Blog Post

Die Antwoord transcend & transgress (NSFW): A (particularly) short attention span essay on one strand of South African culture

Read this interview with Die Antwoord. Or this one. Or, better yet, catch up with them by reading this informative, catch-all post. Or just listen to their music here.

Where does it seem like their music belongs? South Africa where they're all from? Or is it strangely Japanese in some way? Or proudly internationalist despite their talk of being provincial? What is their cultural niche? Hipster parody? A one-note effort to garner crossover attention? Or something meant for mooks and simple rednecks?

Yes, Pitchfork has been on this for over two weeks. (I'm so behind!) But what's the RIYL: Vanilla Ice? Kool Keith? "Weird Al" Yankovic? Zomby? Aphex Twin?

Laughing at them? Definitely not. Giggling nervously about what it all means? Perhaps. Like it? Hate it? Love it? Grossed out by it? Or do you find it poignant? Well, yes, the sidekick (?!?) has progeria. His name is Leon Botha. He is a painter, and one of the oldest living people afflicted with that disease.

Verdict: Completely dystopian yet hopeful, random yet specific, confusing yet compelling. WTF factor x∞!?!

And, as a sidenote, it also seems to encapsulate a mad, sad, quotidian set of South African cultural tropes and, at once, encompasses the thought of J.M. Coetzee and the imagery of Roger Ballen (that's this guy!) while remaining resolutely pop, resolutely contemporary. Before I continue, a bit more of that Roger Ballen guy: If what they say is true and we live in a fallen world, what does it matter what is truth and what is fiction?

Alec Hanley Bemis's picture

Alec Hanley Bemis lives in Brooklyn, NY but spends a lot of time in California. He obtained his B.A. in History from Yale University. His writing has appeared in LA Weekly, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Spin, AsthmaticKitty.com, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. In 2001, he co-founded Brassland, a record label that documents the work of a growing community of musicians, including The National and Nico Muhly. Currently he continues to run Brassland, consults for the UK-based music company All Tomorrow's Parties, co-manages The Dirty Projectors, and acts as general manager at Cantaloupe Music. In the past, he has taught in New York University's graduate journalism program, produced projects for the new media-design firm, Funny Garbage, and written for Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve.