This past weekend, something that doesn’t happen nearly enough in South African culture occurred: the whole country stopped and took time to discuss a song and music video by a South African musician. That musician was the legendary Cape Town rapper Isaac Mutant and his latest vehicle, the political and incendiary Dookoom. Dookoom has been in existence for a year and a half now. Their debut self-titled EP received scant mainstream attention, but thanks to lead single ‘Larney Jou Poes’ and its accompanying video, it doesn’t seem like this will be the case for their follow-up, A Gangster Called Big Times, which is set to drop this week.
The video in question is shot in stark black and white and features Mutant and a group of coloured farm workers rising up and burning ‘Dookoom’ into the ground. Anger has been the emotional foundation for all of Dookoom’s music thus far – the day after releasing their EP they posted on their Facebook page in all-caps “ANGER IS THE MOST UNDERRATED EMOTION” – and indeed anger formed the backbone of the Dookoom EP. That anger hasn’t dissipated this time ’round, but whereas before it encompassed and formulated an aesthetic, on A Gangster Called Big Times it appears focussed, driven and, perhaps as a result, much more political.
The South African mainstream media has responded with an outpouring of attention. Yesterday’s City Press ran a number of articles and opinion pieces on it, and hosted the video on its YouTube page where it has, at the time of writing, received just over 10 000 views. One of the City Press columns was from AfriForum CEO Ernst Roets, where she outlined her reasons for taking legal action against Dookoom. This course of action is no doubt exactly what Mutant wanted: it amplifies the attention paid to the song and the video, thus allowing the conversation and discourse around it to continue. In her article, Roets deals in false equivalencies, describing a hypothetical parallel situation wherein a white artist uses the ‘k word’, calls Nelson Mandela a terrorist and calls for the burning of “black settlements”. The sheer lack of nuance in this hypothetical is maddening, but also exposes the situation for what it is. In short, as far as AfriForum is concerned, white people have farms and black people have “settlements”, and that is the natural order.
In this context, ‘Larney Jou Poes’ couldn’t be more necessary and vital at this point in our democracy. The South African music scene is going through a time of creative abundance, producing some of the most interesting music around the world. However, in spite of the tumultuous nature of South African politics and society, it remains largely apolitical and apathetic, existing at a remove from the day-to-day issues and lived experiences of many people in this country. While it would be foolish to suggest that all South African music should be political, all songs protest songs, there exists a massive gap for relevant and progressive music that also has a confident, strident and political voice. With ‘Larney Jou Poes’, Dookoom are putting their hands up and being counted, stepping into that space and beginning to own it. It is decidedly not apolitical, apathetic or disengaged. And for that reason, it is terribly exciting. And for that reason, it is thrilling and fitting that the rest of the country is sitting up and taking notice.
Watch the video here: