This first appeared in an “editor eaten” form over at Mahala SA’s coolest culture talking shop
Hey guys I know let’s fight crime!
Shout - Danny K and Kabelo’s much publicised anti crime initiative seems to be picking up quite the momentum across the media, ironically at nowhere near the pace of the dodgy pro crime rhymes of their not so wholesome pop cousins Die Antwoord. (Yes I said pop, our pseudo Zef brothers are as much pop as Lady Gaga is). And even though I am loathe to rain on the slick orchestrated PR parade from well meaning SA musos in response in the scourge of crime in SA, the packaging leaves me feeling kind of uneasy. Kind of like the feeling I used to get as kid after having eating the shell of a chocolate Easter egg only to find the middle is empty.
It is certainly not the song itself, a simplistic yet strong anthemic pop song that would not be out of place in an early U2 stadium set. In its initial incarnation it was a pretty good call to arms of it time, at a time, when if there were not grave things that deserved protest, it was at least fashionable to do so. The mid eighties were the time when Reagan, Thatcher and Apartheid were at their heights - a true axis of evil before the term was even coined.
Can we please have our song back now?
Of course as over time the students graduated to positions in the bourgeoning tech sectors and moved on to more wholesome less revolutionary causes, like the environment that only required flexi- time commitment, that fitted nicely into a more holistic and quieter lifestyle, then all that shouting became a little gauche. And anyway the wall came down, Mandela was released and those lads from the original band did have much to cry about from their Italian sports cars did they now? And so the song became relegated to become one of those late night drunken braai “crank up the hi-fi” sing-along staples, you know the type, simple rememberable chorus and basic enough for even the most tuneless of us to belt it out with gusto. Where is seemed to remain with remarkable staying power, in fact the last time I heard it was only a week before the Danny K” hug in” hit the media. I have a distinct feeling that it might now have shifted up a few places in the braai hit parade.
It is certainly not the performers; OK to be honest I have never owned or even pirated a Danny K track, probably because he reminds me of a particular plastically moulded Jozi version of the Ken doll.
So, in short not much to build a relationship on, that said Kabelo seems to be quite the accomplished chap with his band TKzee catapulting Kwaito into foreground of South African popular culture, though a music genre that has been somewhat in the wane of late. Would it be disingenuous of me to think that this is a good time to get behind a cause, well it worked for a certain scraggy Irishman. But yeah a little harsh on both Bob and Kabelo, sure they are well meaning guys and you never know when I attend the next launch I might very well fancy a pint from their respective PR lackeys.
It is not the production either, a slick clear sound mirrored with the classy minimalist video which is just the correct balance of edgy fear invoking colours and heart string pulling genuine emotion. (For a second they actually look like they care). It also makes for an enjoyable 10 minute office distraction as you all gather round for a quick game of spot the celeb’. Also a nifty insight into the inter office cultural dynamics as you see who spots who and who doesn’t. But undeniably it’s a beautifully crafted piece of visual emotion, a polished package that would stand out internationally. Again it is that package that brings on the unease.
These are our airwaves and don’t you forget it!
Charity songs are a relatively new phenomenon on the cultural landscape, though with the spread of internet and mobile downloads something that is growing exponentially. The idea pretty simply is that a bunch of well meaning creative types devote their time and craft a pop ditty for whatever charity is “cause de jour”. They pop in for a day in the recording studio or play at a concert or two to assuage their guilt before they return to their lavish lifestyles and heart shaped swimming pools, safe in the knowledge that they have done their bit. Although smacking of self righteousness and almost complete lack of understanding of many the structural reasons of the need for the charity in the first place, at least they raised money for something that, on the surface anyway, seemed deserving. We are the World and Band Aid raised money for famine relief, 46664 for aids related charities and most recently numerous songs for Haitian earthquake victims. The common dominator here is that most of the recipients were NGO’s, who were valiantly trying to save lives in the face of either complete meltdown of governmental services or a government’s intransigence in the face of a rising epidemic.
