What is Zef?

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Kameraad Mhambi sees there is some confusion online over what the term Zef means. Die Antwoord does Zef Afrikaans Rap Rave. What is Zef?

Well its similar to Chav. Sofeetjie explained it best in a comment on the Guardian website.

The question to Die Antwoord, I believe, is an Afrikaans website called Wat Kyk Jy? (“What are you looking at, mate?”, that ominous last sentence you’ll hear in a pub before waking up on the ground).

The site pays homage to Afrikaans slang and zef ? an Afrikaans term that roughly translates to what we in South Africa also refer to as “common”: clapped-out Ford Cortinas with fur on the dashboard, tight mom jeans pulled up too high, “synth-heavy ringtone rave”, mullets. Zef isn’t a music style, and it’s not limited to any one culture or location, obviously, but www.watkykjy.co.za celebrates it particularly well in Afrikaans (the site was born, incidentally, in Pretoria, 1000km north of CT).

So yes, Cape Town is also full of zef, and what Ninja, Yo-lande and their crew are tapping into brilliantly is zef in the coloured community (the official SA term for mixed-race people) of the gangster-ridden Cape Flats, which would include rap in the street venac mix of English and Afrikaans.

The Flats or SA may not have heard anything like Die Antwoord’s zef-rap-rave before, but having been to a few city centre concerts where the trendy stand around trying to make sense of the new incarnation of Wadkin Tudor Jones, I?ve often seen bergies (coloured homeless people) dancing to it and laughing and totally getting it. And the crew’s gigs in the parking lots of Mitchell?s Plain go down a riot. So yes, they’re authentic. Is Marshall Mathers, if you want to draw a parallel, any less authentic when he’s in character as Slim Shady?

Jack Parow, by the way, does the zef thing, equally brilliantly, from Cape Town’s Afrikaans middle-class suburbs, far, far removed from the slums of the Flats.

Here is Jack Parrow:

The Watkykjy websaait has a Zef slang dictionary over here.

So with any luck, thanks to Die Antwoord, Afrikaans will contribute Zef to the global vernacular, alongside those great words – apartheid, aardvark, trek (as in Star trek) and wildebeest.

Go here for the meaning of the phrase “Wat kyk jy!”.

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Related deployments:

  1. Die Antwoord offers some rude solutions
  2. The rise of Die Antwoord
  3. Rich bitch by Die Antwoord
  4. Jack Parrow in Die Antwoord’s wake
  5. America discovers Die Antwoord

36 Responses

  1. anon says:

    I wish people would stop mentioning Jack Parrow as if he has any skill.

  2. dr_xero says:

    Jack Parow HAS skills anon, u cant see them coz u are looking in the wrong direction, its zef, not harvard fokken idiot.

  3. [...] articles about Die Antwoord, and other artists mentioned in this post. Roughly speaking, it’s Afrikaans slang for “redneck,” or “white trash.” South African blogger (and BB reader) Kameraad Mhambi has written more about that, and the broader [...]

  4. [...] this all seems to bank on for its cred. If your Afrikaan is as rusty as mine, there are sites that explore Zef slang and culture, and if you were wondering, the band’s name means “The Answer”. Which leaves one [...]

  5. jamie says:

    Fok jou – Jack Parow has zef – go to a parlotones concert wanker

  6. jamie says:

    stem saam

  7. Errol says:

    I reckon that Zef should not be translated as “redneck”. Redneck usually indicates someone from a rural background, while Zef is more an urban underclass, dangerous and probably criminal. While the two have a lot in common, particularly collecting old cars, appearing inbred and cultivating mullet hairstyles, I think it is an important distinction. Eminem would qualify as Zef, judging by what I saw in the movie 8 Mile, but he wouldn’t be a redneck would he? A more accurate translation of Zef might be “White Trash”.

  8. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Good point Error. It’s more similar to the UK term ‘Chav’ than ‘redneck’. I guess in the US working class urban whiteness a la Eminem is more rare?

  9. There’s more to the Cape Flats than the gangster element. James David Matthews, Ronelda S Kamfer, and Taliep Petersen live or used to live there and Khayelitsha has a mall.

    White people can also be bergies; the term doesn’t just apply to coloured people, though yes, there are more coloured bergies than white ones.

    Btw, when I was young and innocent (6/7 years old) I thought bergies live in the mountains ;)

  10. Steve Funk says:

    The Zef that they doing here is a direct take of
    Cape Town “poor White” which in turn is influenced by it’s close proximity to a certain type of coloured culture

  11. [...] What is their cultural niche? Hipster parody? A one-note effort to garner crossover attention? Or something meant for mooks and simple rednecks? [...]

  12. Bratkip says:

    Jack for prezefident!

    Well, thanks to Die Antwoord I did come to know Jack Parrow. And honestly, Anon, you’re wrong. Saying he has no skill, is a bit over the top. True that there are much better singers BUT he got at least his own sound and a good sound. He’s better than most of the American bling-bling, gangsta-rap posers.

