May 7, 2013

LANGSTON HUGHES “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926)

Filed under: art,poetry,politics,race — ABRAXAS @ 4:17 pm

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One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said to me once, “I want to be a poet–not a Negro poet,” meaning, I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously, “I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that, “I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet. But this is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America–this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.


But let us look at the immediate background of this young poet. His family is of what I suppose one would call the Negro middle class: people who are by no means rich yet never uncomfortable nor hungry–smug, contented, respectable folk, members of the Baptist church. The father goes to work every morning. He is a chief steward at a large white club. The mother sometimes does fancy sewing or supervises parties for the rich families of the town. The children go to a mixed school. In the home they read white papers and magazines. And the mother often says “Don’t be like niggers” when the children are bad. A frequent phrase from the father is, “Look how well a white man does things.” And so the word white comes to be unconsciously a symbol of all virtues. It holds for the children beauty, morality, and money. The whisper of “I want to be white” runs silently through their minds. This young poet’s home is, I believe, a fairly typical home of the colored middle class. One sees immediately how difficult it would be for an artist born in such a home to interest himself in interpreting the beauty of his own people. He is never taught to see that beauty. He is taught rather not to see it, or if he does, to be ashamed of it when it is not according to Caucasian patterns.


For racial culture the home of a self-styled “high-class” Negro has nothing better to offer. Instead there will perhaps be more aping of things white than in a less cultured or less wealthy home. The father is perhaps a doctor, lawyer, landowner, or politician. The mother may be a social worker, or a teacher, or she may do nothing and have a maid. Father is often dark but he has usually married the lightest woman he could find. The family attend a fashionable church where few really colored faces are to be found. And they themselves draw a color line. In the North they go to white theaters and white movies. And in the South they have at least two cars and house “like white folks.” Nordic manners, Nordic faces, Nordic hair, Nordic art (if any), and an Episcopal heaven. A very high mountain indeed for the would-be racial artist to climb in order to discover himself and his people.

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But then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority—may the Lord be praised! The people who have their hip of gin on Saturday nights and are not too important to themselves or the community, or too well fed, or too learned to watch the lazy world go round. They live on Seventh Street in Washington or State Street in Chicago and they do not particularly care whether they are like white folks or anybody else. Their joy runs, bang! into ecstasy. Their religion soars to a shout. Work maybe a little today, rest a little tomorrow. Play awhile. Sing awhile. 0, let’s dance! These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardizations. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself. Whereas the better-class Negro would tell the artist what to do, the people at least let him alone when he does appear. And they are not ashamed of him–if they know he exists at all. And they accept what beauty is their own without question.


Certainly there is, for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their “white” culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work. And when he chooses to touch on the relations between Negroes and whites in this country, with their innumerable overtones and undertones surely, and especially for literature and the drama, there is an inexhaustible supply of themes at hand. To these the Negro artist can give his racial individuality, his heritage of rhythm and warmth, and his incongruous humor that so often, as in the Blues, becomes ironic laughter mixed with tears. But let us look again at the mountain.

A prominent Negro clubwoman in Philadelphia paid eleven dollars to hear Raquel Meller sing Andalusian popular songs. But she told me a few weeks before she would not think of going to hear “that woman,” Clara Smith, a great black artist, sing Negro folksongs. And many an upper -class Negro church, even now, would not dream of employing a spiritual in its services. The drab melodies in white folks’ hymnbooks are much to be preferred. “We want to worship the Lord correctly and quietly. We don’t believe in ‘shouting.’ Let’s be dull like the Nordics,” they say, in effect.

The road for the serious black artist, then, who would produce a racial art is most certainly rocky and the mountain is high. Until recently he received almost no encouragement for his work from either white or colored people. The fine novels of Chesnutt’ go out of print with neither race noticing their passing. The quaint charm and humor of Dunbar’s’ dialect verse brought to him, in his day, largely the same kind of encouragement one would give a sideshow freak (A colored man writing poetry! How odd!) or a clown (How amusing!).

The present vogue in things Negro, although it may do as much harm as good for the budding artist, has at least done this: it has brought him forcibly to the attention of his own people among whom for so long, unless the other race had noticed him beforehand, he was a prophet with little honor.


The Negro artist works against an undertow of sharp criticism and misunderstanding from his own group and unintentional bribes from the whites. “Oh, be respectable, write about nice people, show how good we are,” say the Negroes. “Be stereotyped, don’t go too far, don’t shatter our illusions about you, don’t amuse us too seriously. We will pay you,” say the whites. Both would have told Jean Toomer not to write Cane. The colored people did not praise it. The white people did not buy it. Most of the colored people who did read Cane hate it. They are afraid of it. Although the critics gave it good reviews the public remained indifferent. Yet (excepting the work of Du Bois) Cane contains the finest prose written by a Negro in America. And like the singing of Robeson, it is truly racial.

But in spite of the Nordicized Negro intelligentsia and the desires of some white editors we have an honest American Negro literature already with us. Now I await the rise of the Negro theater. Our folk music, having achieved world-wide fame, offers itself to the genius of the great individual American composer who is to come. And within the next decade I expect to see the work of a growing school of colored artists who paint and model the beauty of dark faces and create with new technique the expressions of their own soul-world. And the Negro dancers who will dance like flame and the singers who will continue to carry our songs to all who listen-they will be with us in even greater numbers tomorrow.

Most of my own poems are racial in theme and treatment, derived from the life I know. In many of them I try to grasp and hold some of the meanings and rhythms of jazz. I am as sincere as I know how to be in these poems and yet after every reading I answer questions like these from my own people: Do you think Negroes should always write about Negroes? I wish you wouldn’t read some of your poems to white folks. How do you find anything interesting in a place like a cabaret? Why do you write about black people? You aren’t black. What makes you do so many jazz poems?


But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile. Yet the Philadelphia clubwoman is ashamed to say that her race created it and she does not like me to write about it, The old subconscious “white is best” runs through her mind. Years of study under white teachers, a lifetime of white books, pictures, and papers, and white manners, morals, and Puritan standards made her dislike the spirituals. And now she turns up her nose at jazz and all its manifestations–likewise almost everything else distinctly racial.


She doesn’t care for the Winold Reiss’ portraits of Negroes because they are “too Negro.” She does not want a true picture of herself from anybody. She wants the artist to flatter her, to make the white world believe that all negroes are as smug and as near white in soul as she wants to be. But, to my mind, it is the duty of the younger Negro artist, if he accepts any duties at all from outsiders, to change through the force of his art that old whispering “I want to be white,” hidden in the aspirations of his people, to “Why should I want to be white? I am a Negro–and beautiful”?