So where are the charities that are recipients of the shout Initiative - Business Against Crime and Crime Line, sorry come again? Where is the poor, the disenfranchised, the week, the sick, you know the Old Testament qualifiers? These are both business driven enterprises although nobly self funded by the companies concerned, they might actually be more than little motivated by the effects on their bottom line and who are more often than not embroiled in numerous corruption scandals and dodgy tenders when it suits them, Old Mutual, a prominent backer of the initiative, for one example, have been and still are a supporter of interests directly related to Mugabe’s regime. Though the most shocking realisation is that that a large percentage of money raised goes to the SAPS, funnelled through to so call hot spots. “All money collected by Shout is in conjunction with Business against Crime and Crime Line and goes towards pre-identified “hot-spot” police stations”. This is the same law enforcement who until recently had gangster’s moll Selebi on the payroll, the same law enforcement service that locks up a jogger for 24 hours for an innocuous gesture and the same one that is now being run by some general wannabe who is threatening to turn a community service into a military junta.
Ineptitude aside, since when did an essential service like policing become a charity? It is an essential human right that we feel safe, the freedom charter upholds it and every even half baked attempt at democracy ensures that we have society that is policed. It would be funny in kind of Monty Pythonesque way that we have to rely on handouts to finance our police force, what next telethons for our local police station, golf days for vehicles? If it was not actually frightening that we have come to that.
Willing to trade for past it pop stars or any offers
And as for protest song who are the SA Musos protesting against? Shout claims they are “Mobilising the citizens of the country mouthpiece for the activation of integrity and responsibility for citizens of South Africa”. Hang about have we forgot something we voted for this government, what are they doing about it? This song and dance is just that, a little heart-warming distraction that lets the government vacillate and do nothing. Who are we shouting at? Certainly not the criminals (that amorphous bunch a little like the reds under the of the bed of yore as they everywhere) let’s face it’s like pissing against south easter if you think they going to listen when they have little or few opportunities and they see their supposed young leaders partying it up like they hanging with JZ, what do you think you would do? So who exactly are they protesting against then, who did they want to listen?
Real protest in song has been around from time immemorial, there have always been popular songs that rail against the injustice of the day. They are many well documented cases of early American and French revolutionaries singing on mass for social change, and I am sure Moses had penned a few rousing numbers to keep the Hebrews faith up against the Pharaoh oppression of the day. Right through to present times days starting with the Weavers and through Bob Dylan and Gill Scot Heron to NWA and Public Enemy and even U2 and REM and on to Green Day, protest has been a staple of popular music. They mostly have one thing in common that if they not anti the state they are certainly critical if not combatative to what they perceive to be the injustices of the day.
It’s the making not the statement that counts!
This to me is where Shout for all its slick pretty packaging falls flat. All this we must this “Activating Responsible Citizenship” lip service that Shout promulgates simply allows the government to abrogate its fundamental responsibility to the citizens that elected it. Does not the Freedom Charter clearly state “All people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security”
It almost giving the government a get out of free jail card to ignore the endemic corruption that is rife in the country, their almost criminal negligence to address the poverty and the massive inequalities that fuel the crime in the country and the fact that they have overlooked the moral decline that their contradictory and self serving leadership has brought upon the country. It is a joke that we need to make a song against crime, though the joke is on us that in the process we have to cosy up to big business and absolve the government of their democratic responsibility to make the entire population safe, or at least the majority law abiding part, unlike as what we have now keeping a few chosen ones rich.
Yes we are all in this together, but let’s look at the cause not the symptoms and few touchy feely, we all stand together, pop songs aint going to change shit.
Call me old fashioned, but I like my protest that comes with edge, an anger directed at the powers that be, powers that if they were serious about governing that could really make a difference. It truly is sad that instead of rage against the machine, all our musical fraternity can come up with is to ask the machine over for tea and a chat.
Looks like my Tender just arrived!