I once spent a good bit of a flight trying not to watch Chappie, Neil Blomkamp’s disturbed brainchild involving Ninja and Yolandi Visser.The reviews had been pretty bad and I felt like a flight with possible turbulence over Oltenia calls for something lighter and more straightforward, which happened to be a rather bland comedy involving Tom Hardy. The blog’s industrious co-photographer had however opted for Chappie and as we progressed southward I realized I simply can’t take my eyes away from his screen. There is something utterly compelling in Die Antwoord’s deliberate otherness, a constant feeling of ‚’what the flying fuck have I just seen, let me look again’.
As so many splendid things these days, their endeavour began with identifying a breach in the market. No one had internationally promoted South African zef culture, building on its potential of uncool that is so terrible that it becomes cool in the process. Enter the Ninja– the band’s 2009 hit single and its video burst onto the interwebs and earned them a cult following. Die Antwoord then duly delivered a small army of mind-bending songs and videos and here they are in 2016 entertaining a soggy but decidedly enthusiastic crowd on Sziget’s main stage.
The first phase of the concert was still a bit tentative, partly because those who had scarce knowledge of Die Antwoord tried to figure out what parallel dimension they had landed in, partly because those already in the know were a bit scared that a muddy Frenchman would hug them. Once it was settled that we are in Land Zef and the mud is drying, things got rolling. While diminutive Yolandi kept patrolling the stage like a tiny supercharged dynamo, Ninja delivered deadpan solos and some mind boggling posturing, all of this being accompanied by beats from DJ Hi-Tek, who has grown positively rotund in the past years and wore a charming mask in line with the production’s overall feel.
Unlike other acts, whom we will not name here being graceful as we are (this is definitely the longest phrase I ever wrote trying to avoid typing Rihanna), they filled their allotted time slot to the brim and also outdid the unnamables in wardrobe changes, which included everything from onesies to shiny hot pants (thankfully not worn by Ninja) and garbage disposal uniforms.
They packed all their hits in the performance, interspersed with some samples and less known songs, and any illusion that this thing could be taken seriously at some level dissipated by the time they got to playing Happy Go Sucky Fucky-well, okay, it kind of dissipated with the monks chanting during the intro, but some people are hard to convince in spite of evidences. The whole point of Die Antwoord seems to be taking things as ridiculously and tantalizingly un-seriously as humanly possible and then somewhere, somehow through the gritted teeth and Sziget’s sticky mud some kind of elemental truth will shine through.