorable. He’s a bit like the great Johnny Cash in the best possible blue collar way. Jack’s got a lot more work to do to earn that analogy, but the link lies partly in the fact that Country and Western music is successful because it keeps it’s roots in the heartland. And Jack is smart enough to know that that’s what he’s got to do.

It’s delightfully loaded with irony that Boere culture is having a nationalistic pop moment via (Black American) Hip-Hop. And that alone is enough material for an entire conference of shrinks (and a pretentious PHD). But before I go on about my secret wish that Jack would start his own Afrikaans variety vaudeville show, a Noot vir Noot for the Zef generation, so that young bruin mense and the young wit Boere who share the same taal and kultuur can blend and blur the lines of race even more, let’s get back to the current incarnation of Jack Parow.

His name was hijacked from Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp’s character in
Pirates of the Caribbean. “Ek was gesuip toe kyk ek Pirates of the Caribbean toe tune ek: “Fok Jack Sparrow, the Pirate of the Caribbean, ek’s Jack Parow – the Pirate of the Caravan Park”. Toe gelukkig onthou ek dit die volgende oggend”.
Historically, to dorp Parow is much like a town deep in cowboy country. Except it’s tougher and closer to shore. Captain Parow founded Parow in 1865 after his boat had been wrecked in Table Bay. Most likely he swam to shore, donnered various mense, bought the land in Tygerberg and turned it into a cattle-trading outpost for all the Boere who were trekking North. For real, those old-school Zuid Afrikaanse treffers cruising up and down Voortrekker Road in their ox wagons knew how to party. They never travelled anywhere without a banjo, a concertina, and a guitar, ready for an opskop.

According to an ou I know, who grew up “behind the boerewors gordyn”, the Parow of 2010 is alarmingly like the old South Africa: “The Grand Bazaar on Voortrekker Road was the center of the universe until N1 City and Tygervalley, aka “the mall” took the life out of a town where there was nothing to begin with. Pretty Afrikaans poppies still walk around barefoot in the shopping centers and people still polish their yellow Mazda 323 ‘coz they don’t need a new car and neither can they afford one.”

A nice Boere meisie and local resident, whose family has lived in Parow since the 1920s, says that the local bars are “Mostly Afrikaans and play Afrikaans music. The favourite “white bar” is The Players Club, next to the Rugby field. The place to eat is the Burger Fair, which is in Bellville, and going there is considered “tradition”. That’s where Jack’s video “Cooler as Ekke” was shot.”

Jack is almal se pal, and that is part of his appeal. But just how much of a crossover audience does he have? But that’s his promoter’s problem, and not his. What we don’t need in South Africa is another white rapper strictly for the wit mense. And Cape Town is still pretty Vanilla. There is a tight ass White Anglo Saxon Protestant side to Slaap Stad which can seriously get on your tits.

And that’s not Hip-Hop in any language. Overall, Cape Town’s scene is still very segregated. Cape Town is the musical equivalent of Wollie’s cotton briefs vs Johannesburg’s PEP stores nylon thong. And if Jack wants to prove he can be cooler than Cape Town, he needs to vat his goed and trek to Jo’burg.

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