Township DJs bring the sound of South Africa to Glastonbury’s dance area – The Guardian
Glastonbury Festival will announce two new acts for its 2014 line-up today. DJ Fosta and Thibo Tazz, two artists from Cape Town’s townships, will play Silver Hayes, the area formerly known as the dance village, on Saturday.
Both artists will bring their African-inspired house beats to the blues stage, the first booking of its kind for Silver Hayes.
The pair’s trip is funded by the British Council’s Connect ZA scheme and The Department of Arts and Culture of South Africa, which aim to build cultural connections between young people in South Africa and the UK. Bridges for Music – a charity that works with some of dance music’s biggest stars to support artists in developing countries – has also helped to arrange the pairing between the acts and Glastonbury.
Speaking by phone from his studio in his home in Langa township South Africa, DJ Fosta, real name Thulani Headman, said he hadn’t heard of Glastonbury before being asked to play at the festival, but has since done his research.
For him the opportunity has already opened up a wave of possibilities; he nearly gave up on music last year, disillusioned with the scene and struggling to make ends meet.
Headman’s music is a combination of deep house beats with live vocals. “It represents my lifestyle, an expression of myself and my surroundings” while growing up in Langa township. He also runs his own label, 021 records, for up-and-coming artists in the area. The label champions house, hip hop and kwaito (hip-hop beats featuring vocals in local languages) which has proved very popular.
Sounds from DJ Fosta and his crew are sometimes referred to as sjoko-jojko, which means the party lifestyle. Whilst Johannesburg is considered a music hub, Headman is passionate about maintaining a Cape Town scene. “My problem is that once people move [away], they don’t enrich the music industry,” he says. “Kids in the township get into the wrong type of things, they don’t have local icons, only people they see on TV”.
Thibo Tazz, whose real name is Thabo Rasenyalo, lives a 10-minute drive from Headman, describes his sound as a mixture of, deep house, soulful vocals and minimal tech. It’s finding its niche in South Africa, where house has been a near-obsession for the past few years.
Rasenyalo says he is not “usually into festivals” but he understands how important they are for the global music scene. “The first thing that caught my attention is that tickets sell out in the first hour, so it must be good”.
Headman played Synergy Live for the first time last year, and he regularly appears at picnics in and around Lunga – outdoor events for the community which attract up to 10,000 people. But even in South Africa, he says DJs from the townships can be overlooked.
“The local DJs are still supporting DJs, the fees [for performing] are close to nothing,” and there is a general lack of respect from promoters and others in the industry, he says.
Rasenyalo enjoys playing township events the most, where he sees “youngsters getting very excited, they tell you how much how they are enjoying themselves and that they want to get into music.” He says that is how he started: “I used to sneak out of school and go to cultural events”. He’d take a cricket bat along so his mum thought he was playing sport. At the time he didn’t really know what a DJ did, he was drawn by the sounds and the atmosphere. For Headman, DJing was an avenue out of trouble.
As they talk about their artistic struggles, it seems they have a lot in common with artists around the world. Headman talks about how “major labels make things difficult for independent labels”. Whilst they are hindered by a resources and a lack of facilities. Rasenyalo is keen to point to other South African artists like Black Coffee and Culoe de Song, local heroes who’ve made it big.
He says artists like himself “tend to rely on not having resources as our way of saying ‘we cannot to get to next level’”, but says that is a mindset he says needs to change. He cites workshops hosted by Bridges for Music as critical to shifting thinking.
The DJ have worked Richie Hawtin, Skrillex and Lucanio in South Africa, ambassadors for Bridges for Music, Hawtin said it was “one of the proudest moments in my career“. Hawtin and Srillex are both booked for Glastonbury too, and Silver Hayes coordinator Malcolm Haynes says he would love to see another collaboration.
Both Headman and Rasenyalo have a long list of other DJs they want to see and meet. “I am not just there to deliver my set but to learn, I want to go home with something,” says Headman.
Neither DJ seem bothered about headliners Metallica, so what else should they do? “Oh my days, where do they start,” says Haynes. “I just hope that they take in the sheer enormity of the festival and enjoy their time with us. Glastonbury has so much to offer, not just in music, but culture, and performing arts as well.”
Should British festivals be doing more to foster this type of collaboration? “Of course” Haynes says, where possible. “Glastonbury is in a great position to do this, as we don’t rely on the line-up in to sell tickets, this gives the festival the opportunity to bring acts and performers to the festival that normally would not get the chance”.
It only seems fair that they have been warned about the weather, with a laugh Rasenyalo tells me he heard “it is not to be taken lightly… I’ve seen the pictures and it gets pretty grimy at times”. He will use the next few weeks to prepare, he says. Headman who heard “it gets a bit hectic” has started to look for a pair of wellies. Both will be camping.
It’s not the first time Glastonbury have partnered with African musicians to promote social causes. Malian singer Rokia Traoré was the first act announced for Glastonbury 2013, speaking at the time Festival organiser Emily Eavis said it was “an act of solidarity”, responding to Islamists who had banned music in the north.
Others listed on the official line up include Seun Kuti (youngest son of afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti) with Egypt 80, and Toumani and Sidiki Diabat, who will play on the Pyramid on Sunday and Tinariwen, a group of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali.