What really happened at the Die Antwoord concert

It doesn't surprise me at all that I arrived home on Tuesday with multiple bruises after seeing Die Antwoord play at the Commodore Ballroom. The crowd went crazy for this fresh rave-rap band from Cape Town, South Africa. While waiting between two huge video screens for MCs Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er to perform, the rowdy audience was anything but composed.

Illustration by JJ Brewis
The pushing, shoving and groping really emphasized the level of testosterone in the venue, and was noted by my friend Will VG, that at their last show in Vancouver “even Yolandi was crowd surfing" but wouldn't dare throw her petite frame to this group of fans. Backed by their DJ, Hi-Tek, they finally sprung out of nowhere wearing matching drawn-on white hooded suits, jumping and punching their way into their first song, “Fok Julle Naaiers”. The performance had a heavy tone with energy so high it left the crowd rioting in their ZEF SIDE tees and cropped belly-shirts.

All toe-stomping and elbowing aside, their performance was captivating with tight rhymes, huge sound and a raw stage presence. Omniscient DJ Hi-Tek was dropping beats onstage while Yolandi in her gold spandex and Ninja in his boxers drew all the attention.  Everyone was singing along to Yolandi's chorus on their internet-hit “Enter The Ninja”, but many fans were also screaming lyrics to other new tracks such as “In Your Face” and “She Makes Me A Killer”.

Ninja took a minute to teach the audience "a little South African zef educational lesson" whereupon he taught us the lyrics to the dirty sing-along song called “Fish Paste”. Even in a Pikachu costume, Ninja managed to deliver a mean encore. 

It must be something about Yolandi's cute and creepy sex appeal, or Ninja's stick-and-poke tattoos and Afrikaans slang that appeals to so many people. With their second sold-out show just in Vancouver, their popularity must be more than just a music video (featuring one of the world's oldest survivors of progeria) with eight million views.

Representing zef, a slang term that was once used as insult, now meaning a style that's like poor-but-fancy ghetto-posh, Die Antwoord is paving new ground with a sound that's all their own in the international consciousness. Many wonder whether these two take themselves seriously – their videos are eerie, pornographic, disturbing and offensive, but their message is clearly sound. With inspirations in political topics, such as the African-native Xhosa ceremony for coming of age men (see their newest video for “Evil Boy”), issues of race and culture, and messages that urge all listeners to only speak from the heart, it seems the band is more legitimate than they first appear. Though I don't necessarily think they're trying to be funny, I must say this show was hilarious and entertaining, as well as inspiring and confusing, but in all, definitely not an act.

What makes me think that Die Antwoord is more than just a couple of weird personas and a DJ, and that their one of a kind style will be long-lasting, is their ability to create something new by combining a multitude of influences. As Ninja says himself on the first track of their recently released first album $O$, "I'm like all these different things, all these different people, foked into one person." The originality that comes from this mash of cultures, languages, ethnicities and styles in South Africa is what sets this band apart from the rest, and what will help ensure them a lasting career. Well, at least until their fifth album, whereupon they have been quoted as saying that they will quit or disappear while they're ahead.

In this mix of different cultures, languages and musical genres, out come a lot of questions about what this group really represents, but whether you think they are genuine or merely an act, they're the only ones who truly know “The Answer.”

//Erin Rae

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