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Behind the Scenes: The Internet Cafe Goes Trompies in Daniel Haaksman & Spoek Mathambo's 'Akabongi' Video

We go inside Daniel Haaksman & Spoek Mathambo's pantsula-fueled internet cafe dance video, "Akabongi"

In the first instalment of Okayafrica's new Behind the Scenes series, Roger Young speaks with art director Jody Brand and director Chris Kets about the making of Daniel Haaksman and Spoek Mathambo's pantsula-fueled internet cafe dance video, "Akabongi."


“The space itself epitomizes the Jozi hustle,” says art director Jody Brand of the principle location for Berlin-based producer Daniel Haaksman and Spoek Mambatho’s “Akabongi” music video, I.T. Solutions. Channeling The Matrix, if Morpheus had been played by Zola 7, and Keanu replaced by all four members of Trompies, the trippy, electric-colour-drenched, animation-enhanced dance clip operates as a shoutout to that cornerstone of every street hustler’s 419, 411, hotmail or even 1023 game––the internet cafe.

“Someone was asking Chris [Kets, the video’s director] for his editing rates, someone else was trying to book Nthato [Spoek] for a gig, all while we were trying to shoot Mada [Sthembiso, respected pantsula dancer and one half of the legendary Shakers & Movers] repeatedly doing this move called The Scorpion,” continues Brand, who is known for her lifestyle photography that skirts the edges of SA club and youth culture. Brand is clearly enamoured with this particular internet cafe, and it shows in the final result. “Akabongani” has an incredibly lived-in feeling about it. It’s a departure from what we’re used to in music videos of late.

The track comes from Haaksman’s African Fabrics. The 11-track album opener, “Akabongi” is a cover of a pop hit from South African legends The Soul Brothers, which Haaksman recorded with Spoek in Zulu. On African Fabrics, Haaksman synthesized internet and street market sounds with current bass music styles of the northern hemisphere. The opening song kicks, and its accompanying music video kicks even harder, lovingly evoking the style of those mid 90s kwaito videos we all grew up with in SA.

Director Chris Kets had shot with Spoek once before. Having worked on videos for the likes of Dope Saint Jude, Boolz and Damascvs, Kets is right there working with an impressive list of SA’s soon-to-be-famous, as well as embedding himself in the Gqom scene.

“I.T Solutions was a rare find deep in the CBD of Jozi” says Kets. “Jody’s extensive work as a photographer on the streets of Jozi really helped us in finding the locations. She also found the Orlando Pirates bucket hats which is actually where Spoek Mathambo got his name from––the nickname, I think, of an Orlando Pirates legend.” Clearly a big fan, Kets details some of Brand’s other additions to the project, such as the classic South African posters hidden amongst the DMX, 50 Cent and Lil Wayne posters scattered throughout the underground internet cafe sequence.

Kets tells me that he has a sort of love hate relationship with internet cafes. Where he stays in Woodstock there's internet cafes everywhere, he says. A shop around the corner from him functions as a salon slash internet cafe slash cellphone repair shop and corner store for cigarettes and the essentials. They also buy and sell fridges. “I love that you can watch Africa Magic while getting your hair cut, buy milk and bread, get your phone fixed and sell your fridge all at the same time. I really respect that hustle and ingenuity."

Credit: Jody Brand

The concept for the video was influenced by the CUSS collectives’ work displaying video artworks in internet cafes––this triggering the ideas that manifest in the animation by Stuart Kets. Kets also watched a lot of old school Kwaito music videos: Trompies "Bengimngaka"Hunger Boyz "Fong Kong" , TKZee, Brown Dash, Alaska, Kabelo, Mzekezeke, aiming to capture that classic 90s pantsula look.

Of the music videos of the 90s, Brand simply says "they saved my life, they showed me, growing up, that another world is possible."

The video leaps off with Spoek and Mada as pantsula twins working in an internet cafe and cellphone repair shop together: Spoek the bored guy deadpan hustling with Mada translating what he's saying through panstula.

Kets says he and the video’s costume designer, Alex Kasongo of Furah Couture, conceptualised together. “Alex wanted to create a kind of futuristic pantsula uniform, so he hid the buttons and went for the black & white to add to that kind of checkers board look."

"Mada's dancing in this video is old school Trompies-style pantsula but on another level," says Kets. "Mada is not only a dancer but contortionist and mime. He tells a story through his dancing." He gave the song to Mada a while before the shoot and asked him to translate the lyrics into a pantsula dance routine. "There is a line that translates into ‘You give them a hand and they take your whole arm’ so he would do things like that classic move the chicken but adapt it so he puts his hand out then tucks it behind his back. He’s a true pantsula.”

"Everyone was enamoured by him," says Brand of Mada. "I really thought people would resist our presence and tell us to voetsek, but everyone was distracted and in awe of Mada. It was so exciting and thrilling to work like this in the city, in the same way everyone else does, against the clock, at rapid pace and in complete chaos."

Daniel Haaksman & Spoek Mathambo's "Akabongi" video BTS photos by Jody Brand.

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

Credit: Jody Brand

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

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If you're having a tough time recalling the last movie you watched from Djibouti, it's likely because you have never watched one before. With an almost non-existent film industry in the country, Lula Ali Ismaïl, tells a beautiful coming of age story of three young female Djiboutian teenagers at the cusp of womanhood. Dhalinyaro offers a never-before-seen view of Djibouti City as a stunning, dynamic city that blends modernity and tradition—a city in which the youth, like all youth everywhere, struggle to decide what their futures will look like. It's a beautiful story of friendship, family, dreams and love from a female filmmaker who wants to tell a "universal story of youth," but set in the country she loves—Djibouti.

The story revolves around the lives of three young friends from different socio-economic backgrounds, with completely varied attitudes towards life, but bound by a deep friendship. There is Asma, the conservative academic genius who dreams of going to medical school and hails from a modest family. Hibo, a rebellious, liberal, spoiled girl from a very wealthy family who learns to be a better friend as the film evolves and finally Deka. Deka is the binding force in the friendship, a brilliant though sometimes naïve teen who finds herself torn between her divorced mother's ambitions to give her a better life having saved up all her life for her to go to university abroad, and her own conviction that she wants to study and succeed in her own country.

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