Tag Archives: Soweto

South African hip hop artist Cassper earns legend status

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.

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Warhol’s prophecy comes true: The age of celebrity culture

What is intriguing is that her act is not mind blowing for its artistry. She merely lifts her leg in a Michael Jackson-like motion. She squats and stands and shakes her derriere. All the time, you know that she is not wearing any under clothes because she already told you. Talk about the power of suggestion. The imagination is a wilderness of its own.

Zodwa now charges for her appearances and MC duties. It will cost you between R10 000 and R15 000 per gig to book her in South Africa. She is what the French would call a provocateur, a pop culture phenomenon which perhaps has its roots in the 60s when characters such as Elvis Presley scandalised the prim and proper folk, with his outrageous hip shake whilst performing on stage and British rock bands such as the Rolling Stones led publicly chronicled drug fuelled lifetsyle.

Kim Kardashian Clone?

But who is Zodwa? Born Zodwa Rebecca Libram in Soweto some 32 years ago before shifting to Durban four years ago, the former debt collector appears to have struck a rich vein: monetizing notoriety. And she is slated to visit Bulawayo’s Club Connect. “Zodwa is coming as a guest and not an entertainer but her popularity makes it sound otherwise. She will obviously dance and have her favourite drinks and even choose the woman who she feels would have done a great deal of copying her style‚” said Zandile Moyo the manager of Club Connect as quoted by the Sowetan.

Zodwa is coming possibly because she is currently trending on social media. She also upped the ante when she appeared dressed in a very ‘dangerous’ dress (of course without panties) at the famous Durban July horse race which is a much vaunted South African celebrity calendar event. “The inspiration behind it is that I wanted to be sexy and bold,” Zodwa elaborated. “I wanted to show I don’t really wear a panty. In the photos my cellulite is clearly visible; I wanted to show women we don’t have to hide what we are.”

Fifteen minutes of fame

It is Andy Warhol, in February 1968 who when he exhibited his first international retrospective exhibition at the Moderna Museet gallery in Stockholm had the exhibition catalogue contain a line “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” These words are now famously attributed to the late U.S. artist who was himself interested in personal branding and perhaps is most famous for being part of the Bohemian scene in New York of the 60s, 70s and the 80s. His other most famous pop culture contribution is his portrait of the late beauty and actress Marilyn Monroe (incidentally, she was a paramour of the assasinated Kennedy brothers John and Robert as well Mafia boss Sam Giancana).

By Warhol or not

Warhol’s words about the fleeting nature of fame may not have been actually his. Some reports attribute the words to photographer Nate Finkelstein who is reported as claiming to have uttered them in response to Warhol’s remark about his observation that “everyone wants to be famous”. But as reported by art critic Blake Gopnik in the Marketplace magazine: “We’ve decided it’s by Warhol, whether he likes it or not, we’ve created and continue to create the Warhol brand for ourselves.”

Self- addiction

If it is the ordained lot of artists to mirror society, and then Warhol was indeed a keen observor of soicety. If indeed he observed that “everyone wants to be famous”, then he could not have been more prescient in that observation. Take Facebook for instance. The runaway success of the platform with over a billion users across the globe is but ample evidence of this ‘self-addiction’. Too often, wanna be celebrities will flaunt their latest material possessions or even hairstyles on their Facebook pages. Soon enough, and depending on the number of ‘friends’ one has, the media spreads like wild fire as links to it are shared and so and so on. Virtual reality is the new reality and some have found a way to monetize their following in cyberspace.

Fame for fame’s sake

Ours is the age of the Kim Kardashians, the Pokello Nares, the Beverly Sibandas and lately the Zodwa waBantus. These ladies found a way to parlay their female bodies for fame and financial gain. But I see a thread harking all the way back to Marilyn Monroe. She may have been a talented actress but the pundits were not really interested in that talent. She was commoditised into a sex symbol- a symbol of men’s insatiable lust for beauty and voluptousness.

Kim Kardashian, perhaps not the air head that some initially made her out to be, produced a sex tape that made her into instant celebrity when it was released on to the internet. The scandal ensuing, or rather the notoriety she gained from it, merely fed into the publicity juggeraut she was to become and the tabloids’ hunger for the gutter was merely whetted. Kim Kardashian is neither a singer nor an actress nor a ballerina.  But over 150 million times, the sex tape which was legally aired by Vivid Entertainment in 2007 has been watched and has made a reported $100 million for the company. Kim is reported to have received $5 million from the tape! Six months after the publication of the tape, E! offered her a reality show Keeping up with the Kardashians in tandem with trending television format of reality shows.

 Scandal ain’t what it used to be!

Borrowing Kardashian’s script, Pokello also attained her fame through similar means i.e. a sex tape in which she starred with her then boyfriend musician Desmond ‘Stunner’ Chideme. Pokello Nare (now married), is probably Zimbabwe’s own version of Kim Kardashian. To Nare’s credit is the fact that whereas she is a university graduate, Kim never graduated from high school. It is interesting to note that before the now famous sex tape which was also leaked on line and blurred the lines on acceptable public conduct, very few people outside of her circle knew about Pokello Nare. Latterly, she was to successfully apply to be part of the Big Brother Africa reality television show. Her fame grew as it seemed that tabloids could not get enough of her. Somehow, there are people…throngs of lusty men who will part with good money to be titillated by the sight of a female body. It is a timeless and primal urge that knows no boundary.

New media revolution

But the proliferation of ideas and diffusion of innovations across cultures has largely been aided and abetted by the mass media and attendant technologies. Initially, radio, television and film were the mediums via which the stories of notable persons in society could parlayed for fame and in some instances fortune. More recently, the World Wide Web has become the most dominant medium of communication. Along with its rise to popularity, innovations such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and You Tube to name but a few have become mass communication staples. Whilst observing popular culture and culture in general, it may not be farfetched to conclude that whatever becomes a ‘hit’, is in itself an indicator of the prevailing value system of society at the given time. Thus it is even now. It is also very notable how that in the past artists generally tended to influence public discourses and contibute to the thought culture of societies.

Everyone wants to be famous

Not only notable persons are being depicted in these platforms. Even the unknowns are grabbing a slice of the cake. Notoriety is the new popular. Inexorably, we seem to be moving into a cultural morass, a dystopian nightmare that is bereft of absolutes. Values of decency or what is considered tasteful is increasingly becoming relative to the situation and to individual circumstances. The rise of the likes of Zodwa, Pokello and Kim Kardashian may therefore be viewed in the context of this new celebrity culture of fame for fame’s sake. Some say it’s a vacuous show, a bonfire of vanities. But this is show business and there is none like it for salaciousness. What the baying masses want, they get and canny club managers with ears to the ground and noses sniffing on the winds are smelling blood. It is ancient Rome all over again.