It’s over before you know it. The night of the biggest sound system clash in South Africa since 2012 felt, looked and sounded like a time-lapse video ...
It’s over before you know it. The night of the biggest sound system clash in South Africa since 2012 felt, looked and sounded like a time-lapse video of epic proportions
One minute the bathrooms are spotless and there are no queues at the bar where the bar staff’s smiles are as fresh as the mint leaves. Next thing you know, you’re debating with yourself about risking a bar or bathroom break and possibly missing a crucial moment in the final round of Red Bull Culture Clash 2017.
What seems like a minute ago, the wind in Orlando, Soweto was picking up as the first trickles of Culture Clashers arrived. The curtain opener DJs cover different genres fairly enough. Jackets come off and the first glows of sweat start appearing on the faces around you. Everyone’s favourite song might not be in the genre they usually listen to or would be backing at the Culture Clash.
ZAsuka – (so it begins in isiZulu)
The first round exposed the raw brutality of soundclash culture. Sure, there are rules and regulations, as Patoranking would learn in a later round, but for the most part each and every sound system is trying to win the overall clash and embarrass their opponents.
The winner of each round is determined by a ‘msindometer’ that apparently measures the amount of noise each sound system elicits from the crowd and then displays it in a screensaver-like levels graphic.
The arena becomes electric when the different sound systems play across genres. The crowd starts to choose the best sets, rather than their favourite sound system. The lines keep blurring throughout. The ante rises with each set of each round- building up to the final round where the last system standing wins.
Today’s music industry might be doing a lot of nasty things — like bankrupting rockstardom — but it’s definitely not becoming more genre-specific. South Africa’s crop of independent and signed artists is constantly growing and both groups are realising the many benefits of collaboration.
The Nigerian superstar Patoranking’s collaboration with South African rapper Kuli Chana on No Lie helps to expose both artists to different audiences. The collaborations AKA has with Burnaboy and Patoranking on various tracks has done similar good for their reach.
The best is yet to come
It doesn’t all go that hunky dory at sound clashes though. There’s a certain knack for entertaining and wheeling and dealing that you need to win a clash of the magnitude we saw for the first time in South Africa since 2012.
Tira’s took a stab at AKA when he featured Ricky Rick, who performed Boss Zonke and Sidlukotini. Deadly strategy. It’s unlikely that Tira didn’t realise how much Ricky Rick’s sound resonates with his Durban House sound on many levels.
And then Dj Tira took a shank in the side when Patoranking brought out Davido in the last round, this after Tira had earmarked Davido as one of the artists he wants to collaborate with in the future.
By this time, the bar queues are long, the wind has abated and the voltage at Orlando Stadium is powerstation high.
There are fireworks, an 80 meter stage with huge LED screens, an intelligent light rig and flame throwers that you can feel five rows back from the stage. It’s well lit. Time passes as quickly as the lights flash.
With an audience that is savvy of artists across genres, the fourth and final round of the clash becomes a test of ingenuity and originality and not just an experiment in how many artists each soundsystem could manage to fly out. In the end, DJ Tira’s Durban Massacre Sound System are the overall winners.
The sound system’s dreamy walk of fame is lit up by sparkly fireworks on either side of the runway with a team of Djs, performers and dancers from Durban’s house and kwaito scene behind Tira who had the Red Bull Culture Clash 2017 championship belt in both hands.
Fireworks and fanfare aside though, the audiences at the event are not the only people who will bear its fruits in the future. Just having that number of artists, from diverse genres and with various musical talents in a single space makes future collaborations almost inevitable.
But that means that as the lines between genres and geographical regions become more and more blurred and inconsequential, Red Bull Culture Clash South Asound systems of soundsystems need to be sharper, more nimble and most importantly, expert collaborators.
Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi / RedBull