So I am ashamed for the black poet who says, “I want to be a poet, not a Negro poet,” as though his own racial world were not as interesting as any other world. I am ashamed, too, for the colored artist who runs from the painting of Negro faces to the painting of sunsets after the manner of the academicians because he fears the strange unwhiteness of his own features. An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he must choose.

Let the blare of Negro jazz bands and the bellowing voice of Bessie Smith singing the Blues penetrate the closed ears of the colored near intellectuals until they listen and perhaps understand. Let Paul Robeson singing “Water Boy,” and Rudolph Fisher writing about the streets of Harlem, and Jean Toomer holding the heart of Georgia in his hands, and Aaron Douglas’s drawing strange black fantasies cause the smug Negro middle class to turn from their white, respectable, ordinary books and papers to catch a glimmer of their own beauty. We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.


published on the web here: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/mountain.htm

deon skade on the ben sharpa film

Filed under: deon skade,kaganof short films — ABRAXAS @ 8:48 am

Dear Aryan,

Thank you for sharing yet another short film with me. It forms an interesting sequence to “My Face Goes Here”. I enjoyed how the “reverse” technique has been used in the footage. It works well with the protest images of civil rights movements, particularly those depicting the Black Panther movement and Malcolm X, the most militant components of that era. Underground hip hop is synonymous with some form of militancy, and taking the viewer back to the political militancy of the Black Panther era has resonance with the movement of hip hop, I think. As Ben Sharpa rightfully says, [hip hop] has evolved over the years. Perhaps that is why the “reversing footage” has relevant resonance with evolution i.e. politics and music. Perhaps that is why I would have appreciated to have some footage of pioneering hip hop artists incorporated in the film, in order to show the relationship underground hip hop in particular, has had with politics. Hip Hop acts like the NWA (Niggers With Attitude) among others released song/s that captured some of the attitudes that hip hop acts and perhaps communities have had towards the police. The inclusion of similar pioneering acts in the film may have added a vital element of this music and its culture; considering that the genre itself emerged from the US, where the very civil rights movement was most vibrant.

Talking of the Black Panther movement; I appreciate the use of the footage where a man writes “state” on the police vehicle, under the word “police”, hence the resulting message “police state” becomes relevant to many aspects of our history and perhaps the present. Here one remembers horrific incidents like the brutal assault of Rodney King by the police; the killing of Black Panther’s Fred Hampton allegedly by the police; the killing of Andries Tatane and the mass murder of miners at Marikana by the South African police force. Are we living in police states? These incidents and others that may have not seen the light suggest so. And maybe that is why hip hop has been instrumental in denouncing acts of police violence and other ills of the society, despite its own flare of violence as witnessed in the East and West Coast rap wars that resulted in fatalities such as the killing of Tupac Shakur, allegedly by rival hip hop acts.

I think Ben Sharpa’s words regarding the evolution of hip hop or rap are a testament to the resilience of this genre of music that continues to grow its audience. The genre has managed to enjoy great commercial success worldwide to the happiness and dismay of its followers and musicians alike. While one group celebrates this success, another feels that the integrity of the music may have been dissolved by the commercial success. The so-called underground hip hop artists feel the popular form of this music has lost its social and political advocacy. But this is something I should not allow to take my attention away from your film.

The recurring “theme” works well in this film too. The monochromic image of Ben Sharpa along with the words “I am Ben Sharpa” that he utters, work well and may be revealing some truths about some culture of hip hop. It is known that hip hop or rap artists take pride in their stage names and use them often in the music as a means of asserting themselves and claiming a kind of sound they want to be associated with. And your editing in how the artist’s image and assertion blends with the culture of hip hop is wonderfully done. And of course there is that ending I like very much, “Papa was a what?” which Ben Sharpa utters, to which you cleverly respond by incorporating the Rolling Stones logo in the film.

I enjoyed this one too. Thank you.

Warm regards,

a message from dimitri voudouris

Filed under: dimitri voudouris,music — ABRAXAS @ 6:25 am

For a number of years I have been focusing [ Bio-mechanical studies ] relating to mobility of vehicular traffic and relating the motions to human mobility – it involves obtaining data by recording traffic mobility, mathematics , and psychoanalysis . The equations that I produce are translatable into musical notation.Its a long and tedious process but rewarding because you can do so much more by involving mathematics, physical and biological sciences , psychology and computer programing in composing.

I am for example busy for 2 years with a vocal piece :Produced through TTS singing and speech synthesis totally artificial which based on vehicular travelling motion and overtaking- studying and examining travelling motion, overtaking principles in a multilane uni-directional system and inspecting phantom cluster formations in traffic – were clusters occur but just like a platoon the vehicles do not stop but carry on moving at a reduced speed [after peak hours] – resulting in warped concertina formation that produce fascinating aural results when translated into sound.

Oh,on the 25th of May at 11h00 at the Sasol Museum in Stellenbosch I am featured on Gesticular Cena 8 an 8 minute work from 2006 written for the projekt-insitu [French] company. see if you are in the area and catch a glimpse

April 20, 2013

a problem with israel in south africa

Filed under: politics — ABRAXAS @ 8:31 am

ZEV KRENGEL 3 National chair
zev krengel Jewish community leader implicated in violent assault of Palestine solidarity protesters

17 April 2013 Rose*, one of the two victims from Monday night’s violent assault by members of the Jewish Community Security Organization has revealed that Mr Zev Krengel, the President of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), was present and also involved in the violent assault of herself and her colleague. During a counselling session yesterday afternoon, Rose identified Mr Zev Krengel as one of the approximately 10 people present in the parking lot of Gold Reef City in Johannesburg where she was physically assaulted by security personnel belonging to the Jewish CSO. “The Jewish CSO members”, Rose explains, “had my hands tied with cables, my face forced on the ground and would forcibly lift my head up by my hair so that the man wearing a checkered shirt could take photos of my face with his cellphone camera. This happened several times”. Rose later identified Krengel as the man with the “checkered shirt.”

Shereen Usdin, a Jewish member of BDS South Africa commented: “Its appalling that a leader of any community, including the Jewish community, may have been involved in such acts of violence and intimidation. As a Jewish person, I support the young protesters who are pursuing charges against the perpetrators and the CSO.”

