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Chrome Tapes, SXSW and much more to come.

It’s no secret that it’s difficult to ‘make it’ in the music industry nowadays. It is one of the…


It’s no secret that it’s difficult to ‘make it’ in the music industry nowadays. It is one of the largest industries in the world and is currently undergoing tremendous changes in terms of structure, legality and feasibility. With a major shift to the online space, the ability for just about anyone to make music and publish it and market themselves has resulted in a seemingly endless abundance of music to be found. Nothing new here. Musicians are also having to shift towards live performance as the breadwinner of revenue streams. Again, nothing new.

But this has lead to live shows and events becoming a serious point of differentiation for musicians and bands, a pivot point for them to sell their sound and/or image through the creation of ‘experiences’. Even some of the greatest music would struggle to make a long-lasting impression on someone listening on their laptop at their desk with 10 other tabs open running, waiting for the next best thing to load. Apathy is the enemy here; as long as something draws a reaction, whether it’s good or bad, at least it has captured enough attention to do so. Therefore, by providing the listener with an environment in which the music can be consumed, absorbed and heard, the music is actually given a fighting chance, and in its truest form – live.

Christian Tiger School recently held the launch for their second album, Chrome Tapes, and while all of the above applies to all musicians/bands, it tends to be especially true for DJ/Producers as bands have a lot more to work with, visually, to differentiate themselves. However, progression and innovation in projected visuals, decor, use of space and activations join the ranks here as contributing factors. The event was run by The Other___ and held at The Assembly, where the stage was moved to the far end of the club. This shift and use of space changed the feel of the venue completely. It felt bigger, but by no means emptier (especially by the time the full crowd had formed) which automatically supplied the event with the most fundamental sense of credibility – the ability to fill a large and prominent venue.

Damascvs opened to a quickly growing early audience with his brand of easy on the ears, but intriguingly asymmetrical-loop hip hop. His set was appropriately supported, visually, by a large white circle cut-out which hung from above, suspended behind him, which acted as the screen for projected visuals. The combination of music, visuals and the circular screen was a powerful one; it spoke directly to its dreamy hip hop aesthetic, but was also a first for most in the audience. Unfortunately, the screen was a Damascvs exclusive and was taken down after his set.

This was replaced by another first. As Desert Head busted straight in with his remix of ‘Bugg’n’, the crowd was able to make out the mapping of visuals on the wall behind the stage. This particular wall of The Assembly has an ‘egg box’ type design with different sized boxes protruding from the wall. Usually this would provide a frustratingly distorted image of the visuals being projected, but the beautiful mapping designed by Midgets with Nightvision converted the wall into a completely new visual experience.

Desert Head wrapped up a balls-to-the-wall set, which included his crowd-favourite ‘Pokemon Theme Song Remix’, and handed the decks over to Okmalumkoolkat who had, in true form, so very casually invited Mos Def to join him on stage the night before. He was playing under his DJ moniker, DJ Zharp Zharp, for the evening and delivered a set which perfectly complemented the head-bopping dominated dancefloor with some necessary full-body move-inducing new-age kwaito and house. He won the crowd with a set that seemed to translate his oozing coolness and stealth with as much ease as he seems to do when rapping and dancing.

Christian Tiger School took the stage after this. Their first album, Third Floor, released in August 2012 was completely on point for its time and acted as a significant and tangible catalyst for the resurgence of hip hop in Cape Town, both musically and socially. Their brand of slick and smooth dreamy hip hop is supported by an equally slick visual aesthetic, which together managed to break through the then niche crowd to which their music initially appealed to – most noticeably with the popular track, ‘SABC 2’. When observing the age difference of the audience at the Chrome Tapes launch, it was clear that the appeal stretched as far as high school listenership. It’s without a doubt that their extensive touring and successful debut trip to the USA have also had a significant impact on their accumulated success – all of which was succinctly packaged into the crowd’s obvious anticipation for their Chrome Tapes set.

It was remarkable. People will remember it. It was not a fleeting moment. Zanasi and Veermeer delivered a set perfectly balanced on crowd-pleasing favourites and their newer, more production-heavy sound. The set flowed effortlessly between moments of familiarity, like the largest crowd cheer of the night at the first ring of the cow bell from ‘SABC 2’, to those where more concentration and attention were required (and gladly provided) for the newer, slightly less accessible tracks. The highlight was seeing them ride the set out consecutively with new tracks, bravely cementing their new progressive sound in a deservedly confident and uncompromising fashion. The crowd didn’t budge and it was rewarding to see a Cape Town crowd exhibiting such loyalty and hunger for an act’s want to take their music in a more challenging direction.

Thibo Tazz followed with an infectious set of house to a slightly smaller crowd. Fever Trails followed and played an immaculately tight set. The fact that at this point a guy at the front drunkenly chirped up in a first-year-boytjie style, “play some real music”, is merely testament to the kind of reach that Christian Tiger School’s appeal has achieved. Floyd Lavine jumped back on the house grooves and kept the die-hards going strong.

Since then, Christian Tiger School have been to Joburg to treat them to a launch and then fulfilled one of the greatest achievements by any South African musician by joining the likes of Thundercat, Erykah Badu and Petite Noir on the Okayplayer stage at SXSW in Texas this past weekend. The connection between the production value of the Chrome Tapes album launch, the quality of their music and their current success is all too easy to make here. The effort put into their writing is translated into the effort put into their live show. This has seen them grow an increasingly loyal South African base and be booked for SXSW; all through hard work and dedication, as opposed to the gimmicky appropriation used by the likes of Die Antwoord.

The launch was a well orchestrated and flawless event which provided a truly authentic setting for their new music to be experienced. The savvy timing of the event, considering the hype around their SXSW tour, will be a significant contributor to how memorable it was. With even more Chrome Tapes related work to expect from Zanasi and Veermeer in the very near future, it’s no doubt that those who attended will be following their progress very closely, eager to get their hands on more quality Christian Tiger School music. It’s highly probable that all will be more than happy to pay for it too.

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