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MK Awards 2011

Some of my Best Friends are Afrikaans

by Roger Young with Andy Davis, images by Mark Reitz and Sean Brand / 03.03.2011

By now you all know the news. The production value at the 2011 MK Awards show at the CTICC was significantly under par. The presenters and bands were barely audible while the sound barreled and boomed. For the music channel to use a venue that is not conducive to great sound makes me wonder where their focus is? But bad sound and a badly rehearsed show that ran half an hour over schedule, are minor problems when compared to MK‘s apparent identity crisis. Will the music channel eventually descend into some kind of alt-rock laager around Die Taal or will it be able to embrace the new paradigm of a more inclusive South African youth culture? The question those who run the channel need to ask themselves: is MK a South African youth music channel or is it a commercial entity that makes it’s living off Afrikaans culture fetishists?

It is no secret or surprise that MK is predominantly an Afrikaans music channel that caters to an Afrikaans audience. But the inclusion of English and international acts brings the channel into a different cultural space. Over the years, on the back of the Fokof founding fathers, they’ve explored and exposed a new generation of South African musicians. And now they find themselves at an impasse. Is their responsibility to drive the consumption of new original South African music, or do they merely pander to what the audience demands. These issues invariably played themselves out during the MK Awards revealing what I perceive as a veiled isolationist stance.

MK Awards

Taxi Violence kick things off with that old song about the devil and the six gun.

While it would be terrible if they become a bloated award show with too many sub-categories like the SAMAs, it would also not hurt for MK’s programming directors to cast around beyond the stock standard Afrikaans rock and pop music. It also might just have enlivened the pace of the show, which literally trudged along. You couldn’t hear anything in the seating or standing in front of the stage. It felt like it had been staged by someone who had only seen a youtube clip of the 1992 Grammy’s and extrapolated from there. There were large pauses while winners made their way from the seating to the stage. Zebra and Giraffe’s Greg Carlin descending from the ceiling on wires was laughably amateur. The dude from the Tuindwergies was stopped by security on his way up to receive his award because he wasn’t recognised. The fact that the radically popular mainstream Afrikaans acts, Bobby Van Jaarsveld and Snotkop (The former Tswana rapper Lekgoa, who obviously saw where the cash was) couldn’t be bothered to collect their many awards in person demeaned the whole process, especially seeing as they accepted them from picnic blankets and swimming pools in the day while we sat in a convention center at night. And then of course: Mr X, (the electro alter-ego of the late MK presenter Herman Pretorius). His collaboration with Die Heuwels Fantasties swept the awards but there was very little mention of who Mr X was. We were just expected to know. Even more confusing was how such an unspeakably bad song and music video could win any awards at all. Why would anyone vote for a music video that looked like it was made on MS Paint?

But the biggest confusion of the night was still to come. How did Prime Circle win the Best Breakthrough International Act, while Spoek Mathambo and BLK JKS, who both had significantly bigger break though years, did not even get a nomination. This, let’s call it an oversight, spoke volumes about the protectionist nature of MK’s playlisting, nominations process and general indicated towards an under-estimating of its audience. How is an audience meant to vote for anything decent if it’s not even nominated? Surely Spoek’s many mentions in The Fader, Pitchfork and Dazed & Confused, not to mention countless North American, South American and European tour dates qualify him for a nomination in this award?  The fact that Die Antwoord, by far South African pop music’s biggest export of 2010, were nominated but did not win, speaks volumes about the orientation of MK‘s voting public (one that has the disposable income to send countless SMS votes), and makes perhaps the strongest argument for the channel to actively involve themselves in driving their audience towards relevant culture instead of merely placating them with the mediocre pop rock schlock that sells.

Then please also tell me what the point is of an award for an international act and then suffering the ignominy of having a rep from the local record company accept it by pre-recorded message in a way that makes you know the trophy is destined for a boardroom cupboard, forever?

Then, the most cringe worthy soundbite of the night was this backstage clip that includes an interview with Die Heuwels’ Pierre Greef in which he says: “We make Afrikaans music because we are Afrikaans, that’s why we do it. And if that could be our outlook and other people can see that, then beautiful. And if that can inspire an Afrikaans speaking person to make more Afrikaans music, then so be it”. In this regard pounding on about Die Taal just seems to be the easiest way to disguise poor musicianship and I feel this way primarily because the music represented by the list of winners is shamelessly bland and uninspiring. When a band is only successful because they record in Afrikaans and not because they have any real musical value, then you have to wonder what good it is doing for “the culture”.

Now you may argue that MK is an Afrikaans music channel, but the fact is that they have long ago begun to expand into other cultures; I mean, they gave Eminem and Prime Circle an award and they had JR in there as a presenter, even though they don’t regularly play his music. Which kind of lends credence to the term “token”. How much of this expansion is, like the coloured models in the promo video, just window dressing?

Right now MK have a monopoly on locally produced rock and indie music. They might feel it’s necessary to put on a veneer of inclusive cultural responsibility and inclusion in their representations but they certainly have no real need to actually pursue this. The Afrikaans stuff obviously takes care of their audience numbers. I can’t help but think that a bit of competition would sharpen their minds in terms of production, representation and the overall positioning of the channel. In much the same way that if you produce music in Afrikaans you really don’t need it to be that innovative or interesting at all; you already have a captive audience, ready to consume. This is, of course, not to say that ALL Afrikaans music relies on this condition; it’s just that the bands that break the mould mostly do not feature on the nominations list.

And because MK doesn’t see itself from the outside it continues to spiral musically inwards towards some kind of flatline of shitty indie synth. The terminal problem with MK’s stance is that there is a new, large and looming generation of Afrikaners that is exploring other musical avenues; if MK loses their grip on that generation, eventually the channel will become as irrelevant and myopic as Steve Hofmeyer.

MK Awards 2011

The other Wynand and his lady

If MK want to become a truly original music channel then it’s time for them to start representing original South African music outside of the “genre” created by the MK founding father bands. They need to push the boundaries; to start driving the culture rather than pandering to the established consumption patterns of the audience. Or maybe not, maybe we shouldn’t put too much weight on their shoulders, they are after all a pay channel that is paid for not so much by its audience but by its audience’s parents. Perhaps, from a business standpoint, MK is wise to tread lightly.

But the net result of the Awards is that it gives the impression that MK is not concerned about the music but only by profiting off the “Trots Afrikaans” demographic. MK have, to their great credit, amassed an enormously committed local rock audience in a way that no other local music channel has been able to. It’s an audience that is passionate about music and culture and an audience that they have a massive influence over.

I’m no longer interested in debates about race or cultural protectionism. What I am interested in is innovative new music and the gene pool among the MK winners seems to be about as varied (and as likely to tend toward retardation) as a royal family.

*Images © Mark Reitz and Sean Brand.

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RESPONSES (46)
  1. ShlongDong says:

    The MK awards have always been a load of shit. The bands in the categories seem to only be in there because they’re deemed popular, not because of the quality of the song or the music video. The only good award they used to have was the worst video of the year (which they didn’t have this year), watching the nominees always provided a bit of a chuckle.

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  2. Somerfaan says:

    Well said Roger. In Prime Circle’s defense, I think they did make it on the Billboard 100. Spoek is much better than ANY electro outfit at the moment in SA, and his omission shows the ignorance of MK towards anything that they feel does’nt belong in their kraal. And to the Heuwels Fantasties: ag fok asseblief tog, hou net op neul julle piepiejollers!

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  3. Pieter says:

    Great read.

    I think at the end of the day, MK is a TV channel, and seeing as though alot of things for TV in this country dont get done without substantial funding, or arse-kissing, its kind of inevitable that this kind of stuff is gonna happen.

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  4. Bass Player says:

    Well said, great article! \m/

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  5. Max says:

    “I’m no longer interested in debates about race or cultural protectionism. What I am interested in is innovative new music and the gene pool among the MK winners seems to be about as varied (and as likely to tend toward retardation) as a royal family.”