    Greetings from the European continent!

  13. that guy says:

    Zef is the way forward

  14. Give TurboWhiteTrash a look and submit material if you want too!

  15. Jason Dude says:

    Haha, Jack for Prezefident :) That gif you found is hilarious. Die Antwoord disturbs and fascinates me at the same time.

    We noticed a number of people looking around for a translation of ‘Enter the Ninja’, especially phrases like ‘Zef’ and ‘skop bfokte rof taal’, etc, so we did our best and put up a translation of the Enter the Ninja lyrics here:


  16. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Nice one Jason, one complaint with your translation, Zef should not be translated as redneck.

  17. [...] me, and all that. The reaction to “Cape Flats Calling,” my Walrus Blog post on the so-called Zef-rap outfit Die Antwoord, along with the general interweb frenzy regarding the band, is a reminder [...]

  18. Michel says:

    AlleEn wel jammer dat jullie vergeten dat woorden zoals apartheid, aardvark(en) en wildebeest nederlandse woorden zijn.

  19. Paul says:

    ZEF + CHAV

  20. Paul says:

    ZEF = CHAV

  21. [...] worthy internet sensation sans bowl. Tim Noakes of Dazed & Confused goes inside the world of Zef, dissecting Ninja’s Pink Floyd briefs and Yo-Landi’s curious pet rats. Scope it [...]

  22. dirkie says:

    Afrikaanse zef blogs is besig om leka op te tel in Suid Afrika…Een van my favourites is http://www.woelag.co.za hulle feature heeltyd vir Jack Parow en het ‘n paar kak snaakse goed daar op…Ek is self van JHB maar love die Kaapse vibe….

  23. nathan says:

    i think zef rocks!!! got a sick Zef so Fre$h shirt from memeteeonline. AWESOME, Die Antwoord and Jack Parrow DIE X FACTOR en RY MET A TRACTOR

  24. nathan says:

    i think zef rocks!!! got a sick Zef so Fre$h shirt from http://www.memeteeonline.com . AWESOME, Die Antwoord and Jack Parrow DIE X FACTOR en RY MET A TRACTOR

  25. [...] users per month. But it’s much more than that. Watkykjy is home to an identity. The home of Zef. As such they have been organising events and parties as [...]

  26. [...] & culture, the power of identity An interview with Die Antwoord. They explain their take on Zef. They want to do a feature with Neil Blomkamp of District 9 fame. They saw Wikus van der Merwe in [...]

  27. [...] only stay for half though, due to an uncontrollable, gravitational pull. It might be called ‘zef‘. We had to know. We had to [...]

  28. [...] is the only word where I can describe the insanity that is Die Antwoord.  With its "Zef style" http://mhambi.com/2010/02/what-is-zef, vulgar obscenities, and the eccentric beauty that is Yo-Landi.  The time that I am writing this [...]

  29. [...] the meaning of Zef, go here. Deploy this post far and wide [...]

  30. Jacky says:

    Wtf, he is sponsorised by puma or what ?!

  31. pr0zac_bw0i says:

    yeah.. Aardvark, wildebeest, trek and apartheid are w0rdz that 0riginate fr0m the netherlandz, afrikaans is a relatively new ling0 b0rn 0ut of the k0nfusi0n of dutch settlerz wh0 sp0ke different dutch languagez.. there is n0 such thing as ‘zef slang’, itz maj0rity is st0len frm the ts0tsi taal of s0phiatown and the infam0us kuip vletz, jack’s accent is of the middle-class afrikaner underachieving ‘coolkid’ (eg. Dave aka Deloris from the outsurance pr0m0′s). zef is the common yearning of white people to be different from other white people but in such a way that lackz authenticity or sense, in other wordz, to mimic a n0n-white.. Zef has n0 colonial bearing, but is applicable to 1 ethnic group. Eminem is n0t zef! Zef is gettin’ a m0hawk when u’re m0derately bald, zef is speaking english with a black accent everytime u speak to a black pers0n, zef is n0t eating swine coz of religious beliefz, zef is wearing gold platform sneakerz, zef is ad0pting japanese culture and calling yourself a ninja! Lmfa0! Surely there’s n0 b0undz to such inspired genius and creativity.. Zef indeed.

  32. [...] gaan moet vertel jy was jonk in die “zef-era” het ek dit goed gedink om te gaan kyk wat hierdie zef-kultuur is en waar is dit [...]

  33. Phillydeedeedeedeee says:

    They are ghetto? Urban underclass

  34. [...] had heard of the South African “Zef” sensations but certainly had never seen them perform.  So, we jumped at the chance to party [...]

  35. [...] millió YouTube rajongóval rendelkezik, és az internet világából most a valóságba indul zef rap-rave zenéjével – legalább egy picit bele kéne nézni. A péntek izgalmas nap, mert ekkor lép [...]