Pageant Afro Popby Phumlani Pikoli and Robin Scher / 14.03.2011
Rob: Approaching the bar I tentatively order two black labels. The bourge Maremoto on Long Street certainly doesn’t strike me as the kind of place to serve zamalek. Luckily for my wallet the barman fishes some out from the depths of the fridge. Phumlani and I skulk into a corner as nonchalantly as possible to witness the scene. Between music moguls, crew members involved in making the video and just plain beautiful looking people the two journos from Mahala stick out like, well… two broke guys at Maremoto.
Phumlani: We’re absent. The finger foods on the table that Rob wolfs down don’t even notice his grimy hands, it’s probably only when they get to his stomach that they notice the working class foods they’re destined to be digested with. It’s like Woolworths versus Checkers in there. False information of a Mahala bar tab adds insult to injury as I watch a mortified Rob timidly shuffle away from the bar after being pleasantly rejected by the bar man.
Rob: Xander appears, uncharacteristically out of his usual leopard-print getup, gathering the crowd together to debut Gazelle’s new video, “Chic Afrique” featuring local ragga and dancehall aficionado, Teba. The video is screened. Everyone claps and rushes back outside to grab a cigarette. I’m left with an almost empty beer and emptier sense of disappointment.
Phumlani: Gazelle. The word’s simple elegance should flare a glossy product to the mind’s eye. I had high hopes. I mean the whole African Dictator gimmick was pretty fresh. But it seems to have lost its potency. And if this video proves anything it is just that. A gimmick. The video is pleasant, but absent. A bit like the song. The concept loses ground from the inception. It’s a nonsensical reprise of Kpo the Leopard, cause the Lion King has been killed. Without needing to be said, the production quality is of the highest orfer. The ties and shoes prancing around the place ensured that, wallet and all. But is there a point behind all the dictator-chic grandstanding beyond making groovy tunes to shake a cocktail dress to?
Rob: Gazelle is unashamedly kitsch-cool. Xander has done an incredible job creating the band’s distinctive colonial-chic image. But I can’t shake the feeling that they’re just a competent dance band with an Afro twist. This video amplifies that feeling. Undoubtedly of a high production value and cinematic in scope, it begins with promise but seems to lose the concept somewhere during the course. Tribal mysticism mixed in with two lost cast members from Cats starts the video off with some promise. Suddenly the tribal motif is transformed into a party with a bunch of white kids dancing to DJ Invisible behind his apple laptop and any semblance of narrative is lost. With the recent Spoek Mathambo video, the benchmark has been set very high and unfortunately Gazelle’s offering doesn’t quite reach the mark.