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Dance the Machine Gun

by Phumlani Pikoli, images by Danielle Clough / 13.10.2010

The club is buzzing with excitement. I don’t know if it’s the free booze or the enthusiasm of seeing the recently international Spoek Mathambo and his Mshini Wam band perform for the first time in Cape Town. Probably both. The “cosmopolitan” Cape Town scene is out. Sibot is gracing the club with his magical hands. But his talent is wasted on the sober. Who are at the bar looking to inebriate themselves as quickly as possible. It’s like a sprint, people are pinting as fast as they can, because no one knows when the free tab runs dry. Few care to focus or remember anything from the show. Except for the fact that it was amazing. That’s what I remember. And people danced. Finally Spoek Mathambo and Mshini Wam were able to ruk the crowd away from the bar as the flood of alcohol eased those cold Capetonian insecurities, and with the hypnotic thump of the live bass, led them by the hips to the dancefloor. We’ve been waiting for Spoek’s triumphant return, and he did not fail to deliver.

Mshini Wam; the title of our president’s favourite song, are set to become the new poster boys for South Africa’s hipster youth. Spoek has laid the groundwork leading up to his big band very well. Starting off by showing everyone his lyrical skill on Waddy Jones’ Fantastic Kill. Remember that? He then got a taste of minor international interest collaborating with each of the Real Estate Agents. Starting with Sweat-X’s sexually explicit rap on Markus Wormstorm’s more glitch-tech inspired beats that made girls unashamedly sing, “pop that coochie”. To the more fun, almost old school inspired raps he put onto Sibot’s wax, with Playdoe. It’s no wonder that people have marked Spoek Mathambo and Mshini Wam to be the next big South African flavour to hit the international market. Especially considering they just got the cover of Fader magazine. The same New York based, African focussed magazine that launched the BLK JKS’s into their international careers.

Spoek Mathambo Mshini Wam

Before the show, the band members stalked the venue making sure that everyone was having a good time, but you couldn’t help but feel the nerves bouncing off of them. Spoek was kept busy by a steady rush of fans. Mshini Wam is a culmination of several talented individuals all pushing their own hustles in a strong way. Nick is a rhythm guitarist for the fast rising band Bateleur. Richard the 3rd is a renowned producer with massive cred in the electro and hip hop scene. He’s also one of the best dub-step producers in the country, forming half of the DJ/Producer duo Bioscope. Jacob Snake forms part of a DJ duo B-Team and has lyrical skill of his own which he flosses with his crew Voice-Tag. With all that skill and experience behind the frontman Spoek, it’s easy to see why these guys are blowing up.

The band played in perfect unison to a crowd that could do nothing but beg for more. Jacob Snake strikes the cymbals relentlessly with such precision. It’s a beat that reminds us that we are African and dancing is not a choice but a kind of primal knee-jerk reaction. Nick beats at the strings of his guitar in his best effort to break them and prove that rock transcends the box that it has been kept in for so many a year. “It’s not just white boy music, it has evolved!” is what each string his fingers pluck shouts at the crowd. Someone must have signaled the deaf sound engineer that he was an idiot. After what must have been ten minutes of Spoek’s dancing around and shouting unheard rap into the mic he finally turns up his level so that we can hear him. That prolific stage presence is once again devoured by the crowd. Musical gluttony. After they’d already worked their way through 8 different kinds of chilli-poppers, nacho’s, buffalo wings and halloumi sticks. Aside from a few technical hiccups, the performance is great. But in the words of Hendrix: “If you want perfection then buy the album, if you want a show then come to the show!”

Straight after the show there’s another melée at the bar. Some girls are refusing yet another round of shots because they’re already drunk, passing the deceptively small glasses on to the random person next to them. Others are unable to deny the mahala effect. The morning is going to be ugly. But at least we’ll wake up knowing that we got to dance to a real machine gun band.

Spoek Mathambo Mshini Wam

All images © Danielle Clough.

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