Posted in Diaspora, South Africa, Student Projects

Symphony in South Africa

I chose to compare two South African Artists whose music videos seemed to lie on different ends of the musical spectrum. Representing the Hip Hop side was Jean Grae, with her song “Kill Screen”,  and representing the more Pop/Soul side was Lira, with her song “Phakade”. While both music videos depicted geuine narratives, Jean Grae tended to be lean towards a more serious and realistic perspective, while Lira was geared toward light heartedness  and enchantment.

You open up the video “Kill Screen”, and within the first ten seconds the mood is set. Gunshots are heard and the first thing you see is a body laying on a floor. All in black in white (except for a strip of comic, probably related to Jean Grae’s name coming from an X-Men member) . Already you can feel the realness of the visual message as you watch the body struggle for life. The video continues and ghetto centric images flash through the screen showing worn wood floors and worn painted walls, candles for lighting, bloodied hands and even a glimpse of an intimate moment. Jean appears on the screen and her rap begins. The rhymes that ensue are captivating, as Jean utilizes an intricate vocabulary. Perhaps the crypticness of the lyrics is the most impressive part to me, forcing me to listen to the rhymes multiple times to drawing meaning from them. The message itself mainly postured Jean Grae in a way that most MCs do. Saying how superior her rap skills are in the most complex way possible. The music itself I noted to also be quite interesting. Even though the instrumentation was pretty standard hip hop, the bass beat seemed to mimic a heart beat, which both challenged and interacted with the time of the song and cadence of the rapper.

You open up the Video “Phakade”, and within the first ten seconds you get a fairy tail feel. “She dreamt of an everlasting love, sometimes dreams come true…” is the first thing you see across a black screen which then transitions to a cinematic scene with a girl skipping up to a porch to chat with an older woman about her first encounter with her husband. All in high definition. As the transition is made to the next scene you can feel the happiness and playfulness in the visuals as Lira blow bubbles and hand washes her clothes. The video continues as a well dressed man enjoying a bike ride through the woods stumbles upon the beautiful voice of Lira and seeks her out. Night falls and the man brings her flowers and conjures magical insects to gain Liras attention. Lira sees the insects and begins singing. The notes that ensue are compelling, as Lira utilizes a smooth and soulful voice. I would say that I was most impressive part of her song was her instrumentation, which reminded me of some of India Arie songs, especially the use of guitar. Beyond this Lira’s message was beautiful, as it talked about everlasting love and dreams being realized.

If I had to chose one piece that probably represented South Africa the best I would probably go with Lira’s. Even though Jean Grae’s song might have been more realistic in its depiction of life in general, the cinematic narrative was mostly confined to a house and she identified the setting of the video as New York. Lira gave a beautifully captured depiction of what I assume to be South Africa, but what really stood out to me was that she sang the song in Xhosa (one of the unique languages of South Africa). Personally I enjoy hear beautiful music being made in languages other English, even though I know the reality is that this usually makes the music less marketable globally.

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