South African activists are pressing charges against the South African Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO), the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) for the recent violent assault of two young women Palestine solidarity protesters (including the daughter of a senior member from South Africa’s largest trade union federation, COSATU) . One Palestine solidarity protester was left in a state of concussion due to the assault injuries (see: www.bdssouthafrica.com/2011/04/press-release-jewish-security.html ) * The victim wishes to remain anonymous as she is in fear of her life. Rose is a pseudonym. (To arrange a telephonic interview with Rose or one of the other victims you can contact Muhammed Desai on 0842119988)


On Monday night supporters of Israel held a music concert to celebrate Israeli Independence Day at Gold Reef City Casino in Johannesburg, which was organized by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) had insisted on arranging their own security (the “Jewish Community Security Organization”) instead of allowing either Gold Reef City Casino or the South African Police Services (SAPS) to perform the role of safety and security for the Israeli event. Palestinian protesters contested that the Israeli celebration was essentially a “celebration of murder, expulsion and continued Israeli oppression against the indigenous Palestinian people” and arranged a picket outside the venue where over 250 members from COSATU, the SA Students Congress, BDS South Africa and several other civil society organizations were present. In addition, young activists (mostly women students) had also bought tickets, made their way into the venue of the Israeli event and partook in a direct-action Greenpeace-like protest where they released bad smelling “stinky-bombs” and wore T-shirts that read “Israeli Apartheid Stinks” in luminous green writing. During the direct-action protest inside Gold Reef City, two young women protesters were violently assaulted by the Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO) including having their hands tied with cables, their faces covered and their heads smashed into the parking lot’s concrete paving. Other protesters were forcibly thrown down escalators and one protester was locked into a passageway where he was repeatedly and simultaneously kicked in the stomach by more than five Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO) personnel – he later suffered a concussion. Members of the Jewish community attending the event also punched a woman protester in the face several times resulting in a serious swelling injury. Charges against the Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO), the SA Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) include:
– Smashing the heads of two young women protesters into the concrete paving of the Gold Reef City Casino parking lot; – Illegally restraining the young protesters with cable ties and leaving them with their heads covered in the Gold Reef City parking lot; – Locking a protester into a passage way, throwing him to the ground and then instructing over five security personnel to kick the protester, which resulted in a state of concussion; – Throwing two young women protesters down escalators resulting in several body bruises, including a badly injured leg; – Forcibly hurling several women protesters onto walls; – Verbally abusing the young protesters, including threatening to “find them” and “kill them”; – In addition, a charge of theft will be laid against the Jewish CSO, the SAJBD and the SAZF for having illegally confiscated cellphones and other possessions from the protesters.


April 17, 2013

thandiswa mazwai – “my face goes here”

Filed under: kaganof short films,music — ABRAXAS @ 3:56 pm


first published here: http://www.rollingstone.co.za/musicrev/item/2296-short-film-on-thandiswa-mazwai-qmy-face-goes-hereq

country conquerors

Filed under: Country Conquerors — ABRAXAS @ 3:36 pm

Country Conquerors are an Afrikaans medium reggae band based in Heuwelkroon, an area located between Greyton and Genadendal.

Their distinctive brand of reggae is a syncretic fusion of classic seventies “one-drop” style with a more frenetic, jaggedy rhythm that is native to the Western Cape. This goema flavour gives their reggae a charming, genuine quality that is completely their own. The fusion of goema and reggae in fact makes them often sound more like an early sixties Jamaican ska band although they claim never to have heard any ska. From a musicological perspective this already is good enough reason to record their catalogue of compositions but the interest is exacerbated when one realizes that they are the only Afrikaans medium reggae band in the country. Unlike most reggae bands who always sing in English or patois, the Country Conquerors have retained their mother tongue for their songs and therefore they provide a unique example of how music styles and languages cross-pollinate deep into the countryside.

The band is a six piece, comprising drums, electric bass, electric guitar, keyboards and two vocalists.

on the unknown becoming known

Filed under: Country Conquerors,music — ABRAXAS @ 2:19 pm

I have been in a bit of a dip myself after the elation that I felt last two weeks ago during the Country Conquerors’ recording session.

The truth is that all I really want to do is be around music whilst it is being made. When I sit in on the rehearsals it is just like drinking a magic potion. As the structure of a song emerges from the chaotic jam so I feel healed. Six men in a room finding a song. It really is the source of energy, of magic, of life. I love being in that atmosphere, where the invisible becomes visible, the unheard becomes heard, where all that is underneath the surface skein of perception suddenly materializes and is made evident. I used to have this with my own poetry, and writing, but that phase seems truly over now. Thus it is only at the remove of observer status that I can live again. I realized this all in the days after the glow of the recording session. The magic has left my own creative impulse. It may come back. It certainly cannot be forced to, there are no inducements.

aryan kaganof
17 april 2013

April 13, 2013

thandiswa Mazwai – “My face goes here.”

Filed under: kaganof short films,music — ABRAXAS @ 8:59 pm

“I don’t write the music,” says Thandiswa Mazwai. “I receive the music and sing it how it wants to be sung. The music comes from the universe, from that collective consciousness [and] memory, the conversations that we all have with the past, and the future and the present. In my mind those voices speak Xhosa. As an instrument to the music, I have to keep the music’s integrity.”.
watch it here: http://www.rollingstone.co.za/musicrev/item/2296-short-film-on-thandiswa-mazwai-qmy-face-goes-hereq

April 3, 2013

taswill strydom improvising

Filed under: Country Conquerors,music — ABRAXAS @ 3:21 pm

entirely self-taught, the country conquerors drummer is a musical prodigy!
recorded at stellenbosch university on saturday 23 march 2013
recording engineer is albert duplesis
wayne sampson is on drums and vocals

if you would like to book taswill for piano concerts, or book the country conquerors reggae band, contact marshall rinquest – marshallrinquest@gmail.com

April 1, 2013

RISE ROCKETED – Easter Fun Day live performance reviewed by helgé janssen

Filed under: helgé janssen,music — ABRAXAS @ 2:03 pm


Headlining the Easter Festivities @ the Bluff Yacht Club on Saturday 30 March was Durban’s dance Rock Electronica band Rise. It was a surprise to discover the Bluff Yacht Club as an idyllic oasis nestled amongst the core of Durban’s heavy pantechnicons and crate carrying trucks to and from the cargo holds of freight ships. The predicted rain backed off and the evening turned out to be a no-wind perfect out-door late summer event!

Opening the set was acoustic guitarist Tony Liddel. Tony has an ease of presence and good command of his cover material. A Crowded House and U2 fan, he soon had the audience relaxed and singing along! It would be wondrous to catch him singing his own material.

