In an utterly sudden turn of events, last night at about 22:30 South African time, Afropunk announced a New Year’s festival in Johannesburg by posting a line-up on Instagram midway through a lush launch event at Constitution Hill. The line-up, which in its short existence has stirred a flurry of excitement on social media, boasts an immensely impressive combination of foreign and South African heavyweights.
The first artist on the list – and the one likely to be turning most heads – is Solange, whose 2016 album, A Seat at the Table, “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart with over 72,000 units sold and was #1 on both Apple Music and iTunes Overall Top Albums Chart. In terms of turning heads she is most likely followed by Anderson .Paak. The Grammy-nominated American singer-songwriter, rapper, producer and virtuoso drummer delivers a unique blend of R&B, 70s Soul, Hip-Hop, EDM, Funk and Rock n’ Roll which are best displayed on his solo 2015 album, Malibu, and Yes Lawd!, the latest release through his collaboration with producer Knxwledge called NxWorries. Theo Parrish, the legendary American DJ, and Laura Mvula, the Mercury Prize-nominated British singer-songwriter, are the final members of the foreign artist contingent.
That said, what is most exciting about the festival is the extent to which they’ve married their pulling power on current, high-profile foreign acts with a well-informed, in-touch showcase of the kinds of acts that speak to their founding activist intentions, from a local perspective. They must be connected to some pretty level-headed, knowledgable local partners.
The region’s own contingent is represented most prominently by a collaborative performance featuring South African rock stalwarts and innovators BLK JKS and King Tha, who performed at last night’s launch event. The latter, the afrojazz titan, also appears later on the lineup as Thandiswa presumably in her solo capacity. Also performing at last night’s launch event was Mashayabhuqe KaMamba and popular DJ, Doowap.
Also high up on the bill are The Brother Moves On, the trailblazers being the first band to complete the Southern African touring circuit now named Igoda, and who have gone on to grace stages in Germany opening for William Kentridge, France opening for Saul Williams, Norway opening for Hugh Masekela and regular standalone and shared performances in the London underground scene. They have shared stages and collaborated variously with Yusef Kamaal, Shabaka Hutchings and United Vibrations. Spoek Mathambo has been the spearhead for Southern African electronica since 2006 and recently released his latest album, Mzansi Beat Code, which is his tribute to all past, present and future South African musicians.
Newly mononymous Nakhane joins the stage as a darling of South African alt-pop and having recently reached a career goal as an actor with the leading role in John Trengrove’s film The Wound, which premiered in January 2017 at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
Following their enigmatic and spiritual performance at Red Bull Weekender in September 2016 and a run of performances in the UK, Manthe Ribane and Okzharp bring their inspiring brand of future kwaito and pantsula to the line-up. Nonku Phiri, who is also heavily involved with the Igoda circuit this year, joins with her distinctive vocals and genre-bending sound. DJ Lag steps up as the pioneer who propelled the quintessentially Durban gqom sound beyond the confines of the coastal city, straight into the capitals of the international electronic music industry. Black Motion joins the bill with their high-energy performance of live house music, as well as Sowetan thrash punk band and SSS (Skate Society Soweto) founders TCIYF and celebrated act Urban Village whose sound could be described as South African folk music layered with electric, funky acoustic melodies and a blend of traditional influences.
There is no doubt that this is one of the most exciting line-ups to hit the country in recent years, let alone as a celebration to welcome in 2018, so you can be sure that tickets will sell quickly. We’ll be following future announcements with great care, but for now you can get your tickets and further information here. If you have hopes of playing at Afropunk Joburg, click through here for their talent search.