Afropunk On The Continent, South Africa’s Black Motion Leads The Way
As the sun disappeared in the horizon and dusk fell over Brooklyn, the crowd that gathered at the foot of one of the largest stages at Afropunk began to move to a hypnotic tune. Festival
As the sun disappeared in the horizon and dusk fell over Brooklyn, the crowd that gathered at the foot of one of the largest stages at Afropunk began to move to a hypnotic tune. Festival goers clad in some of the most fashion-forward outfits were swaying and grooving to the music as the DJ mixed and spun like a snake charmer willing his snakes to dance to the beat. Black Motion was gracing the stage at Afropunk Brooklyn 2017.
The South African house music duo is comprised of Bongani Mohosana aka DJ Murder – DJ and producer, and Thabo Mabogwane aka Smol – percussionist and producer. The famed group, best known for their percussion-driven electronic dance-music sounds and energetic performance routines, began in 2010, gaining popularity through the underground music scene.
They joined Spirit Motion and produced their breakthrough single Banane Mavoko. “Our sound,” Thabo and Bongani explained, “is inspired by traveling around the world and collecting different styles and cultures [and putting them into our music as a unified sound]. [We are inspired to] use these different styles to encourage people to be themselves and bring people together regardless of race.”
When Afropunk started off as a free musical event, it called to local self-proclaimed black-punks, eclectics, alternatives, and anyone living on the fringe of mainstream American culture. It was a safe-haven for those, especially in the African American community, who didn’t feel like they fit stereotypical expectations. Now-a-days, big names like D’angelo, Lenny Kravitz, Kelis, and Lauryn Hill perform at the festival, but the platform for lesser-known Djs, singers, and performers is still amply available to recognize those absent from pop-culture. Over the years Afrounk has stayed true to its original mission even though it has grown into a global movement that focuses on celebrating diversity, creativity, and self-love – all through the coalescing powers of music, fashion, and food.
While not the traditional Afropunk “usual suspects”, Black Motion’s presence at the festival was an interesting and relevant addition to the lineup, especially as the African influence has grown over the years. And for the first time-ever, the festival will take place on the continent – in Johannesburg, South Africa to be exact- later this year.
Black Motion has a global following, they’ve performed in Paris, Soweto, Toronto, London, Nairobi and everywhere in between — but playing at Afropunk in Brooklyn, New York was very important to them.
“The culture, the diversity and the roots of this festival, man, its just something you learn so much from [as an artist]. When we take this experience back home, we will definitely take a lot we can infuse into our music that can touch people regardless of color or race,” Thabo said. And he isn’t alone in his thinking.
Besides musicians, other Africans, and particularly South African artists, businesses and entertainers have flocked to the festival to make a place for themselves in this growing movement. Local restaurant darling Madiba was front-and-center serving delicious South African fare with long lines of hungry festival patrons. As was, Brand South Africa, the southern nation’s national brand ambassadors.
The company, established in 2002 to help create a positive and compelling brand image for South Africa, found itself at Afropunk promoting music, tourism, and culture to an audience that up until recently were not the primary target of travel and experience companies. Their mission is beyond getting people to S.A., but to immerse themselves in the experiences that the continent has to offer. They’ve joined forces with rising travel platform Noirbnb, which curates affordable experiences targeted towards black travelers.
Perhaps more Africans are becoming drawn to Afropunk not only because it is ironically gaining popularity in the mainstream, but because there is a common experience that comes from being “left out” and having to create a better narrative for ourselves.
Barba Gaoganediwe, head of Destination Marketing at Gauteng Tourism Authority, who partnered with Brand South Africa on a marketing campaign to elevate South Africa’s global image explained why it was pertinent to get the Afropunk crowd interested in traveling to South Africa:
“These are the millennials, the travelers. They are free spirited, they represent a movement and a generation of socially conscious people and South Africa is the home of social consciousness – in its anti-apartheid history and struggle – especially of people of color. And African Americans in particular were at the heart of our liberation struggle. So it is important to [have them] come back to the motherland and connect and literally come and see the fruits of their own struggles and their help in joining us to be liberated. And if it is done through music, art and creative connection, it can’t fail. [This is what] Afropunk is about – it is about celebrating humanity and taking a stance against all form of discrimination. South Africa is the home of resistance so Afropunk and South Africa are a natural connection.”
With Afropunk Jo’burg just around the corner on December 30th and 31st, Black Motion set the stage (no pun intended) for what’s to come. As their set dimmed in Brooklyn, the crowd, electrified by the performance, didn’t stop moving until the main stage opened up for headliner of the night, Raphael Saadiq – a fellow Afropunk artist that the duo admittedly would love to collaborate with amongst others like Anderson Paak, and Solange.
“We want to leave a legacy of pure music that was coming from our heart – not momentary music or music that was famous at the time – but timeless music. We just want to make way for the kids that are coming after us and leave footprints for them to follow all over the world,” Thabo explained. And in essence, this is what Afropunk is about.