Die Antwoord is maaifoedies?

What’s up with Die Antwoord?

Are they authentic? And more specifically. Do they rip off other people’s work?

We are all familiar with the first set of anti-Antwoord complaints. That they were disparaging Afrikaner culture. That they were appropriating and exploiting coloured culture. Snot, I said. They were a wonderful fusion of the two.

So just this week South African writer Gus Silber Tweeted about the powerful pics of South African poor whites, taken between the first and second world war. He also Tweeted

@RoyBlumenthal Sign of the times! Seems SA’s Poor Whites have always fascinated sociologists & documentary photographers.

To which I replied.

@gussilber it’s part of what fascinates the overseas about Die Antwoord. It speaks to the possibility an authentic African whiteness.

Yes Gus agreed:

@wildebees True, & they’ve played on it very smartly, by working with the photographer Roger Ballen as well.


Roger Ballen’s pics – did he exploit poor whites?

But there’s a new worry about Die Antwoord. The other day a pêl from New York asked me whether Die Antwoord worked with photograper Roger Ballen. She was involved in a lively debate about this on the Africa is Country Blog (well worth a read).

Yes I told her. As far as I know he worked with them on the Wat pomp julle video and much besides. I had wrote so myself long before – just when they were blowing up – I had it from a source close to them.

So I was a bit surprised when my New York friend sent me this follow up comment to the Roger Ballen claims.

I live in Norway far away from SA. In present time Roger Ballen exhibit in Oslo. After his artist talk I asked him a few questions about his relationship to Die Antwoord. He answered:”Intersting question, because I got an E-mail yesterday from this rap group, where they say that they appreciate my work. I don`t know Die Antwoord. I have never talked to these people. I hear that they are going to earn millions because of inspiration from my photos.” He didn`t know how to react! On one hand it`s nice that someone likes your work, on the other hand it feels a bit dirty not to ask for permission.

The commentor continued:

“Now, I was a bit confused about this answer, so I asked Die Antwoord on the FB fan page. Are you working together with Roger Ballen or are you just inspired by his work? The answer from Die Antwoord: They deleted my post!”

This week I also saw The social network flick. And it set me thinking about ideas, truth and ownership.

Now if above is true – that’s not cool.

On the other hand. Which artist does not use other artists as inspiration? In this cut and paste culture, in digital media but also everywhere else, people have mixed and matched styles they liked and increasingly so.

The author of the comment pointed at another facinating article she allegedly referred the angry Ballen to:

From Weird Al Yankovic to Chromeo, parody is not a new device in pop music. But what makes Die Antwoord so interesting is their ability to blur the distinctions between what’s real and what’s actually satire. The tension here between aspects novelty and what’s contemporary becomes quite fertile as a mode of production.

As a metaphor, Die Antwoord embodies the post-modern attitude by attacking the notion of a static or fixed symbol. Wether in literature, film, art, music, product design, etc, etc, the product in question is never completely original. Instead, it is always built from those cultural forms that preceded it. While this notion was most famously illustrated by Roland Barthes in Death of the Author, it was made truly tangible to my generation by Nicolas Bourriaud in Post Production. In it, he states “with music derived from sampling, the sample no longer represents anything more than a salient point in a shifting cartography. It is caught in a chain, and it’s meaning depends in part on its position in this chain.”

Nod, nod, nod.

I have a little secret. A lot of the hardcore Die Antwoord fans are aware of this mind. Mr. Ballen has to fall into the back of queue when it comes to major influences and even diewery.

Check this video. The Matrix SA style by Ne0 SA.

It contains by my reckoning, lyricks and passages that form part of at least five Die Antwoord songs – (not all of which made it onto $0$ Like my new best friend).

It’s not as if there is no hat tips. Die Antwoord actually name checks Ne0 SA in the orginal tracks that were free to download (not sure if $O$ maintains these refenrences.) UPDATE: Grif informs me that Die Antwoord also hat tips them in the sleeve of $O$. See comments below.

