If you don’t ask…

…hopefully they won’t answer.

I rarely get very aggravated by a band. I’m quite a mild person in general and tend towards a liberal view on most things. But when it comes to some bands and some music, I have very definite ideas. That said, I am supposed to be a music critic in my spare time and do at least two reviews of albums a month. I don’t think that allows me to claim authority on music, but I think it makes me somewhat qualified to air my views on music that I do know. So let me say two things before I begin this. I have trained myself to be objective when it comes to music, but the business of reviewing is almost completely subjective – so I guess I failed before I even begun. However, I don’t listen to musical genres which I don’t like or know very well and, therefore, I do not review or voice opinions on bands that are of the rap, hip-hop, kwaito and rhythm and blues persuasion.

But this is my exception. This exception has also meant that I have given power over to a band which does not deserve it. They don’t deserve my thoughts, or my feelings, and they definitely don’t deserve my ear.

Die Antwoord. Oh boy, here we go…

Recently, the Daily Maverick, a news website which I have the utmost respect for, published an article by someone who expressed their dissatisfaction with South African audiences. She claims that SA critics are not qualified to have an opinion on rap, and that Die Antwoord have been shunned by SA audiences for no good reason. She feels that they are an excellent band, with great music and that only international audiences have recognised this.

I have found myself a lone cynic when it comes to Die Antwoord. However, this is not because people think that their music is particularly good, but because they realise how genius the band is. This says much about the quality of the music, versus the quality of the marketing, the name and the product that is Die Antwoord. I have also never heard someone say something like, “great voice, unique performance, amazing music”. No, people remark on how hot Yo-Landi is, or how extreme the performance is. Is this enough to earn my respect?

Let me turn to my own thoughts (this is my blog, in any case). Rap in general is crap. It is one dimensional and the only thing that saves it is the abilities of the lyricist to grab you at every line. Let’s face it; if they haven’t said anything of significance by line 5, then you are pretty much just listening to a monologue. Rappers, in general, are chauvinistic, opinionated, arrogant people who rarely have lyrical imagination, but blow a lot of hot air, disguised as original thought. Yes, there are great rappers out there. I am not going to give you a list of names, because I have no idea who they are, but I am quite sure that there must be good ones.  

The thing about Die Antwoord, which makes their product of a “genius” persuasion, is that they shock, revolt, choke, move, provoke. So the fact that they provoked me means that they have won. But I won’t back down on my revolt against them. Their music is crap, but what is worse, is that they debase, dehumanise and destroy music, especially South African music. It is not lyrical genius which does this, but the unimaginative overuse of profanity and nudity. Look, I could get naked on stage and tell you that your mother smells like fishpaste too, but I would never stoop that low to bring you entertainment. I have dignity.

So maybe I am missing the deeper meaning. Perhaps their message is that there are people like that, somwhere out there, living in towns and cities in South Africa. Maybe the message is that we must notice them, that we must embrace all cultures and that we should no longer be ashamed that we have white trash living in our neighbourhoods.

I am white trash. But I refuse to embrace that culture. Nor do I relate to, or understand their message. Their message amounts to a cultural imposition and not all cultures have values that I want to uphold.

Going back to the Daily Maverick article, I am somewhat insulted by the insinuation that South African critics are not qualified to criticise. I am also insulted by the insinuation that South African audiences would embrace music, simply because it is South African, and that we cannot distinguish bad music from good music. She implies that we are so narrow-minded and stubborn that we cannot have our own individual views on music, but go along with what the general populace says. She implies that the revolt against Die Antwoord has no grounding.

Maybe she has a point, just maybe. But maybe she has forgotten that music is a package and that people rarely disassociate the artists from the music. The revolt against Die Antwoord is not a revolt against the music, as such, but is a revolt against Die Antwoord; what it represents, the people that make up the band, the feelings they invoke and the message they are saying. Really, the music is only secondary. So this last little rant has nothing to do with the quality of the music, but the other side of the music; how it speaks to a person and what it says.

I dislike Die Antwoord because they are arrogant, opinionated, debase and resort to unimaginative, unintelligent and disgusting habits to sell themselves. Even their name aggravates me. They consider themselves The Answer. The answer to what; I didn’t ask a question, and I certainly didn’t ask them to represent me, or anyone else in this country.

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