Op-Ed

A Letter to Ninja: Stop Being a Poes

On Die Antwoord, South Africa and appropriation.

In the op-ed below, Tseliso Monaheng responds to Ninja from Die Antwoord's recent Instagram post about his home country: "The question was buried in my subconscious mind since I decided the become a rapper at the age of 14: 'How the fuck am I going to make it out of South Africa?'" He continues "The young South African kids are cool as fuck, but ALOT of people over the age 20 (or so) are culturally insecure and unable to present anything artistically that is relevant to the outside world. They try their best, but their shit just circles around interally for a while then eventually dies out. There are however a few incredible exceptions of people that have emerged from South Africa and exploded internationally, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Charlize Theron, Neill Blomkamp, Trevor Noah... and I may be fogetting a person or two, but when South Africans do get their shit together and blow up, they don't fuck around. #Oh ja and let's not forget the inventor Elon Mutherfuckin Musk, and the freedom fighter turned saint, Nelson Mandela"


I also have a Ninja story.

Watkin Tudor Jones was a rapper whom I got introduced to via legend. People would speak of this white guy who could spit superlatives, rhymed about his strictly formal dress code, was part of The Original Evergreen, a band likened to Cypress Hill in their music-making approach. He was also said to be ahead, way ahead, of his time.

The legend of Waddy bled into Max Normal, the live outfit he founded after the demise of the Evergreen. It went further, this legend, and spilled its guts through other tales: Waddy at Le Club [Johannesburg], performing while covered head-to-toe such that his white skin was invisible; Waddy, post-Max Normal, breaking barriers, trends and expectations through the electronic soundscapes provided by Sibot and Markus Wormstorm.

Waddy was the penultimate “cool” emcee to me. He was to other black kids too, I discovered later on. These were the homies who, like myself, grew up digging for alternative rap music; for anything that wasn’t the shit radio was churning out. He featured in playlists alongside artists signed to Rawkus and Def Jux; his songs fit perfectly in mixtapes featuring Tumi and the Volume and Cashless Society––both outfits with immense street cred at that time.

I got the Max Normal Songs From The Mall CD in 2004. I’ve got stories of missed shows during the MaxNormal.TV era; of crushed dreams from not being able to afford one of the few remaining copies of Constructus Corporation’s The Ziggurat.

I also have other stories, and have heard of more. Waddy was fond of founding and abandoning projects for no explanation, leaving a trail of broken hearts and dreams in his decision-making process.

Then he found Ninja.

With Yolandi by his side and the MaxNormal.TV days drawing near, the two formed Die Antwoord.

Ninja, nee Waddy Jones, said of the time, in a cover story with the now-defunct South African edition of Rolling Stone, that the reason for his newfound glory was that he came the realisation that nobody wanted the intellectual shit. He then went on to say “We appeal to the man in the street. We run the exact same campaign as Zuma and Malema do. We make pop music. We don’t make intellectual music.”

He also added a very telling caveat: “Our shit is hostile-takeover shit.”

The statement came fresh out of Ninja’s book of bold declarations, so it wasn’t a surprise.

Much like it wasn’t a surprise when he featured Isaac Mutant, Garlic Brown, Scallywag and Jaak on “Wie Maak Die Jol Vol,” a song left out of the group’s debut offering, $O$. These, afterall, were some of the emcees on the Cape Town rap scene during the gully days when Waddy was the guy who walked around in clubs battling anyone (and oftentimes losing). What transpired following the collab was disconcerting.

Not once did Ninja take any of those emcees he’s featured along on the road; at least there’s no recorded case where that happened.

It’s all good being a self-starter who leeches off of other cultures for selfish interests; capitalism demands it through its every-man-for-himself bullshit approach to life. It’s all good, until we turn to history and identify similar cases where white men have stolen from other cultures and passed off ideas as their own. Where white people use people of other skin tones for self-serving ventures.

So, then, entered the Ninja: Someone who appropriated Cape Flats Coloured identity thoroughly, and went away all smiles and laughter, fat cheque in the back pocket and balls intact in hand. Plus a ticket to the showrooms of big labels and big-name artists and fashion designers, and big-time movie producers.

Now check for Die Antwoord’s subsequent projects: The taal made an exit and the English rhymes sneaked their way back into the catalogue. This alone presents a strong case for the group as a walking, talking caricature of Whiteness, oblivious to the violence it exacts on its environment, with a gang of backers in the mainstream media to trump its bullshit. We’ll ignore that line of merchandise Die Antwoord purveyed in 2014 featuring the word “Nigger.” It’s safe to assume that by then, anyone who’d idolised Waddy in any way during his formative years had worked day and night erasing any memory linked to him. We’ll also overlook “Evil Boy.”

Here’s the thing, though, Ninja: You’re a superstar now. You pose for photo ops with Kanye and Travis Scott, you get shouted out by Ghostface Killah, you’re bros with Manson, and you can afford to have DJ Muggs, the founding member of a crew which was so influential to your early years, to spin at the record release party for your mixtape, which he produced. But for you to suggest in your Instagram post that South Africans “over the age 20 (or so) are culturally insecure and unable to present anything artistically that is relevant to the outside world” and then go on to list an almost exclusively-white, way-over-20 list (with one dead person in it, as one Facebook commenter pointed out), c’mon fam.

Or, as one of the captions on the memes you’ve posted on your group’s Facebook page suggests: “Don’t be a poes.”

. Die Antwoord is „the answer“. Have you found out what's the question? N-The question was buried in my subconscious mind since I decided the become a rapper at the age of 14: 'How the fuck am I going to make it out of South Africa?' South Africa is a strange place, it's wild and beautiful and dangerous and fucked up and violent and wonderful and mysterious and so many different things. My country has a very rich, kind of unexplainable spirit or feeling or however you want to call it. The young South African kids are cool as fuck, but ALOT of people over the age 20 (or so) are culturally insecure and unable to present anything artistically that is relevant to the outside world. They try their best, but their shit just circles around interally for a while then eventually dies out. There are however a few incredible exceptions of people that have emerged from South Africa and exploded internationally, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Charlize Theron, Neill Blomkamp, Trevor Noah... and I may be fogetting a person or two, but when South Africans do get their shit together and blow up, they don't fuck around. #Oh ja and let's not forget the inventor Elon Mutherfuckin Musk, and the freedom fighter turned saint, Nelson Mandela

A photo posted by NINJA (@zef_alien) on

Photos

This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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Film
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!

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Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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