    BOOM bitches!

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  6. Ubuntu Bob says:

    Nicely put… couldn’t agree more.

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  7. Craig Rossouw says:

    Seems like if you want to make it as a band in SA, just sing in Afrikaans!

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  8. Koos van der Merwe says:

    Befok Roger, MK is n fokken skande vir Afrikaans en Musiek. Hoekom is daar MK en Channel O? Wit en Swart? Dis nou wat jy kry as jy n ou Afrikaanse tannie van die KKNK kry om MK te run…

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  9. YsterHart says:

    Great article. Sadly, good taste, cultural relevance and progress do not equal popularity or record sales, and the ugly reality is that MK probably does represent the tastes of the majority of white south africans. Sokkie treffers, even modern artsy sokkie treffers like Heuwels, sell buttloads.

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  10. tim says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this. MK got to where they are from revieling a new style and sense of culture to their audience, I think I’ve heard the ‘Fokof’ guys say that they put an emphasis on a ‘forgotten’ or much overlooked part of South African culture (young afrikaaners). Race aside, there has always been the Steves and Amanda’s but the young and fun crowd was left out. So by bringing this to the fore MK had brought us something new and they seem to believe that something will stay new forever? I’m afraid I have always had the feeling that MK are “veiled isolationist”‘s. Competition is what they need but two young Afrikaans stations might be asking for a bit much. I have a friend who was tryin to get his video on MK and struggled because the music didn’t fit directly into their mould. One of my favourite quotes from a movie is the bit in Airheads where the yuppie program manager at the station asks Steve Buscemie’s character (Rex) why if ‘these’ bands are so hot are they not tearing up the charts and Rex replies – “because you’re not playing them asshole”!

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  11. self consumption optional says:

    Nice. Hearts felt in the right place, but brains were not available for comment. And being around that many white people makes me nervous…you just know theres a false economy at work.
    MK, we love you for the visibility you have given a local scene, but we think you are eating yourself. The wider world is full of undiscovered tastes…set up a feedback loop between yourself and viewers that is experiential (always requiring an element of discomfort) not self-aggrandising.

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  12. LukeSkyCrawler says:

    Fuckin Hell, Roger is not gettin drunk at events anymore …. Fuck MK…

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  13. LukeSkyCrawler says:

    Viva ANC viva , away with colonialism away …(research)

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  14. Jim says:

    MK who?

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  15. tim says:

    Who ever said my comment was kak can take an L. Your mom is kak! one!

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  16. tim says:

    Arrrggghhh! YOUR MOMS KAK!

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  17. Happy Brown says:

    The Blk Jks could not get their music on MK due to their race for a very long time. The music scene suffers from a hidden guise of institutional racism, lots of black rock bands have no home in SA due to this and have to leave home to make things happen. Oppikoppi might give you the Sipho Gumede stage, if you are lucky and know the right white person, but your best bet is to quit making the music you want to make and make music for your particular race. The sad thing is that the scene is missing out on alot of amazing bands who eventually have to quit and get real jobs because the progressive music they are making is not the music their race should make. This is an amazing article asking the right questions and further exerting the fact that music is the reason. If MK could do that for an unrecognised segment of the Afrikaans population then aint it time we include the absent black indies on the celluloid box. Lets not even talk about the BLACK channels(channel ‘Oh NO, MTV Black etc) they are so behind its not worth mentioning.

    MUSIC IS THE HEALER

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  18. Bass Player says:

    I saw bits and pieces of the show on tv and it looked pretty bad… For example, an award was being announced and there was epic feedback on the mic ,where the two guys standing up there had to step back and wait for it to go away. I suppose thats just inevitable technical issues and it happens… Another thing I found pretty lame was when crash car burn was announcing the award for best sfx… I mean, he was like “and the winner is” , then wait another 20 seconds for some ridiculously dressed chick to walk down these stairs and hand him the winners card, then, again, “and the winner is” What im trying to get at is, the show just really did not seem that well rehearsed and a bit amateur.

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  19. Pro-Music says:

    Can we hear what MK has to say?

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  20. Anonymous says:

    So you are basically saying that the MK Awards and MK are about as interesting and innovative as Mahala? Right? Right.

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  21. Jersey Whore says:

    ‘Then, the most cringe worthy soundbite of the night was this backstage clip that includes an interview with Die Heuwels’ Pierre Greef in which he says: “We make Afrikaans music because we are Afrikaans, that’s why we do it. And if that could be our outlook and other people can see that, then beautiful. And if that can inspire an Afrikaans speaking person to make more Afrikaans music, then so be it”. In this regard pounding on about Die Taal just seems to be the easiest way to disguise poor musicianship and I feel this way primarily because the music represented by the list of winners is shamelessly bland and uninspiring. When a band is only successful because they record in Afrikaans and not because they have any real musical value, then you have to wonder what good it is doing for “the culture”.’

    PREACH!

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  22. kap net aan... says:

    is dit my verbeelding, of praat die holpoep van ‘heuwels’ met n amerikaanse aksent oor hoekom hy sing in afrikaans … in engels?

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  23. Afrikaan says:

    So weird that most of the comments are in English. I see jealousy from the English speaking folk who have seen the rise and power of MK and what it has done for SOUTH AFRICAN (Not just Afrikaans) music, and they want to be part of it, they want to understand what is said.

    I am Afrikaans, but can speak two languages. Usually when your English, thats about it. You would rather just complain like most of you above, than learn something about culture. If its that bad, start your own fucking channel to cater for whatever you think the world needs. I think most of you English-only speaking folk have identity issues, and therefore attack anything resembling it just because you you jealously don’t have it.

    In Germany, you have German television and music, in Italy, Italian. They mostly talk and sing in their home languages and only when they have to speak English, they do so with difficulty. Here, the english-only speaking people see Afrikaans as being old-fashioned even though its one of the newest languages in the world.

    Stop complaining and do something about it, start something, don’t just break-down what you don’t understand.

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  24. Anon says:

    Die Antwoord have received mention in the New York Times, had over 9 million views on youtube, performed on the Jimmy Kimmel show and are signed by Interscope. Locnville have been signed by Sony Worldwide and have toured Europe. They have 274 000 fans on facebook and are Perez Hiltons favourite band, The Parlotones have toured extensively overseas, been on the billboard charts 3 times, had a song on Jersey shore, Ghost whisperer and twice on One Tree Hill and perform in 2000 capacity venue in England and perform to a billion pep-ole at the world cup opening concert, plus their single have been used in a soap opera in South America and they have been featured in Italian Vogue……Prime Circle have….well nothing other than a couple of shows in Dubai and performing to a few hundred South African in a SA bar in England. Talk about something fishy going on.

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  25. James says:

    “Right now MK have a monopoly on locally produced rock and indie music” and it’s fucking sickening.

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  26. Wim says:

    @ James this is the point if they stand for rock and indie music why exclude bands like Spoek, Blck Jcks, Tumi, Dirty Paraffin etc. and then why mix it up with shit like Bobby van Jaarsveldt. The only reason is because the people who run MK has no vision and are racist.

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  27. Alibaba says:

    Ag jirre, how predictable and boring. Such a lazy argument. MK is not a state institution paid for by tax payers money who owes equal representation to all. It’s a music channel started by a business people who can do whatever the fuck they want to with it. You’re like someone telling Pep Stores to put Chanel on their shelves. I myself think the quality is bad and I hate most of the stuff on the channel, but so fucking what? I just change the channel. What have the SABC, the sate broadcaster who wastes my money done for broad local music? Ziltsch, I tell you. Why don’t you piss and moan about that rather?

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  28. tim lester says:

    yooooooh

    man . . I love it when the comment board burns

    fuck the free world!

