August 3rd, 2007

Outsourced Analysis #745639: Kwaito Resonance Reflex

On 8/2/07, Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, Dr wrote:

And this one, check this out.. I am interested in your analysis of the dance and music…

Sonjah Stanley Niaah, Ph.D.
Lecturer, Cultural Studies
University of the West Indies, Mona Campus
Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference 2008:

To which I replied:

This one’s (more) interesting (to me right now)! Whereas the last one you sent (which I blogged back in April) seems fairly typical to me in terms of kwaito musical style and perhaps dance style (though it’s obviously quite well choreographed, and to be honest I know far less about kwaito dance), this one seems rather atypical in a number of ways. Musically, it reminds me a lot more of kuduro (that style from Angola I was telling you about) and even Chicago Juke (which a commenter notes as well); you might hear it as similar to soca, which also has some musical overlap with this particular track.

It’s only the drum track that suggests that to me, however; the singing seems a lot more characteristically South African (and perhaps the melodic/keyboard elements, though I’m not sure). Some of the group dancing reminds me of the wedding video — looks like similar moves/choreography, which suggests (to me) that that’s closer to kwaito style. Some of the moves, though, especially the solo dancing, seem to me to perhaps be inspired by Jamaican dances (such as the butterfly-ish stuff at around 3:30). Lots of dance styles being drawn upon here, it seems. Around 4:15 it looks to me like some classic breakdance / robot / bboy stuff — if with a little more bounce in it (those “inverting” feet [there’s probably a better term — my dance vocab is rather impoverished]). Finally, toward the end (around 4:36) there’s some back-to-front grinding that could easily pass for perreo, or just good ol’ win(d)in’, freakin’, jukin’, you-name-it. Great montage! (But I really don’t know what to make of that whole laborer / overseer series of scenes, esp the dancing-in-the-fields denouement.)



  • 1. url monro  |  August 3rd, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    I’m with Wayne. This strikes me as more Angolan/Kuduro influenced than anything else. It’s also about one snare beat shy of being a pitched-up Reggaeton production, given where the back-beat is. But, in the end , who cares right? Shake-that-azz is pretty universal. The movement was more typical to say, a soca dance you’d find in London; definitely West Indies style.

    Thanks for the video.

    You need any music technologists at the Mona Campus. Now, that’s what I’d call a job.


  • 2. Birdseed  |  August 4th, 2007 at 10:05 am

    The thing I feel most intensely as being atypical of kwaito here is the incorporation of “primitive” field singing in the music. It feels “south african” certainly, but not Kwaito, just as a zulu choir would feel south african but not kwaito. The softness irks me for some reason – it seems out of place in a “thug” musical style.

    I would normally dismiss it as some middle-class Moby wannabe trying to do Kwaito, what with the sampled vocals, the bright dance-music sounds and the intentionally unusual percussion. What doesn’t seem to go with that is the very simple video…

    Still, it seems unusual to say the least for a young, urban, working-class musical style to go intentionally “backwards” towards tradition and rural peasanthood. Usually that means it’s gone cosmopolitan and “world music”…

  • 3. wayneandwax  |  August 6th, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I hear you, Birdseed, though I don’t think we should lament the death of “real” kwaito anytime soon. I was definitely struck by the lack of strong hip-hop (or even house) elements in this production. Then again, I’m not sure we should saddle all kwaito artists with the burden of reproducing well-worn sounds, never mind always being ‘thug music.’ No musical genre should be so restricted, regardless of origins, proclivities, or promoted images. (Thank g0d plenty of hip-hop artists — if not the ones on the radio — feel no need to rehearse endless thuggisms.)

    Moreover, I’m not sure that this engagement with other South African genres (and perhaps Angolan ones? or is it just the Fruityloops effect?) necessarily means it’s a step ‘backwards’ or towards a “world music” sound more palatable to foreign consumer. & let’s not forget that, despite drawing on rural traditions, “soft” sounding S.African vocal genres such as isicathamiya (e.g., Ladysmith Black Mambazo) were themselves (once) young, urban, and working-class.

  • 4. Birdseed  |  August 7th, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Well the ultimate test (to me) is whether it’s appealing to the young, urban, working class in south africa or not. If this has fans within the cognosenti community I’m more than happy to accept it; if they feel it’s sellout or too mainstreamed-out I’m reluctant to.

    I know as a music fan I’m meant to judge it outside its social context but it’s difficult when there’s stuff around that pretends to be something it isn’t.

  • 5. Guillaume / Masala  |  August 16th, 2007 at 10:22 am

    When I was talking to Galliano back in february, he was telling me that Kuduro production in Angola right now is pretty slow downed by South Africa overwhelming influence. He told me that more and more angolan artist who would have done Kuduro are now doing Kwaito. Maybe there’s something here.

    I would double the point of an absence of typical hip-hop and house music references with the fact that in many kwaito songs we’re talking about 4/4 beats (would refer to Urban Africa comp on top of other youtube videos). Which is not really the case here and it sounds more like slow down kuduro or a accelerated tarraxinha. This is just how I hear it of course, and other things (like the singing and some dance aspects, are going against that).

    As for the dancing, again it’s going both ways. I would say that everytime there’s a group dancing it very much looks like all the kwaito vids i’ve seen, but everytime it’s only one guy (with the dj in the back) it very much looks like Kuduro videos. Especially the guy with the orange suit makes me very much think of Gasolina; the most famous Kuduro dancer, who dance with a team who are wearing that orange pant all the time. See this guys in Helder’s video:

    My guess is that’s angolan, doing a track for South African influenced dance parties/market.


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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