Hip-Hop At Rocking The Daisies Festival: A Talk With Cape Town MC Motheo Moleko
Motheo Moleko from Momentss discusses Rocking The Daisies 2013.
Completely sold out for yet another year, Rocking The Daisies is one of the most looked-forward to events known to SA. In a few short hours Cloof Wine Estate will be converted into a weekend-long festival littered with partygoers ready to welcome October with open arms and minds. Joining the headliners this year will be the UK’s Skunk Anasie as well as Alt-J, and many other South African favourites. We caught up with a sharp young Daisies veteran, Motheo Moleko, performing as part of a band called Momentss (yes, with an ‘E’ and a double 's'). He gave us the grit on what to look forward to for this weekend’s festivities, what he could and couldn’t do without, and his favourite Rocking the Daisies momentss.
Shiba for OKA: Formalities first, who are you guys and how did you come to be?
Motheo: My name is Motheo Moleko. I rap. I write. I try to tell jokes, generally very unsuccessfully.
OKA: Me too. Did you catch that last line of the intro? Shameful.
Motheo: *Shakes head* Momentss (currently changing from Momantss, for obvious reasons) is short for Motheo Moleko & The Space Section. About two years ago, I began pulling together my own project after spending some time helping a friend build his own project from the ground up. Anyhow, I pulled a band together and I thought we were onto something. In this time, Asher Gamedze, who plays drums and percussion in Momentss, came up to me and told me he'd love to play in a project with me, but I already had another drummer. That project fell apart. I called Asher back. He was in. The crazy thing is I had booked a show and I had no band! I figured it would light a fire under my ass to get things together. Asher helped me rope in Rob Scott (keys and lead), and Daniel Bruce Gray (bass) and suddenly, we had something real. I was extremely fortunate, because they had been playing together for years across various projects, and everything just worked. Momentss is literally the greatest thing I've ever been a part of.
*Momentss Drummer Asher Gamedze
OKA: We have a lot of genres representing at RTD as usual. What kind of noises will you be making?
Motheo: I mean, we're a 'rap band' in the sense that the person who fronts the band raps. However, I think that misses a lot of what we're trying. We're really influenced by 70s funk music, because those basslines! We're also proudly African in that, where we can, we're increasingly introducing African elements, especially with percussion and groove. We're also quite fortunate in that we all listen to different genres, and that often bleeds into our sound. All in all, though, rap meets funk meets Africa meets whatever else we think is cool.
OKA: How do you feel about performing this year, as opposed to previous RTDs?
Motheo: This would be my third year in a row performing at Rocking The Daisies in my personal capacity. I performed at Daisies 2011 and 2012 with another act I'm involved in called Jeremy Loops. Both of those experiences were remarkable coming of age shows for JL and, in that sense, I think I'm really excited about how we, as Momentss, approach it. I also think, given we're a rap act playing a major South African festival, it's really meaningful to us that we're getting the opportunity to perform on these platforms. Hip-hop has always been sidelined at festival level in South Africa, and probably around the world, and it's nice to be one of those guys pushing the boundaries and breaking the perception that rap can't work at Daisies or Oppikoppi or wherever.
*Motheo Moleko (left), Jeremy Loops (center), Jamie Faull (right)
OKA: Hold on there… “Rap can’t work?” This seems like an odd thing to say. “Rap” acts to this point have stood on opposing ends of the spectrum, successfully, at quite a few fests considering they're each either mainstream, funk, “conscious” and/or electro-based rap...
Motheo: Rap does work! That's my point. It's just South African festivals don't book urban acts to the major slots. Who’s to blame for that? I think partially the rap acts themselves -- it's only so far a laptop/DJ and a mic will carry us on a massive stage. But... maybe the festivals themselves don't seem to think their core want rap, and who's to say they're wrong? They sure as hell know how to sell thousands of tickets to a party better than I do. Still, let's count the guys who are making moves: Reason has done great things this year, PHFat have been present, Tumi & The Volume would get playback when they still existed, AKA did Oppi, Spoek is doing Daisies this year, but other than that? Here's a better excercise: Look at the Saturday and Friday night mainstage lineup for South Africa's top four major festivals. Count the number of rap/urban acts. I'd be surprised if you count more than 2 in total, if even that. Do this exercise for the last 5 years. Does the picture get better or worse?
Motheo: Maybe this is an indictment on the state of live performances by urban acts at a massive scale in general? Maybe Urban acts can't pull crowds - the recent cancellation of Rock The Bells in NYC and DC perhaps indicates that? I don't know. But it would be cool as all hell to see urban stages stand on their own feet the way electronic stages and main stages - rock stages, if we're being totally honest - currently do. Step by step, right? Rocking The Daisies and the other major festivals, to their credit, really are beginning to push the limits of what's possible, introducing lots of stages catering to different genres year by year. I just want to see rap/hip-hop music standing toe to toe at festivals with its electronic and rock counterparts. At least that's our short term goal at Momentss and yes, sure, it's definitely self-serving. Maybe it's folly, but at least we're working towards something.
OKA: Nothing wrong with that at all! So what are your top 5 items that you can't do without while out in the estate?
1) A freaking tent! This is like the 20th festival I've played in 3 years and I finally own my own tent.
2) Wet wipes. Dust everywhere.
3) Comfy shoes. Way too much walking.
4) Earphones that double as earplugs. I'm not one of those party all night guys and, as great as RTD is, there are almost inevitable musical lulls. I like to retreat within at those times.
5) My phone, because I'm on the job at Rocking The Daisies, building relationships, trying to secure bookings for the next thing and so on. Phone also doubles as a way to take notes if song ideas hit me, and as a picture snapper.
OKA: And finally… Everyone has a great story to go along with their Daisies experience. What's yours?
Motheo: Rocking The Daisies 2012, I walked onto stage during our set and their must have been like 10,000 people standing in front of me cheering. We began performing this cut called "My Shoes" and people were singing along. Loudly. It was nuts. What caught my eye was that there was this really pretty blonde girl right in the front row rapping every single line. It was crazy because she was carrying herself with confidence that belied her appearance. Like, have you seen that girl in A$AP Rocky's "Purple Swag" video? The one with the grill? Yeah, just like that girl. The way she carried herself completely belied her appearance. What was surreal was that the three girls flanking her were in hysterics, sort of like verging on tears from excitement or whatever, and there she was, completely at ease, looking so out of place relative to her neighbours, but just so dominant. She planted a big kiss on my cheek after the show and joked "If ever you need a stand in..." I was like, "A stand in? You carry yourself like you want my job!" That was cool. Isolated, sure. Probably not as controversial as some would like to hear. But that's easily one of my Daisies highlights.
OKA: For anyone who can't make RTD, where can we see you perform next?
Motheo: At the moment we're working on our debut EP, or mixtape, or album -- we'll see what it becomes -- so gigging is not a major priority. We have a show lined up at The Rockwell Hotel in Sea Point on 15 November, and we'll likely play several more gigs and festivals around Cape Town before the year's out. Johannesburg and, hopefully, Durban gigs will happen before the year is out too.