Heavy Vibrations - A Musical Portrait of South African Youth02/05/2012
Let’s start this off with a bit of a confession: I am a white English writer with South African permanent residency who’s spent the last 15 years living in England, America and here in South Africa. My passion is street culture and everything that comes free with it, and right here right now South Africa is a gold mine for original, fresh-to-death, commercial-free culture, but that may well change in the not-too-distant future.
I’d just finished writing a book on youth advertising – The Stuff You Can’t Bottle (Thames & Hudson, 2013) – which included a chapter on South Africa, and six months later was about to return to continue my street culture work/shops, when I realized there was a story here that I was destined to write. In a lot of the ‘developed’ countries the old out-number the young, but in my beloved South Africa the opposite applies, and not only is this a great thing for the youth, but also an amazing resource for the music industry (and on the dark side it’s a haven for brands to creep and shill their products, but more about that later.) I have some youthful informers: I am a surrogate father to a teenage girl in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, and through my street culture and advertising work, I’m down with some teens from Umlazi, Soweto and the Cape Flats. I work with a student from Port Elizabeth, and some art school types from all over and so this is where I start.
I set out to travel through the South African youth landscape riding on the back of a decent soundtrack, looking to discover if in the deepest south, Saturdays=Youth? Does the abundance of youth mean a liberal open-minded society? What has Kwaito developed into? What are the indigenous home-grown sounds of South Africa? How much does it have to do with colour? To an Englishman, what does the Rainbow Nation sound like? Does Odd Future or Jessie J have anything to say that could possibly relate to the lives of the Youth? All seen through the eyes and ears of the youth.
Heavy vibrations here we come: A Musical Portrait of South African Youth.