Spoek in the Town Hallby Andrei Van Wyk, images Paris Brummer / 22.02.2011
Outside the Town hall entrance, I smoke a cigarette and watch bouncers flex and strut. The street is shaded red with event lights and you can see every little pebble like atoms. Inside the club a few kids are already sweating hard enough for their skinny jeans to stick. Where is everybody?
Dirty!Dirty!, along with Dogbox, is a legendary party format bringing together a diverse crowd with a trademark blend of electro and hip hop. But right now it’s not much more than an empty dance floor with hollow beats. The DJ is mediocre. When he de-booths to dance to his own music alone, I’m reminded of a dog chasing its own tail. Pretentious synth jolts done to death.
Finally it starts filling up and I watch people dance lit up by neon lights illuminating teeth and hair in blues and greens. Kids jump and sway and sweat. Then there’s silence. Live act time.
Electronic bleeps and a thick drum beat. Sedge Warbler is an undeniable force on the budding local hip hop electro circuit. DJ Dank’s beats and Disco Izrael’s fleet and futuristic stoner-nonsense are rapidly becoming Cape Town’s brightest hope for a fun-while-the-world-burns 2011.
Dank’s mad scientist console, with its flashing lights and blinking buttons, spews sexed up synth lines and thunking bass drums. His taunting beats pulsate with sadistic glee. Izrael’s lines are slippery tongue lashings. The audience love this shit. What makes Sedge Warbler work so well is a kind of undeniable optimism. Yeah things are bad but hey let your hair down mama and get stupid with us. Infectious.
It’s a hard act to follow so you need a hard act that follows no-one up next. An originator on fire right now. The much anticipated performance. Spoek Mathambo is the man of the minute. An ascending figure with international scale. His work with Sweat.X (Markus Wormstorm) and PLAYDOE (Sibot) has put him close to the golden core of the burgeoning indie glitch electro scene all over. Part of a new wave of musicians, designers and illustrators forwarding a newfangled African aesthetic that channels a new wired urban experience. He’s become a cult figure on the back of Mshini Wam.
He moves on stage with the likable, regal grandiosity of an African politician. This guy is getting laid. His stage presence is immediate. Then his energy kicks in and spreads with room-arresting chants. The show has the dangerous wonder of live improvisation. Thick well rounded live instrumentation – this band is Motown tight. There’s a kind of wry African sincerity, a warm hospitality to the sound, cross-layered with electronica and topped off with party hard dance beats. An amalgam of African and Western culture if you like (but strong enough to transcend all that, to forge a new path, to be its own new thing beyond labels and language). Spoek and his band work us into the ground. This is the perfect music to create the diversity that ‘!Dirty!Dirty!’ parties long to generate.
Spoek radiates a kind of cocksure peacefulness, like Malcolm X after a summer holiday in Marrakesh, he’s dressed like a 1960s Muslim, black pants white shirt, neat hair. He looks like Janelle Monae with balls. And he’s just as inventive and vital right now.
Though his personal performance was highly entertaining, things eventually lag, and the set begins to feel rushed ultimately. They can’t sustain the heights. The overpowering drums and insinuating electronics struggle to deliver melody. Everyone has room to improve.
On my way home, I don’t feel disappointed. Energised by the vitality of electro that seems to be plugged right into these Johannesburg streets.
*All images Paris Brummer.