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The Rise of South Africa's Black Punks

Soweto and Johannesburg's punk scenes are dirty, crass and raw—and some of the most authentic out there.

In a new short series, Okayafrica contributor Aude Konan will be highlighting little known black punk communities around the world, and how they work to gain more visibility within their local punk scenes.


This second part of the series turns it lens towards Johannesburg and Soweto's thriving punk scenes.

To be a black kid in South Africa and make the choice to be apolitical, anti-establishment yet carefree requires a heavy dose of courage, determination and a “don’t give a fuck” attitude.

As the punk band TCIYF has mentioned “I would rather go and skate than waste time standing in a queue to vote."

Whether or not you agree with that statement, in a country that’s still healing from its past and its racial divide, whose black youth is frustrated by the little opportunities available and forced into a path they don’t see themselves in, punk has become a way for many to express their disillusions about the system.

They may not challenge it politically, but they definitely do not abide by it either.

To strip yourself of the labels society puts on you, to refuse to wear a suit, refuse to work an office job, to decide to live your life without “giving a fuck”—this is what punk used to stand for back then.

Those are the values of the punk communities in Soweto and Johannesburg. The members of these small communities have more affinities to a type of music and lifestyle, which contrary to South African hip-hop and house, is more rebellious, daring and used to be heavily marginalized. It’s time to take it back.

Punk appeared in the UK and the US more than 40 years ago. The kids who created it have long since made it into the establishment, apart from those who didn’t die from overdoses and suicides. You can see their remains in museums and documentaries, and long for a time when Vivienne Westwood’s clothes where affordable. That time’s not coming back.

The homegrown South African punk scene has been thriving since the 1970s, with precursors such as National Wake and later on Hog Hoggidy Dog and The Rudimentals. But just as in many countries, the punk scene was overwhelmingly made up of white Afrikaans, as if writing songs against the establishment and being a part of a culture that celebrates youth taking matters in their own hands was reserved for those who were of a white background. But things are changing.

The new scene stands out because it’s mostly been created by black punks who have reclaimed the movement, and joined up with the usual white punks—no, punk doesn’t have to be white or pro-establishment. This new generation’s goal is to change the punk rock music scene in their country, while also having fun, getting drunk, and getting laid.

Of course, the community wouldn’t exist without the music. The most famous bands are TCIYF, who pretty much created the scene in Soweto, as well as others such as Brainwreck and Death at the Party.

The punk community in Soweto began when a group of skaters formed Skate Society Soweto in 2011. They released videos on Youtube and got international coverage from photographers witnessing the first steps of a skate culture in the city. Four of them would later form TCIYF.

The brand Desolated Clothing was also created by a few skaters. A self-professed lifestyle clothing company that shoots skaters for their Dirty Wednesday skate days.

The punk scene is pretty small there, hence the necessity for people to organize themselves to make sure that the culture will thrive. If anything, their brand of punk is as close to the roots of movement as one can be. After all, punk is all about DIY. if you can’t bring the music to the city, make it yourself.

Flyer for Soweto Rock Revolution's "Pound It!" event.

In July of 2013, TCYF who had become the faces of the punk community in Soweto created Soweto Rock Revolution with Moose “Mbuso” Zulu to gather rock music lovers from the area for a “heavy live music and skateboarding event.”

They debuted the festival Punk Funk later that year as a platform for both local and Johannesburg-based bands to play for their fans and for skaters from the Skate Society to compete. Three editions have followed since then and the Soweto Rock Revolution is still alive and thriving.

Even though most of the actual punk scene hails from Joburg, the scene is Soweto is more diverse and booming. Hence so many transplants coming to the regular punk rock nights organized by Soweto Rock Revolution in skate parks. Punk Fuck has been featured in both local and international magazines.

Does that mean fame is on its way to steal its authenticity?

Not really. The scene has grown, but remains self-contained in Soweto and new groups are formed regularly, many of them learning how to play instruments on-the-go.

"No future"?  It doesn’t look so.

 

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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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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

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We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

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(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rejoice! WhatsApp Places New Restrictions on Chain Messages to Fight Fake News

To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.

The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers."

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Sarkodie Hits Hard With His Latest Single 'Sub Zero'

The Ghanaian heavyweight rapper shows up with the fire bars over an Altra Nova-produced beat.

Sarkodie has dropped a new aggressive track in the shape of "Sub Zero."

"Sub Zero" follows the star Ghanaian rapper as he throws back criticisms that have come his way from other rappers with his own ice cold flow. The new track was produced by Ghanaian beatmaker Altra Nova and mixed by PEE On Da BeaT.

"Sub Zero" follows Sarkodie's turn-up single "Bumper," which dropped bak in February.

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