The last time I saw Rise perform was at Origin about two years ago at the launch of “Water on Canvas” when the line-up consisted of Martin McHale (DJ, programming), Kerry Wood (lead singer) and Colin Peddie (guitars, backing vocals). They have since notched up huge successes playing massive outdoor events and festivals. However, Martin (ex 330) has left the band and has turned his energies into managing the direction of Origin Nightclub. Filling this huge and difficult gap with aplomb is Donna Peddie (keyboards, backing vocals, percussion (including drum pad) and Dan Wilson (bass). Dan was absent from this Bluff gig as he was at Splashy supporting featured guest artist, Ant Cawthorn-Blazeby.

Rise has progressed to become the premier dance Electronica band of Durban…if not SA….and have rocketed their way into the ever present with their growing innovation, their layered musical constructions that overlap and extend the depth of the aural experience taking the discerning listener into an exciting multi-dimensional territory. Delving into this most important yet largely neglected base (within the average S.A. band) has had a profound effect on Rise’s confidence. With perfect vocal pitch and texture Kerry has thus been freed to spread her wings more broadly, allowing her voice to play with the instruments and richness presented, all of which decisively matches her gift at every level. Added to this, Kerry has a performance energy of unpretentious earthiness and drive and she is exuberance personified. At this gig she had the audience begging for more…and more…and more….


Colin’s guitar work startles! Taking the jangly bits of the Cure influences and mixing it with the driving rhythms of the best of New Order he has found a sound unique to Rise. This live version of ‘All We Have Is Now’ was electrifying! In the highly competitive world music scenario this transformation is no mean feat and it would be interesting to see if this groundbreaking work becomes the well earned stepping stone towards an international stage.

Of deep import too have been the subtle yet compulsive melodies of Donna’s discoveries, and her percussive range wings a relationship within the rhythms that are inventive and fresh. She is quiet and unassuming yet displays great strength and focus.

The expansive, inclusive lyrics (“Be The Change” still seems largely under-rated in my humble opinion!) gives body to their work enabling the band to find an important niche in the current politico/social context. “Pop Tart” has been cleverly contextualised to deliver a decisive blow to the shallow meanderings of the corporate music scene by surrendering completely with the pay-off line: ”I believe all the lies…” and deserves to be their next big hit!

Rise is rock solid! They have transcended their respective influences and are creating a unique contribution to the South African music scene.

I could not agree more with a fan statement on Reverbnation: “There are no borders in music when looking for beauty. Feel the beauty of music forever.” Respect and support from I&SON.

Buy their album: “Water on Canvass!” Support their live performances! You will be uplifted and energised!

A live album surely would be the next best thing!



Lou Gottini (0824589653) booking agent and general manager.

March 10, 2013

an interview with nick zedd

Filed under: film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 4:05 am


Nick Zedd is a revolutionary filmmaker, writer, painter, actor, political satirist , journalist and First Minister of Protocol for the Cinema of Transgression, a movement he spearheaded in New York 25 years ago and whose reverberations are still being felt across the globe.
Using multiple pseudonyms, Zedd edited and published the groundbreaking UNDERGROUND FILM BULLETIN from 1984 to 1990, hand coloring the covers of each issue, adorned with portraits he drew of local eminences within.
On the pages of this hand xeroxed “crudzine” Zedd penned the Cinema of Transgression Manifesto and invented a forum for the most scathing and subversive ideas emerging from the avant garde of that time.
Zedd is considered a genius for formulating a strategy of subversion that empowered a group of guerilla filmmakers to circumvent the institutional indifference of dominant culture and “the censorship of omission” corrupting communication s through “the shared hallucination of consensus reality” by organizing an insurgency and creating a new media to document it. In the process he introduced the “transgression” meme that has so dominated critical thought in our culture for the last quarter century.

Through the vehicle of innovative movies like his two-screen WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and low budget 16mm gems like ECSTASY IN ENTROPY, Zedd employs shock value in the service of xenomorphosis, a term he coined to describe what happens when the “domain wall of an alternate universe smashes your reality tunnel and neurological re-engineering occurs.” In these films a “union of opposites” provokes cognitive dissonance or atavism causing viewers and participants to change from within.


“Alienating myself in complete darkness to the abstract world of Nick Zedd’s bewildering pornography, I had a vision, and here’s what I saw: Plagues being dispensed at a hasty rate, sort of like a gushing bang from a hot spring geyser, or an ejaculating dick. About the time I’m viewing a tongue twirling around a tit with two nipples, the prophecy of deformity from man-made clones appears rather vividly. Blood dripping from a slit wrist, mostly onto the mildew caked floor, made me conclude that unexpected death and nuclear warfare are the least of our worries from human negligence. Nick Zedd has purposely portrayed that he is not a director. He is more of a prophet, clearly depicting his visions for the views of humanity,” stated Chase Spring in Sleazegrinder.

“Nick Zedd makes violent, perverted art films from Hell- he’s my kind of director!” – John Waters

“There is a tremendous energy and unbound, uninhibited imagination present in his work…forbidden, maybe even evil, perverted, ungodly,” said Jonas Mekas.

It is this mind blowing experience of viewing his films, described in Zedd’s Theory of Xenomorphosis that has created a legion of followers among a far flung cognoscenti, as well as a plethora of critical appreciations: (DEATHTRIPPING by Jack Sargeant, ART THAT KILLS by George Petros and the documentaries NO AGE NEW YORK, LLIK YOUR IDOLS and BLANK CITY all explore the influence of Zedd’s insurgent , satanic, hedonistic and hermetic work.)

Combining forces with Henry Rollins (who published his autobiography TOTEM OF THE DEPRAVED), Richard Kern (with whom he co-directed and starred in THRUST IN ME) ; Sonic Youth (for the soundtrack of WHOREGASM); Lydia Lunch (THE WILD WORLD OF LYDIA LUNCH); Richard Hell (GEEK MAGGOT BINGO); Annie Sprinkle, Taylor Mead and Rev Jen in the cable TV series ELECTRA ELF; and collaborating with the latter in the making of such spoofs as LORD OF THE COCK RINGS and I WAS A QUALITY OF LIFE VIOLATION, Nick Zedd has produced a magic theatre for our time while eluding the critical scrutiny of newspapers, schools, museums, galleries, magazines and mainstream media for decades. He is a people’s auteur.

“Nick Zedd’s films are legendary—he is a truly seminal figure in the New York underground. Now we have his first book, (Totem of the Depraved) and I recommend it to anyone interested in the rough underside of our overly processed culture.” – Jim Jarmusch

In his under-the-radar status as an intentional amateur making new discoveries, Zedd produced such uncompromising work as a film version of Nietsche’s THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA and a DV short entitled TOM THUMB that clearly influenced a feature by Pedro Almadovar.
Other films bearing the influence of Zedd include Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant and a Pizza Hut commercial that ripped off a shot of a guy being run over by a giant cheese ball from an episode of ELECTRA ELF.

