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South Africa’s anarchist hip hop collective 0

Dec5

How do you make people realize they’re in chains? For Soundz of the South (or SOS) – an anti-capitalist resistance collective from Khayelitsha, Cape Town – you give them hip hop. That injunction dates back to hip hop’s origins in New York City.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdzptwEGWmA[/youtube]

At street parties in the South Bronx in the 1970s, sound equipment was often wired up to park lampposts. Hip hop’s origins were strictly DIY and, most importantly, a direct reaction to the structural marginalization of communities and the racism of the mainstream media. SOS are carrying on that initial spirit through hip hop activism that is relevant to their own struggles.

As a collective of both activists and artists they are committed to decentralization, direct action, autonomy and self-reliance. Like anarchist thinkers Emma Goldman or Mikhail Bakunin, they believe that hierarchies corrupt and only horizontal organisation can eliminate inequality. Besides recording albums, SOS hosts regular meetings and “critical” documentary screenings, weekly slam sessions, organize protests and discussions, attend regular conferences and have set up campaigns such as “Don’t Vote! Organise!” or initiatives to save Philippi High (a school on Cape Town’s Cape Flats). They also started the Afrikan Hip Hop Caravan, an annual series of events (this is the third edition) currently taking place through the end of December.

A recent track was directly inspired by the collective’s involvement in the#FeesMustFall student protests. When I interviewed members Milliha, Anele, Khusta, Sipho and Monde, they were resolute that their music has to be political. “What hip hop should be about is hold accountable those who are in power,” says Anele.

The reasons are that it’s a genre young people can relate to, and accessible because, as Milliha explains, unlike punk music, “You need a pen and paper, and the beat will come on its own.” The sentiment is that, when country’s President, Jacob Zuma’s main virtue is a charismatic dance, and bling bling, booze and bitches flood the mainstream, grassroots hip hop is the alternative media.

SOS members, who are also part of other activist organizations such as the Housing Assembly and ILRIG, understand that there’s more to social change than music. To be part of the collective, you have to be involved in regular discussions, protests, meetings, take on tasks, organize, and identify with the principles.

Many times on-the-ground work comes first, which inspires ideas for songs. But Anele stresses, what hip hop does do is help listeners wake up and mobilise action. “It demystifies big issues and brings politics back to the people,” he says, or as Monde puts it, “We’re taking whatever is out there and bring it closer to those who can’t reach it.”

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Christine Hogg

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