The video is itself a mix of the original Matrix movies and a Justin Timberlake parody of the Matrix movies and strictly speaking itself illegal. It features Ne0′s incredibly odd and hilarious potty-mouthed dialog. This is the fountain of what Rustum Kozain calls Die Antwoord’s ability to kak-praat:

“The one thing that is certain is that Die Antwoord opens up the space of double-speak, characteristic especially of slave society and known, from my ‘coloured’ background, as ‘kak-praat’ or ‘gat-krap’. The latter especially points to mischievous lying, something that anthropologists don’t get: the informant cannot be trusted because you don’t know, can never know, whether the informant is talking the truth or whether they’re krapping gat (scratching hole/arse/behind). “

And here is some more Die Antwoord influences. Zef sketse was a number of shows put on in and around Pretoria from 2002 to 2004. Often in collaboration with and attended by an enthusiastic Watkykjy ( Die Antwoord’s spiritual home – or buitekammertjie ) – crowd.

So are they bad ass for doing this?

In The Social Network the genius that is Mark Zuckerberg ends up paying $60mil to three student entrepeneurs who he kept on a leash for a month – pretending he is building them a social network – while he built Facebook.

The issue here is not whether Zuckerburg was inspired by them to build Facebook. He clearly was. The devil with developing good web tools are always in the details. The idea is one thing, the execution is another.

For me it’s obvious that Zuckerburg had the particular talent and understanding of user behaviour to build Facebook in the way he did to make it a global powerhouse. He did not need them. They needed him.

But he should have told them from the beginning that he was going to do it himself. Not nice Mark. Sies Ninja!?

So the borrowing with Ballen and Ne0 does not diminish the genius and drive of the creative cultural mash up that is Die Antwoord. Another two comments on The Africa is a Country blog reads:

Siener: last night I spent some time doing exactly that, Googling to find out more about Die Antwoord, having realised (for example with Ballen link) that I was misunderstanding a whole lot of stuff here. And I’m rather inclined to agree with you regarding the idea that Die Antwoord can somehow be seen in any way as a representation of the way white South Africans per se think. Clearly there is a whole lot more going on with Die Antwoord than at first may appear, and certainly from this blog post. I’ve been completely absorbed by what I have read about this group on the internet, and what it once again (for me, as an outsider) throws up about the complexity of South Africa (which I think I have often missed).

and this quote from Pam Sykes.

Very little in pop culture in the past five or ten years has made me think quite as hard as Die Antwoord has (and thanks Lara Pawson for the Roger Ballen lead, there is more for me to follow up). They deserve better than the reading that they “convey pretty superficial stereotypes about blackness that already over saturate global popular culture”. Because frankly, as someone who lives not too very far away from the streets they depicted in Zef Side, I find myself utterly unable to pin down what they’re doing. They’re playing way out on the fringes where whiteness and blackness and colouredness and watookal blur together and cease to have meaning. They’re rude and anarchic and gleeful — it makes my head hurt, and I love them for that.

Wow. It’s true.

To be able to have that impact. To make sense of and mash together the phenomenal complexities of South African culture, in word, visually and in music requires phenomenal talent, genius even. That while navigating treacherous political ground, and humungous stereo-types.

And what everybody seems to forget in these rather academic discussions is that in rap and in rave and a whole slew of other urban genres they sample and mash they do so with utmost street intelligence and musical nous. It’s not only tight, it’s slick, and it’s on the button musically. That is Die Antwoord.

If true it does cast some aspersions over the their ethics. But in line with his now more arrogant and aggressive persona, I’m sure Ninja will just shrug, and tune us we’re jaloers. You can’t beat them. Just join them.

Oh irony. The Watkykjy blog has been moaning about polish TV ripping off Die Antwoord. See the vid below:

The Africa is a Country commentator ends her comment on the following:

What would Roger Ballen be without the The Boardinghouse, and what would Die Antwoord be without Roger Ballen? Maybe the idea of a pure work is false?

UPDATE: The comment in question on Africa is a Country has not been confirmed as true – as I say in the post above as well. To reflect the uncertainty and the protest of the commentators I added a question mark to the heading of this post and the Sies Ninja. Be that as it may, it is besides the point I’m making. True or not true it does not reflect for me on their authorship or the greatness of their work.

Related deployments:

  1. Die Antwoord disappoints
  2. I’m a Ninja – Die Antwoord
  3. America discovers Die Antwoord
  4. The rise of Die Antwoord
  5. Die Antwoord – is it blackface?

32 Responses

  1. griff says:

    Do you have a physical copy of the CD en het jy die binnekant gelees?

  2. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Nee, ek het nie ‘n physical copy nie.

  3. griff says:

    Dan is hierdie hele post pointless. Credit was given where credit was due.

  4. SD3000 says:

    Hey Wessel

    DA tip their hat to a number of zef influences, quite openly, and in colab with them, like with RB, WatKykjy?, D9, NeoSA etc etc

    To run a story that implies they are stealing from these people is false.

    Like griff said, have you read the liner notes of their album?

    Did you get a response from RB direct? Don’t believe everything you read on the interweb ;)

  5. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    I said it in the original post that I don’t have a physical copy of Die Antwoord’s $O$.

    Please read it again.

    I also did not say the RB comments was true. I said if true it would be disappointing.

    I think your missing the point.

  6. piotr says:

    a few days ago on twitter Ballen’s son asked about die antwoord claimed that they are friends of his father

  7. SD3000 says:

    @Kameraad I get your point, I merely pointed out that your first version of the post was false in assuming that they had stolen or used without permission or without giving props.

    Your heading particularly grated me because it outright said that they were. Like saying “Brad cheating on Angelina!” in Heat. But that’s just my opinion.

  8. SD3000 says:

    Actually your heading should now read. “Is Die Antwoord maaifoedies?” :)

  9. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Interesting piotr. Perhaps then the comment is false. Or perhaps its about a sequence of events.

    One thing though Die Antwoord and all other celebs should take heed of. You can’t control online discussion. If they did delete the comment it could have backfired splendidly. They would have been much better advised to just say they are collaborating, friends or just massive fans. There is nothing wrong with just being fans of Ballen.

    I can understand the urgency of Die Antwoord and their fans to protect them (I have done so myself), because there has been constant snipes at them before and especially after they blew up. I’m sure it makes them paranoid.

    But they and we should just relax, because it would seem to me that really all arguments have been settled and the overwhelming consensus is that they are one of the most interesting cultural phenomena to grace the public stage in ages.

  10. SD3000 says:

    Or they can pretty much do what they want and not give a fuck. They don’t strike me as a band that would work out a content response plan for social media.

    Deleting posts like those is actually exactly what they should be doing come to think of it. It’s what any self respecting Ninja would do.

    “n Klompie honde-naaiers dink ons is n grap my blaar. Don’t worry no-one knows who the fuck they are.”

    “Koos Kombuis se ma se fokken poes”

    “Jou ma se poes in n fish paste jar”

    You get my drift?

  11. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Good point, SD3000 perhaps your right on that score as well. But it’s not nice. ;)

  12. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    And SD the first version is not false. The heading was perhaps a bit miss selling the content, but hey we got to do what we got to do to get exposure.

    So as a self-respecting wanabe Ninja I’m going to keep the exclamation mark (If that’s ok with you).

  13. Susanne Hæstad says:

    DIE ANTWOORD Checkit: SEAN METERLEKAMP who claimed to ‘direct’ ZEF SIDE is a fuckin parasite and a liar. Ninja, Yo-landi and DJ HI-TEK started DIE ANTWOORD 5 years ago on our own. Sean took some photos of us and interviewed us under our direction then stabbed us in the back and keeps using our music and imagery without our permission. That art award is a fuckin wank. Sean fuck you and your old alcoholic slut boss in the face.

    Found this one FB today! Who is talkin about permission now?
    LOL!

  14. Good lord. (@Susanne’s post).

    I’m still confused about something. Influence and inspiration, allusion and use – all these are part of art and should be considered as creative use. Plagiarists may justify plagiarism as creative use (there is a distinction) and so arguments about creative use and permission will continue. So, the issue of Die Antwoord’s inspiration and use of Ballen’s visual style is, for the most part, a non-issue for me.

    But what I am confused about are the claims of collaboration, which is obviously different from inspiration, and which provides a wholly different gloss of coolness. Working with an idolised artist is very different from being inspired by that artist.

    So, when Die Antwoord started blowing up and people started noticing the Ballen inspiration, claims then also started circulating that Roger Ballen had directed the ‘Wat Pomp’ video. It is now generally accepted that Roger Ballen has collaborated with Die Antwoord. When purported claims about Ballen not knowing who Die Antwoord is subsequently start circulating, then there is a different angle to what it means to ‘use’ a name.

    This is the issue that is unclear to me: did Roger Ballen direct ‘Wat Pomp’ or not? Has he been cast under Ninja’s spell to add to mysteries around his collaboration?