Zedd’s outspoken analysis of existence has made him both a pariah and a visionary to many, especially in the post 9-11 era of conformity and mass deception.
“As consumers we are being daily subjected to a gigantic Simulation, designed by a global elite to strip us of our autonomy through mental addiction to social networking sites, reality television, sporting events and false political struggles with preordained outcomes reinforcing a cosmetically changing status quo. Through the ingestion of disinformation we’ve become victims of the science of mind control in which we appear to make our own decisions interactively while unknowingly being subjected to useless distractions from increasingly diverse sources, enabling us to feel united with unseen friends on websites designed to monitor our preferences and reinforce the illusion of personal freedom. The end result of this massive, near religious embrace of information siphoned thru computer screens is a passive population kept off the streets (except to work and purchase products,) politically castrated yet content ed through adoration of leader icons (actors, politicians, singers, models, sports figures and other pawns of corporate sponsors and unseen puppet masters,)” says Zedd.

As an authentic dissident, Zedd has paid an enormous price, operating between the cracks in a virtual underground, demonized or hidden by a dominant culture terrified of genuine revolt.

Film textbooks in Italy feature Zedd on their covers. Filmmakers in Turkey and Brazil send him fan mail. Books have been published in England about him, and yet Zedd insists he is not actually famous.
“That only happens when people’s mothers know who you are.”

In a rare anomaly, Zedd presented a retrospective of films one night at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989.
“I was shocked that the auditorium was full of people. The audience was even more shocked once they saw my films.”
A print of one of his most powerful movies, POLICE STATE is in the permanent collection of MOMA.

Included in Zedd’s “greatest hits” dvd ABNORMAL, POLICE STATE tells the story of a rebellious kid picked up on the streets of the Lower East Side by an overeager cop played by the late Willoughby Sharp. At a local precinct , the kid (Zedd) meets a rotating clutch of sadistic cops played by Attica vet Flip Crowley and the late Rockets Redglare who engage him in a frightening and hilarious series of tests designed to destroy his mind.
A black comedy addressing police brutality, POLICE STATE cemented Zedd’s reputation as a true anarchist and political satirist prior to the infamous Tompkins Square police riots that devastated the community and helped forge a short lived resistance to government sponsored gentrification on the Lower East Side. Around this time, Zedd forged an alliance with squatters and broke into an empty building to establish one of the local homesteads that survive to this day as an alternative to the feudal system of landlordism that oppresses millions of people in capitalist countries. Zedd has identified predatory capitalism, state terrorism, corporate globalization and landlordism as the main sources of oppression to be overcome by revolutionary means.

Other filmmakers have solicited Zedd to appear in their movies. He has acted in SUBMIT TO ME NOW, WHAT ABOUT ME (co-starring Johnny Thunders, Dee Dee Ramone, Richard Hell & Gregory Corso), SHADOWS IN THE CITY (co-starring Jack Smith, Emile DeAntonio and Kembra Pfahler), JONAS IN THE DESERT (co-starring Blixa Bargeld and Nina Hagen) and many others.

Zedd’s writing is featured in the anthologies Low Rent, Captured, Up Is Up But So Is Down, Underground USA, No Such Thing as a Free Ride (A Collection of Hitchhiking Tales) and Radium (from Sweden.)

Collections of his movies include STEAL THIS VIDEO (released by Film Threat in the 90’s), ABNORMAL: THE SINEMA OF NICK ZEDD (Rubric, 2001), GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, WAR IS MENSTRUAL ENVY and GENERATION Z (all on MVD).
A 4 disc boxed set of Zedd’s television series THE ADVENTURES OF ELECTRA ELF will be released by MVD in April.

Zedd briefly fronted a “noise unit” called ZYKLON B in 1999/2000 making digital hardcore music, and released a single on Rubric Records entitled CONSUME OR DIE which has since become a valuable collectors item.

In the last two years Zedd has reinvented himself as a painter and clothing designer, selling custom made hoodies, t-shirts, and skirts online and occasionally in stores. Current designs can be purchased at his website nickzedd.com which also features his writing and videos for sale.

My first encounter with Nick Zedd took place one night in the basement of a rock n’ roll club on Eldridge where my friend Isabell’s band was scheduled to play. In between acts, his startling movies were being projected onto a screen in front of the stage, depicting a nude woman painted orange having sex with an octopus.
Shots of deformed fetuses preceded a montage of war casualties; images of living soldiers with half their faces blown off; the kind of clinical examination that is strictly taboo on television, movies and most of the world wide web on the grounds of “bad taste.” In truth, such prohibitions can be attributed to the fact that war is a profitable enterprise for the arms industry, private security firms and robber barons who control the content of all corporate media.
(Perpetual war for perpetual peace must never be questioned by the masses.)

Intrigued by the avalanche of images jumping off the screen in violation of an unspoken edict that in all public places one must “get stupid” “go with the program” and “don’t worry, be happy,” I approached the tall, thin projectionist dressed in a black blazer and pink ruffled shirt and requested an interview. To my relief, he agreed.

Q: When did you start making films and what was your first one?
A: In 1979 I made a feature in Super-8 called THEY EAT SCUM, followed the next year by a short called THE BOGUS MAN that dealt with a CIA plot to clone the President.

Q: What was it like back then as opposed to now? Warhol had an enormous impact on underground films in the sixties, then got shot and seemed more interested in making money doing portraits of dictators and their wives while hobnobbing with the jet set in the seventies.
A: A void had to be filled after the sixties ended. The media turned the other way when punk happened. As a result, making money stopped being a factor in the equation for creating anything. This freed us in the making of things that were new and dangerous.
There’s a purity of vision when what you are doing is being done for fun, as a learning experience, which is the essence of amateurism, a much maligned term. Every child knows this. Adults try to beat it out of them. The amateur is the one who makes the discoveries and advances all human thought . This has been demonstrated throughout history.
Professionalism is a curse; a straightjacket stifling innovation, and the dependence upon it by artists, politicians and and those in power has left us bereft of excitement, surprise or joy. My work is an antedote to this malaise.
There are far too many people nowadays posing as filmmakers, waiting for enough money or hardware to complete their goals. I live in the land of “show me.” Otherwise shut up.