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  29. YsterHart says:

    @Alibaba. Thats a fair argument, true enough, but Pep stores dont present themselves as purveyors of high fashion. MK presents itself as a platform for the hippest and best of SA youth culture which is bullshit because what it really is, is a musical Kyknet. Which is fine, whatever, they should just stop pretending and embrace it.

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  30. Alibaba says:

    @YsterHart

    Fair enough

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  31. Afrikaan says:

    MK is Kyknet’s tax rebate. Thats why the channel exists. Its a Non profit and gives Kyknet the opportunity to get rid of the hectic taxes. So, how many channels are there with ‘English’ as cultural theme, and a music channel that promotes music created to get rid of some taxes? None. Can you say: jealous.

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  32. theo says:

    Well all you have to do is have a look at the view count on youtube
    Die antwoord 9miljion!! views on top video
    Prime circle a silly 600 000…

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  33. Khakikiller! says:

    Alll the bands were shit! Says alot about this back patting dutchman clique! Fuck Mk, worst music channel ever, amateur bullshit! Whats with that shitty dialogue from the presenter??? Shit was so KTV.

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  34. Afrikaan says:

    FUCK ALL YOU HATERS!

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  35. Urk says:

    “amassed an enormously committed local rock audience in a way that no other local music channel” and as an afrikaner, i must admit at times (too often) for the wrong reasons. bravo mr young for denoucning the bithcing and encouraging making the new shit happen. if mk fails to adapt, they are doomed. and that’s perfectly ok. things must mutate and challenge us, keep us moving rather than sitting in a stagnant pool.
    fuck i was glad when i saw how poorly it was pulled off that i stayed at home. personally i am a fan of the bellville conglomorate, and would’ve happily forked out to see them hit a good performance. so i fell my view is not entirely unreasonable. perhaps a bit of an embarassment is just what was needed to fire shit up at mk. could be the best thing in the long term.

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  36. johan says:

    This is the band of the head of MK
    http://www.dieboer.com/sterre/Cutt-Glas.htm

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  37. HollowAxis says:

    Well written. Well argued. Honest.

    In shirt I agree with everything.
    I hope this sparks a change.

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  38. RuBez says:

    For me it’s irritating the shit out of me and it has nothing to do with race. Bands like Isochronous, Gold Fish and Dan Patlansky (3 of the best in SA for me) has made it onto MK once or twice. The whole VanFokkingTasties bandwagon is the same shit all over again. Heuwels and aKing can be heard on Jacaranda by now, not so Rock and Roll are you know guys?! The only originality that came from it was Fokof and thats where it should have stayed. Loving the Music revolution and explosion happening in Pretoria (outside of the bandwagon). My bet is they’ll soon take over the industry.

    -This all said by an Afrikaans guy…
    PS. Thanks to Pierre Greeff for wasting my time at OppiKoppi with the worst gig ever. Being drunk and tone-deaf wasn’t such a good combo… Worst musician ever!!!

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  39. Mika says:

    Great Article !!!!!! so true

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  40. redline says:

    Let’s not forget – MK is just a channel in a bouquet whose content, management, funding etc is essentially run by MNet… Err: What funding? What management? So: What do upcoming bands expect – “Egoli in Rock?” The primary, if not sole, reason for MK to play younger bands the cost factor: They get it for free, and have to do sweet eff-all in return. The institutional interest in fresh musical artists I assume to be close to Zero. Anybody ever deal with the “viewing panel?” The real tragedy is: There isn’t really an alternative to MK. Yet…

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  41. Jean182 says:

    daar is n drol in die drink water…

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  42. Anonymous says:

    Do Die Hiewels guys realise how similar their tracks are to old school dans treffers?
    it’s quite horrible.

    Anyway, technically this is the best afrikaans band in the country:
    http://www.facebook.com/diehiernamaals

    And nobody even fucking knows them.

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  43. Anonymous says:

    someone in the right spot, please listen to this track:
    http://www.facebook.com/diehiernamaals#!/video/video.php?v=10150406296105514&oid=50239465898&comments

    they’re amazing.

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