  15. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Rustum, a good question that I’d love to know the answer to myself.

  16. I see Sean Metelerkamp’s people have now responded to Ninja’s ‘libellous statement’. An interesting profile of Ninja emerging…

    http://we-are-awesome.com/blog/2010/10/die-antwoord-zef-side-official-response-from-sean-metelerkamp/

  17. Susanne Hæstad says:

    @RustumKozain. Namedropping is not cool, especially not when 60 years old Roger Ballen told me that he did not know Die Antwoord.I believe him. The story is embarrassing and not Ninja cool at all. Some people may say that “copyright are for cowards”. And when art generates money, people become greedy and unpleasant.

  18. Susanne – if true it might not be cool. But I doubt very strongly this can be seen as a case even close to copy theft.

    I agree with Rustum when he says: “Influence and inspiration, allusion and use – all these are part of art and should be considered as creative use.”

    Ballen himself has had influences.

    As for name dropping – I never heard or saw themselves say they worked with Ballen.

    Whether you agree and like the ‘Ninja’ attitude is another thing altogether.

  19. Susanne Hæstad says:

    :-D
    Kudos to Rustum, his words are great! I couldn`t be more agree.
    “Ninja” attitude is not my cup of tea, but I appreciate the performance.Just like Sacha Baron Cohen aka Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

  20. Here you have it straight from the horses Piel. They did work with Roger Ballen. http://www.facebook.com/notes/die-antwoord/love-all-but-trust-no-one/459443851576

  21. Straight from the horse’s dick – but, how can one trust a pre-eminent kakprater?

    Anyway, Ninja (or is it Waddy? Persona or artist? Kakprater or legal subject?) is responding to the Metelerkamp controversy there and mentions collaboration with Ballen and Malpage in broad terms.

    According to Rooke Gallery’s facebook page, Ballen took photographs of Die Antwoord in 2008. The FB page only shows one of these photographs: http://is.gd/grPGw

    Rooke Gallery’s website isn’t further helpful with information on the nature of collaboration between Ballen and Die Antwoord: http://www.rookegallery.com/

    I can’t find similar official information (i.e. from a trustworthy source) re Ballen and the Wat Pomp video.

  22. pamsykes says:

    See my comment above (how nice to be quoted, dankie kameraad!) — these people are anarchic, which is kind of why I am both love and am afraid of and for them. If they were roleplaying characters, their alignment would be “chaotic neutral”. Being nice or consistent or strategic or levelheaded doesn’t come into it.

  23. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Hi Pam, thanks for the comment above and your now credited in the post as well.

  24. stuart says:

    Waddy’s up to his usual bull shitting. Just picked up on these threads:

    http://www.dieantwoordzeflings.com/

    http://twitter.com/maryannehobbs/status/21196717371

  25. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Poor Marry Anne. But have to wonder why she felt the need to say that they are ‘white’?

  26. OrganicMechanic says:

    shit is just damn fukking genesis–deep you look the more you think–SA new perpective to an amerikian–zef is washing up on the shores

  27. Rustum Kozain says:

    “No, I wasn’t directly involved in directing a video. I took a few pictures and they used my images in their video. I didn’t direct the video.” Roger Ballen in a recent interview published at Litnet, 12 April 2011:

    http://is.gd/QE89RG

  28. I am the creator of the voiceover of The Matrix SA Style and put the spoof together back in 2004. I have emails from Ninja stating that they formed Die Antwoord because of that clip. They offered me royalties on Their music and then when they signed with interscope they dumped me along with the royalties I was due. I even have a contract sent to me by Magnatron Records (the label they were going to sign with before they did with interscope).

    To date I have failed after numerous attempts to claim what should be mine and I have only been given the run around. I’m afraid that only legal action is left to get paid for what they took.

    Ne0SA.

  29. Kameraad Mhambi says:

    Hey Anton – I thought that clip was genius. And as I mentioned above I spotted references in at least 5 of the original Die Antwoord songs.

  30. Thank you

    At the very least there will be a follow up clip and I will give you a guess who it will be about. Going to try and create something rather than spoof something this time.So keep an eye on my youtube channel for something new soon.

  31. [...] have written a previous blog post where I mentioned that I could spot at least five of the early Die Antwoord tracks that had references from one of [...]