Q: How have you been reaching an audience in the last 5 years?
A: I infiltrated the open mike scene and made a bunch of movies using local comedians, shooting with digital video cameras I borrowed, until I could afford to buy my own equipment.
The best places to shoot in and screen to audiences always turned out to be in the most precarious positions, getting closed down by authorities or demolished by hostile landlords. It seemed to be some kind of universal law. But I’d suck every bit of creative energy out of the place before that happened, then move onto the next place or hibernate and go back to writing or start something new like painting.
The cracks in the façade of our prison planet branch out in unexpected directions.
When I got locked out of every place in NY, I created a low budget tv series and put it on public access channels where I ended up reaching an even wider audience..

keep reading this interview here: http://www.zoom96.mx/nick-zedd-king-of-underground-films-8/?PHPSESSID=d03cb24ff0d4db24db13e671440aa6f1

March 7, 2013

nick zedd – The Extremist Manifesto

Filed under: art,film as subversive art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:48 pm


Now that contemporary art, a system that stands for privilege, nepotism and political connections is finally dying, get out of the fucking way.
We who have been locked out of your galleries, museums and art holes… ignored, reviled and cast aside for having convictions (and belonging to the wrong class) are the voice of the future. We spit on the fashionable insignificance of today’s culture. We puke on moderation, a generation’s fashionable irony and deliberately boring contemporary art. We shit on your chronic timidity and your tamed and domesticated notion of what art can be.
The time has come for a rupture, a break, and an honest method of digging our way out of the manure of contemporary art. Your system is spineless and must be replaced.
Those who are proud of being imperceptible are lost.

Todays gatekeepers remind us that painting is dead and if that’s the case, then so must be photography, movies, music, writing, sculpture, performance and all human creativity. The logical implication of curatorial culture’s hierarchical dominance is the negation and replacement of the individual with a neutered clone. Academia’s curatorial class, we are told, are god-like. They determine history. Their choices are showered upon us from above. The fact that breakthroughs in history are the exclusive domain of the AMATEUR (a lone individual who invents and innovates) is beyond the double-think reality tunnel of the insulated curator. Todays curatorial elite have determined that passion, anger and conviction are replaced with ironic indifference, a stance of self removal, an evasion, a retreat into the herd. With sheep-like acquiescence, a generation of followers have emerged with no point of view, afraid to stand for anything, yet pretending to be fearless while hiding behind an ironic indifference that amounts to a compulsion to conform. The follower artist’s philosophy is one of capitulation.
Through capitulation the follower is conditioned to anticipate and grovel for the expectation of inclusion into the world of high culture and it’s attendant material rewards.

What the followers, apologists and their gatekeeping masters fail to understand is the essential non-differentiation between high and low art. Today’s smut is tomorrow’s fine art. The profane, with the passage of time becomes sacred. Having suffered under a reactionary ontological hermeneutics for the last fifty years, the extremist movement constitutes an emergent phenomena which is more than the sum of the processes from which it has emerged. Interpretation theory rewarded by dominant culture would have us believe that history is objective when in fact its subjective nature is based on hierarchical systems of exploitation benefiting a global elite.

Extremist art is non-metaphysical, based on the senses.
It establishes the human body as the ultimate arbiter, the component that allocates wisdom.
In an empirical sense, extremist art is a unified confirmation of one’s resistance to and transcendence of status quo thinking.

The Simulation imposed upon us by shadow governments and hidden elites must be exposed and destroyed. That includes a cancerous art establishment based on commerce and the malignant dictums of predatory capitalism that negates individual breakthroughs based on lived experience.
Non-referential, non-simulated breakthroughs are accomplished by plunging into life and grabbing it by the balls. This means taking chances, offending people, causing alarms to go off and generally disturbing the equilibrium in a strategic manner.

We are the new extremists, armed with a vision to see through the charade imposed upon us by the gatekeepers of consensus reality, who manage a mass hallucination we choose to reject.
Ours is the art of bad taste, which blots out and destroys your system of lies and self-delusion. For too long the sheep among us have been rewarded for their subservience to a bankrupt system of lies. WE SHIT ON GOD. BECAUSE THERE ARE NO GODS AND THERE NEVER HAVE BEEN.

c. Nick Zedd 3/6/2013

first published on the web here: http://www.badlit.com/?p=25022

derek davey – (More) Images of Grahamstown

Filed under: derek davey — ABRAXAS @ 8:23 pm


There’s this spunky little blonde who keeps checking me out in Psychology One. She turns around in the lectures and looks me full in the eye. So I introduce myself, and begin wooing her. She leads me on like crazy: she looks straight at my groin wherever we meet, at a party, at the cafeteria, in a conversation with friends, while we wait to go into lectures. She shows me places to smoke weed. One of them is called ‘the quarry’. I do everything I can to get into her pants, but somehow this never happens. She is the most expert cock-tease I have ever come across. I learn from my new friends that I am not her first victim. Undaunted, I persist. One day in my res room she promises to blow me. All I have to do is drop my pants. When I do so, she races to the door and escapes. My pants are round my ankles and I can’t catch her. Years later, after leaving varsity, I get the opportunity to finally shag her. But I discover when we are naked in bed together, that, strangely, I don’t really want to. The hype about shagging her was all in my mind; I had created a chimera and the reality is, she actually doesn’t turn me on.

As soon as I am in my new res room, I start practising my bass guitar, playing along with my fold-up suitcase turntable, often to Jimi Hendrix. Word soon spreads and I meet up with a drummer, who is a king-size asshole, but not a bad beater of the drums. We procure a lead guitarist who sings, and form a band called The Red Sails. I can’t quite remember what this was in reference to. The singer is so filthy or ‘siff’ that when his house is robbed, legend has it that the thieves took every item in the house except his sheets. We play one gig and fade into obscurity, but I have been noticed: I am recruited into Vader Jakob.

Vader Jakob is driven by a couple of cousins from Uitenhage who are into punk and gothic music and attitude, short hair and beer and socialism. These guys, though younger than me, have been at varsity longer than me, and are more clued up on the lingo of the left. The first thing they demand is that I cut off my hair and shed my sandals in favour of boots. This is, officially, the end of my hippy era. At our first ECC gig – we were called Section 27 then – the guitarist is so shy he plays with his back to the audience. After a few months of wild and discordant gigs, we get to record with Not Even the TV in East London. The first thing I do is break the E string of the bass I borrow from them. Both recordings are done over the course of a day or two. All the recordings I have ever done have been over the same length of time, due to cost restrictions. Later, we play an ECC gig in Cape Town, which is cancelled when the entire concert is banned by the apartheid authorities. We swipe part of a PA from some rastas at our Obs house, who apparently stole it from Johnny Clegg, so it’s not a complete washout of a gig; the PA serves three more bands over the next decade.


