As if filling up a 20 000 seater Coca Cola Dome in Soweto or a 60 000 seater Orlando stadium is a stroll in the veld, try this for size : Cassper filled up a 90 000 seater football stadium in addition to those feats ! Well not quite ; though he did sell 72 000 tickets and brought throngs of excited fans along for the history making show.Few African artists have been stadium fillers. This is a rarified space which has in the past been inhabited by international acts such as Bruce Springsteen and Eminem.
Cassper’s feat has earned him the respect of peers and entertainment industry elders such as the legendary impresario of the African house music and the power behind the careers of pan African groups such as Mafikizolo, Bongomaffin and Boomshaka DJ Oskido (real name Oscar Mdlongwa, the boss of Kalawa Jazmee)
Cassper was born Refiloe Maele Phoolo into a middle class South African family. Dropping out of school at 16 to pursue his music dream in the bright lights of Johannesburg must have sounded like a nightmare to his teacher parents.The odds seemed bleak… On Saturday night 68 000 fans turned up for the spectacular show that has helped the 27 year old hip hop artist and boss of independent label Family Tree Records make history. Perhaps reminiscing about his days paying his dues as a backing dancer for popular hip hop artists of the day such as HHP (whom he paid homage to before the pumped up crowd), Cassper ‘kinged’ it. But did he ever think that one day he would be compared with the likes of Bruce Springsteen in the annals of pop music history as a big stadium drawcard?
Theatre of dreams
The venue of last Saturday’s concert was the architectural masterpiece that is the FNB stadium which played host to the 2010 World Cup final. An aerial view of the stadium reveals an inspirational and evocative design achievement in the calabash design of the stadium. The very idea of a design inspired by African motifs and iconography is fundamental to the proliferation and proper monetisation of African cultural artefacts and Art in general. The Nyovest gig has been hailed by the country’s Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa: “On behalf of @ArtsCultureSA I wish you all the best as you make your mark and start a new chapter in South Africa’s music history tonight. You continue to inspire future generations of African musicians to be limitless in their pursuit of excellence”and for “using his platform to encourage the youth to preserve and promote African arts and culture.”
The path to glory
The campaign to fill up the stadium ran for several months on social media mainly.Corporate support for the gig was begging initially till right upto the very last moment. Cassper was on social media grumbling about how “they dont want to support us” in refernce to corporate South Africa. In an interview with DJ Sbu (another serious entrepreneur owner of the MoFaya energy drink and Massiv Metro radio station) Cassper broke down the total cost of the show which saw him go broke as per his own word and selling four Rolex watches. Of course that fact alone I found bemusing considering the lot of Zimbo musicians. A Rolex watch can set you back close to R60 000 per piece. Still, Cassper claimed in the interview that it would cost him 15 million rand to put the show together. It cost 2 million rand to book stadium, 5,2million rand for the stage design ( by a company based in Cape Town), 1 million rands for traditional marketing and 500 000 rands for supporting acts.
It takes a village to raise an African child
For a moment, it seemed that Cassper was going it alone but for the support of the likes of famous house music don Oskido of Kalawa Jazmee records, fellow rapper Riky Rik, Black Coffee and other celebs such as actress Pearl Thusi who came out in support buying tickets. Oskido bought R50 000 worth of tickets whilst Riky Rik bought R20 000 worth of tickets. All of sudden, the campaign for the show reached a groundswell and the corporate world jumped in. Ciroc, Budweiser, SABC. South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture and Standard Bank came on board to help underwrite the gig. Standard Bank actually broke protocol by sponsoring a gig at rival bank branded stadium.
Business comes to the party
The corporate head of retail marketing Tinyiko Mageza at Standard Bank offered his sentiments about the Cassper gig: “Cassper Nyovest has challenged young South Africans to unapologetically chase their next big dreams, their next big deals and their next big wins, and we are inspired and excited to be part of this adventure. For Standard Bank it doesn’t matter where your NEXT may happen or how big it may seem, we really just want to be a partner as you steer your life to greatness.” The Standard Bank involved an undisclosed amount of money plus extensive marketing support and advertising. The bank also gave away free tickets that it had bought to fans. Incidentally, Standard Bank has a promotional campaign entitled ‘What’s Your Next?’“We are here to support a young African artist, Cassper Nyovest, to show that anything is possible.We are here to show that no matter how big or audacious, bold or daring your next step is you can really make it happen if you have the right partners co-piloting with you and helping you stir your life to greatness.As a country, we followed Cassper’s journey from one ‘next’ to the other For us it represented the epitome of what a ‘next’ is all about. As a bank, in May we put our hands up and asked the question to all South Africans, ‘What is your next?’,” said Mageza.
A night to remember
The stage with two giant lions flanking it was designed by Daniel Popper a Cape Town based artist. The lighting was superlative and worthy of a galaxy of African stars who take their Art seriously. The show included a Somizi Mhlongo choreographed 50 dancer show piece by Cassper alone. Some of South Africa’s top artistes Kwesta, Major League,Babes Wodumo, current hit makers Distruction Boyz, DJ Tira, (Zimbabwean rapper )Nadia Nakai, Somizi, Riky Rick and Tshepo Tshola featured to help make the show a grand musical affair. They didn’t need American musical imports to fill the stadium on this Saturday night and the tag line of Brand South Africa- Proudly South African was totally earned. Hit after hit was churned out by Cassper and his coterie of fellow artists with songs such as ‘Mama I made it’, ‘Tito Mboweni’ and others by Babes Wodumo thrilling the multi-ethnic and multi-racial fans.The generation of artists such as Cassper is clearly standing on the shoulders of giants that have gone before him such as the late Lucky Dube and Miriam Makeba.
Has Cassper Nyovest not given South African audiences a moment of showbiz magic with his recent FillUpTheFNB concert? Has he not rewritten the script for African artists in the process in terms of how far to reach when pursuing the singular goal of global fame?
Apparently, Cassper calls him himself Mufasa – Lion king. Is he the lion of African pop culture ? Pundits would be hard pressed to deny him the title especially if he pulls off the #FillUpMosesMabhidha gig he is now eyeing for 2018.