White Spoek, Black Spoek, Punk Spoek
Have you seen this video by Spoek Mathambo? It’s a brilliant reworking of an English punk classic. Joy Division’s She’s Lost Control.
Watching this video made me wonder all over again why punk rock has never caught on among township youth. And I mean conceptually. Yeah I understand the physical barriers of access and so on, but you know, as far as I can tell, that since apartheid our youth has never had more to be angry about: poor education, no jobs, cronyism and outright disinterest in their plight.
Youth struggles always seem to have a soundtrack. The hippies in the 60’s, the punks in the 70’s and 80’s, the ravers in the early 90’s. Where is the soundtrack for our youth? Or is there none because they aren’t really struggling? I doubt it.
Unfortunately, our radio stations seem to think that black people listen to certain types of music and white to another. This is racial profiling and totally precludes the idea that one may like a form of music just because you do, and not because you are black and white. So we don’t get to hear certain things because of the station we listen to. Heard this before somewhere?
Of course rock is WHITE music. So it doesn’t get played on BLACK stations. Yeah, right! And yes, this is the new South Africa. And yet, look what Spoek has done here. It’s so powerful.
Do I think black kids are gonna leave kwaito and hip hop in their droves and become rockers? No, I don’t. But I do wonder why something as angry with the man as punk, as DIY, as anti establishment, isn’t gripping their imagination. Maybe they still think it’s all gonna come out in the wash. Maybe they aren’t really upset with the current situation.
But I don’t believe that.
Hip hop and punk were both born in ghettoes from frustration and anger and the need to assert an independent identity separate from the status quo. Hip hop has white and black followers all over the world because of these principles. But hip hop now is bling, ho’s and stupid rhymes. Punk is Blink 182. Which is probably worse. Maybe that’s why no-one wants to go there.
But the spirit of ‘76 and ‘77 lives on in our souls. I’d love to see a real youth rabble rouser rise from a band somewhere in a township. Not a wrist-watch-wearing, luxury- car-driving rabble rouser. Because no matter how much of what he says is true, I can’t believe him.
But a kid from the streets, ON the streets, moving people with music? That I could believe in.
That I’d like to see
Thanks Spoek, you honour my tradition with your version of this song. Love the video. I hope to see some new inheritors of the tradition it represents. Sticking it to the man, being your own person and doing things your own way!