One of the Vader Jakob band members is leaving for Johannesburg. He is to take a train, and to bid him farewell, we smoke a huge dagga pipe in my digs. We leave straight afterwards, as he is running late for the train. I had been driving around Grahamstown with no brakes in my VW Passat for a couple of weeks, using the handbrake and gears to slow down, and when that failed, turning up driveways or sidestreets. This time however I am truly fucked: as we approach the station, we are on a downhill, and a farmer stops his bakkie in front of me. I drove smackbang into his arse. A massive, irate figure emerges from the cab of the bakkie and approaches us. Suddenly all the doors of my car open and the entire band makes a run for it, leaving me to face the music. I am taken to the police station, fill in statements, face the wrath of the farmer on my own. All of this while off my head from the pipe, accentuated by adrenalin. I pray the police will not inspect where I live and find drugs. They ask me why my brakes failed. I tell them they failed just before I hit the bakkie. The look in my bonnet and laugh at me. There is absolutely no trace of brake fluid anywhere. But in the end, all is well: I phone my father, who pays for the damages to the vehicles. It pays to be a spoilt, kept brat, especially when you run into shit.

I’m driving back to Somerset West for a holiday from Rhodes with an acquaintance. We left late and it is getting dark when we are only halfway, at Plettenberg Bay; we decide to sleep over somewhere. Quite by chance, we run into the girlfriend of a old mate of mine whom I was at school with, and got bust shoplifting with. She invites us to sleep over; we are broke, and delighted at the prospect. Her friends come over. One of them is wearing tiny running shorts, and his massive schlong is almost hanging out of it. My travelling partner appears intrigued, and disappears with the lad. I end up shagging my friend’s woman. The next day I ask my passenger if he is gay, and he replies, ‘of course, didn’t you know?’ I am unaccustomed to people being out about being gay, and we have a lively discussion about it. While on holiday at home, my penis starts burning. Turns out I caught the clap from the Plett girlfriend. My father takes me to the doctor. They have a good haw-haw about it, tell me I am a ‘man of the world’ now. Years later my old schoolmate confronts me about my indiscretion, and he, too, has a good laugh when I tell him what I picked up from his ex ..serves me right, he says ..

I am taking part in a demonstration on campus. The police line up opposite the students, tapping their sjamboks against their legs in anticipation. Most of the students are white, so we won’t get shot, but they do have dogs sometimes, and they love whipping us. The warnings to disperse is ignored .. the signal is sounded … and the cops charge at us! I have a camera and I’m determined to get shots for Rhodeo, the campus paper. A cop corners a young black female student by the Journ department, and starts sjambokking her mercilessly. I shoot shot after shot, and then leg it for the newspaper’s darkroom. But I am in such a rush, and so excited, that I open the camera and expose the film before I turn the light off. My film is ruined… I manage to half-rescue one shot from the whole lot .. A few months later, as I am driving through town, I see smoke rising over the buildings and race toward it, anticipating a protest or a bomb. These are the times I am living in: PW Botha has declared a state of emergency. But it’s just a steam train pulling in to the station. Soon after, I abandon my ambitions of being a news photographer. I don’t like the feeling of looking through a lens, when just off to the side of me, there could be a cop racing towards me, and I wouldn’t even see him.


A group of us go down to the sea and drop acid on the beach. It’s dark and a cold wind springs up, and there ain’t much to do. One of the group puts his head down on the sand, in a muslim prayer position, and another starts throwing sand onto it. We watch in silent, morbid fascination as the sand piles higher, eventually almost burying the prostrate figure. Then we get paranoid about him suffocating, and dig him out. We leave the beach, freaked out, and head back to Grahamstown. On the way back we are stopped by police, who search the car for drugs. One of them finds a “head” of weed on the floor of the car. Our hearts miss a collective beat. He shows it to his colleagues, then tosses it over his shoulder. Light-headed with relief, we descend on a motel and demolish their bar snacks, after buying one drink for the entire group…

I take speed and spend almost an entire evening trying to convince a female friend of the benefits of being a communist. She seems quite taken by my diatribe. Then I drink a bottle of cough mixture to ‘come down’. As I walk home in the early hours of the morning, suddenly my energy runs out. This happens as I am crossing a road. I am frozen to the white line in the centre of the tarmac. I find myself praying that a car will not pass while I am immobile. After some time, I am able to move again and make it home okay…another time, I remember having a huge pipe at ‘Brickies’ after getting drunk, and then, as we drive up to ‘The Mot’ I am puking from the open door, while the car keeps driving ..

I am so desperate to obtain good results, to keep from doing army camps, that, after studying frantically, I get the time of my exams wrong. Beside myself, I beg my lecturer to allow me to write the exam. As I haven’t spoken to those who wrote it, he allows me to. I pass with sufficient marks to get into post-graduate studies.

My friend and I are at a party, which is on the second-floor of an old building of one of Grahamstown’s main streets. The host has been walking around handing out shots which contain ethanol – pure alcohol. The cops pull up in an armoured car beneath the windows. Drunk as skunks, we lean out of the window and hurl insults at the policemen, spitting into the open top of their vehicle. Furious, they threaten to fuck us up, but just then they get a call and speed off. My friend, who is blond, and I leave the party. We hear later the police came back, looking for a “short little bliksem” and his blond friend, and handed out ‘klaps’ freely.

The band needs sound-proofing for its rehearsal room, a house on New Street which is painted almost entirely black. One of our band members digs a hole under his room and lives in it, until it fills up with water. The plan for fund-raising it to open a stall at a market on campus. We collect all our old hippie stuff, our Roger Dean posters, our Joplin albums; we are ditching the sixties and seventies. We sell them at the stall under the roughly painted banner ‘horrible rockist junk stall’. One of our best-selling items is our lucky packets, which we fill up with anything we can find: condoms, nails, buttons, bottle-tops, stompies. Most of the clients which buy them are moms, who give the lucky packets to their kids. We actually raise enough cash to seal off our music from the outside world.

I am accosted by a beautiful woman as I leave a jol and head home. She runs up and pinches my bum. I offer to take her home for a joint, and she agrees. We have the best sex I have ever had. I am totally struck by this wild force of nature woman, I want to see her all the time, but all she wanted was a good shag, and she laughs me off. I realise that it’s not only men that use women for sex. It goes both ways. But we do have several one-night stands after that …and I forgive her with all my heart ..

The band opens a venue called ‘Club Foot’ about 5km out of town, on the road to PE. It’s in an outhouse of a motel, owned by an Indian whom we dub as ‘Fat Chance’. We see his whole family as chancers – imagine thinking that they could earn money from this venue, from us? So the entire extended family get nicknames on the chance theme – his son, who works directly with us, is called ‘No Chance’, his smaller brother ‘Small Chance’. The first thing we do before opening the venue is to paint a huge Club Foot poster over a Sputnik picture that Fat Chance commissioned for the club. The Sputnik was painted with UV paint to show up under the disco lights and cost him a small fortune. ‘My Sputnik! My Sputnik!’ he wails upon discovering its disappearance. We have a few gigs and a few fights at this venue, but as we suspected from the start, there was almost no chance of us making money for ourselves or Fat Chance.

