IsiKhothanes A Microcosm Of SA’s Society
When it comes to music, we all have our guilty pleasures. There is always that one song we blast at full volume when no one is around. We trash it when we are around our friends, but shamelessly press repeat when we are alone, singing along at the top of our voice with our headphones on.
My laptop has an hour-plus-long playlist comprised of Aqua’s Barbie Girl, Scatman John’s Calling out from Scatland and the theme song from The Goof Troop cartoon, among other similarly embarrassing numbers. And the most recent addition to this playlist is LV and Okmalumkoolkat ‘s Sebenza, which means work in Zulu. Judge me, shake your heads in disgust, and take away my “cool cards”, if you must.
If you are an avid music channels viewer, you would have probably come across the video over the past few weeks. The video is a well-shot, HD spectacle featuring spinning Gusheshes, floral shirt-clad iziKhothanes and their ceremonial spilling of Johnny Walker Black, plus Okmalumkoolkat’s comical ‘Taxi Driver’ dance. The song itself is a weird and confusing mix of electro, house and kwaito, garnished with minimalist rap. It is exactly the type of song I would hate, to quote Will Ferrell as cited by Kanye West & Jay-Z,
“It’s provocative, it gets [me] going!”
This song is a complete contradiction of the music I normally listen to. However, it also represents all that is right and wrong with today’s urban music and culture at large. As infectious and provocative as it is, it is devoid of soul and apparent meaning, but at the same time features the aesthetic auditory qualities that makes a good record.
Apart from proclaiming “Siyasebenza and only rest in December” in the hook, Koolkat goes on for 4 minutes about nothing in particular besides his admiration for Air Max Nikes, BMW 325i and being the boss of all bosses #SMH!
But this independent track exemplifies the DIY-go-get-it attitude of today’s young artists and their quest for freedom from major label’s interference. Also, it illustrates the rapidly disappearing geographical divides between us as a people; bringing together a British production team of LV and Umlazi’s Okmalumoolkat. At the same time, it makes one wonder if Black artists still need a White person behind them to succeed like Lira, Mandoza, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Juluka, etc, did.
Furthermore, the video, through its depiction of modishly dressed taxi users, spinning luxury cars and iziKhothanes in a cheated-of-infrastructure-development township soccer field, shows the sad display of opulence in the face of abject poverty, which a large number of South Africa’s working class find themselves in.
Maybe that is what this song, and its accompanying video, are trying to highlight - the needless pursuit of material things by the poor, not wealth creation. Even more, Sebenza’s guilt-riddled, pleasure-inducing beat may be a social comment on the guilt we, the middle-class, should feel when we brazenly flaunt the little money we have, when almost half of SA’s population lives below the poverty line!
Perhaps this is just another song that will become a hit, polute the airwaves and quietly move into obscurity, gone and forgotten!