Future pop

Charl Blignaut speculates on where South African popular culture is heading in 2013 and beyond

It’s the audience that’s viral, not the video

If there’s a message in Gangnam Style hitting a billion views on YouTube – spawning everything from a brand of vodka in Russia to an Azonto dance parody in Ghana – then it probably has less to do with our love for chubby Korean men in bow ties and more to do with how we engage with the internet.

The need to use social media to share online is the virus – not the viral video. And the virus is being spread through smartphones.

It’s predicted that in 2013 more people on the planet will connect to the internet via their phones than via computers.

Social media will continue to disrupt the news stream – and will no doubt disrupt itself as it tries to earn revenue off our “sharing sickness”.

We’re entering a post-Bieber era. America is no longer the holy temple of pop. Anyone with enough audacity and suitably professional content from anywhere on the planet can now pitch their tent in the global village.

Forget thinking globally and acting locally; 2013 will be the year to think locally and act globally.

Oppan gangster style

It may have something to do with Die Antwoord, but probably has more to do with the ever-growing violence in movies. Cape gangsterism is set to trend.

There are several documentaries and feature films in production as you read this.

Expect the Cape Flats to trickle into Hollywood story lines before 2013 draws to a close.

Welcome to the freek show

Ask Die Antwoord. The zef rappists have used the Cape Flats gangster idiom to enlist a global army of fans. They topped the local Google search list this year and will probably do it again in 2013.

Pop loves a tart, especially in South Africa, where bad girls have ruled the roost since Brenda Fassie. But controversy is not the future.

Die Antwoord’s biggest success has been I Fink U Freeky, not Fatty Boom Boom, their shocking piss-take of Gaga.

Freeky is heading for 22 million YouTube hits, proving that the biggest trends are set by inviting people to join your club: learn our dance, be part of our freak show .?.?.

The beatification of Madiba

The coming year will be Madiba’s, as the sun continues to set on the most famous man in South Africa’s history. One global awareness study has named Mandela as the planet’s best-recognised brand after Coca-Cola.

If Shaka Zulu was the most famous South African before him, Mandela marks a shift from warrior to peacemaker.

His death – whenever that comes – will involve a beatification of his iconography as he moves from man to saint, much like Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.


A second Zuma term means much more inflammatory populist rhetoric – spun from that same old tension between tradition and modernity.

Whether it’s homosexuals or dogs, the prez will continue to generate hashtags that trend online.

Back to the Afrofuture

Something curious has been happening in Cape Town and in 2013 it will start emerging in popular culture. South Africa is a major new voice in science fiction, fantasy and crime.

It began with the runaway success of the film District 9, in which insectoid aliens land in Soweto.

It was followed up by Zoo City, a novel by Lauren Beukes, which reimagined Joburg as a universe where murderers are bound to an animal through a dark force.

Now Zoo City is set to become a movie and Beukes has gone international. Her Shining Girls is out in 2013.

It’s about a time-travelling serial killer. Deon Meyer’s crime novels are also to become major movies next year.

Director Jenna Bass and producer David Horler will be shooting Tok Tokkie, a kind of Capetonian Ghostbusters. And Triggerfish Animation Studios will be releasing Khumba. It’s about a zebra in Africa.

South Africa is offering the world a new, gritty fantasy, one that deals in politics and violence, and that taps traditional spirituality in a modern world. It’s just one of the ways our cultural producers are making sense of our particular madness.

Let’s talk about sex

Generations will continue to be the most watched show on TV.

This has to do with the fact that South Africans love soap operas – another favourite form of escapism – but mostly because the SABC can’t get its act together.

2013 was supposed to be the year the soaps evolved into telenovelas.

This is a South American format that offers nightly melodrama that begins and ends within a year. They have been in planning at the SABC for years, but there is no money.

So Mzansi Magic has tried to pioneer the format and failed spectacularly with iNkaba.

They’re having another go in 2013 – with a telenovela produced by Bomb, the people who brought us Yizo Yizo.

All we can be certain of is that the second season of Intersexions on SABC1 will set the popular trends. It starts in February, and features difficult sex scenarios that will get the nation talking.

Post-kwaito is the new kwaito

Die Antwoord, of course, is only as big as hip-hop. The true South African pop – the music you hear on the street – is gospel and house. We’re a nation that needs to escape our troubles through prayer and dance.

But our future pop is steadily being forged by the tension between being African and being global.

We have grown up on international sounds, and now we’re remixing them with African styles and selling them back to the world as the new cool.

Thandiswa Mazwai was a member of Bongo Maffin, the pop pioneers of their generation.

Word is that in 2013 she will be teaming up with Spoek Mathambo and will be mixing up new electronic sounds with her isiXhosa lyrics.

The post-kwaito beat master, Mathambo is steadily going global as an emerging force.

It’s the underground that shapes tomorrow’s pop, so look out for big things from the pioneering acts that can blend kwaito, house and hip-hop.

2013 will be the year of DJ Mujava, okmalumkoolkat, Dirty Paraffin, Big Fkn Gun and Petite Noir.

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