February 28, 2013

Mutie Madness

Filed under: derek davey,music — ABRAXAS @ 9:17 pm


In 1989 I travelled up to Johannesburg from Grahamstown with the band Manhole to play a gig with a group called the Skyt Muties. The gig was in Hillbrow at a seedy venue called the Summit Club. I’m not sure if it was at that venue or just the building it was held in, but I do recall Roman statues being part of the décor … disturbingly out of place in the rest of the modern urban decay of central Joburg.

Manhole had a keyboardist who was classically trained, who offset the punk non-musician rest of the band well. From him came the seminal ‘Mobile Home’ … he used to run around parties in Grahamstown with a bunch of madmen called the Skullfucks, wearing underpants on their heads and playing with kitchen utensils on sinks and walls. He is now the head of a very orthodox Jewish sect.

My most distinct impression of the Muties – who derived their name from the word mutant, abbreviated into the slang ‘mtuie’ by characters in 2000AD comic – was of their drummer, commonly known as ‘Big Dave’. He had an awesome beard, was somewhere in the region of six and a half feet, and at that stage had a Staccato drumkit – the bottoms of the drums flare out in different directions – and he took his drumming very seriously (he still does). I was a drum novice, who thrashed away enthusiastically on a kit I had just bought from a guy is Sea Point. The silver-glitter coated kit was so large I later divided it in half and sold one half as a complete drumkit.

I also have vivid memories of the singer Andrew Kay coming to greet the ‘country bumpkins’ from Grahamstown to the Big Apple, dressed in a leather jacket and shorts. I mean, this guy was zef, like, three decades before Die Antwoord. He regaled us with stories of the movie industry, its various and ridiculous heirarchies, and had us clutching our sides .. in one story he described a guy telling him, in all honesty, that he was a ‘born grip’. This was all with a thick, doff accent and screwed up facial expresions and .. his leather jacket, ‘kaif’ and shorts.
I never saw this incident, but the other guys in the band talked about it in hushed tones: our manager, who was at that stage a hefty guy called Carl Johnson, was lifted up and held against the wall by a Summit Club bouncer when he inquired about our payment. Carl is the kind of size guy that can lift most other guys up against the wall himself.

I was staying at one point with a former band member’s girlfriend’s flat, and the two of them were arguing hectically. At one point we were walking through Joubert Park, where she lived, and they sort of split up and started walking in opposite directions. Unsure of who to follow, I chose the old bandmate, as the prospect of getting lost in town at night – and the city was pretty massive to me, a total stranger – was pretty scary.

It was in that same flat that I awoke from tripping on acid and a large, black rabbit was wiffling its nose at me, right in front of my face. I was sleeping on the floor, so it was just inches away from me. I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating, as we were seven floors up.

The Skyt Muties – minus their late bassist – and I will be touring Mpumulanga at Easter, playing some songs from the 80s like ‘9 Mil’ … especially for Oscar. Follow us on Facebook.

(the attachment is the poster for that 1989 gig)

February 26, 2013

rustum kozain: Fuck Colouredness and the Coloured Voice

Filed under: chimurenga library,politics — ABRAXAS @ 11:58 am

(appeared in slightly-edited version in Chimurenga #1, 2002, pp.45-47)


ALLOW ME some biographical indulgence, editor and reader, black, white, ‘coloured’, or any of the other million identities for sale.

I spent 10 months in the USA, on a scholarship and just after I had voted in 1994. There were moments in that country where I longed for SA racism, more visible, less sinister. So I was happy to return to my own backyard of racism in 1995. Since then I have been following the buildup to our present, often hysterical discoursing on race and racism. And here I am: hysterical, tired of the even tones of reason, angry. An angry black man.

With regards to race, South Africa has changed: race and racism is no longer the preserve of National Party policy wonks, anti-apartheid activists and intellectuals, or dinner discussion and argument. It is public, mainstream, consciously in the national conscious; it is on everyone’s tongue, in the media, in our dreams, in our nightmares. Which means that South Africa has not changed, that racism remains ingrained, if not embedding itself deeper and deeper in our psyches. Here may follow the necessary, self-aware acknowledgement: no one expects such a founding aspect of our modern national history to disappear in the space of a decade or two.

But I have followed the public discoursing on race with a sense of exhaustion: a tug of war, accusation and counter-accusation, a white viewpoint, a black viewpoint. Or a rehearsal of old arguments.

Sometimes I have found an enlivening anger. But always, at the moment of committing to the page a response or my two cents, paralysis. Racism, like any area of human life, is complicated; and to acknowledge this complexity in the way one writes about it may lessen the anger, the motivation, the reason for wanting, in the first place, to write it out of the psyche.

It is also often too easy to shout ‘Racism!’ and exploit existing prejudices and habits of thought that are so visible in our lives and media. And no writer wants to be accused of cheap shots, of lazy habits of thought.

It is difficult to write about racism also because the dismissal or counter-argument follows easily. The racially significant encounter in the shop or cinema is easily dismissed as the fabrication of an ‘over-sensitive’ mind, of someone who has a chip on his or her shoulder. This is certainly the most powerful of dismissals — throughout history, anywhere — because it casts the writer who describes, complains, who accuses, who fingers this national sore, as abnormal, as someone with mental problems, as someone whose thought lacks adequate logic, that shibboleth that guarantees the voice its authority. And which writer wants to be accused of being disturbed? But here I am, completely fucking mental.

Among the many pieces that have accumulated in the print media around this issue was Njabulo Ndebele’s piece (M&G, 15 September 2000). Complaining about racism submits, he says, to ‘whiteness’ in that it grants the latter ‘power of relief’. The real analysis he leaves in the form of a question:

Is the fore-grounding of race and racism a veiled admission that perhaps there is as yet no material basis for the black majority to contain this scourge through the imposition of it (sic) own versions of the future? Does this speak to the black majority’s perception that perhaps they are not yet agents of history?

Certainly this is fundamental. Racism does not cause but exacerbates an economic problem. Racism is a powerful reminder that one remains a non-agent of history. In an individual sense, it also undermines one’s agency because it obliterates the individual’s self-description, perhaps the primal site of agency. Racism elevates a visible aspect of one’s being, and denies even the possibility of other aspects that may be, to the particular individual, more central to their identity.

Again, anecdote. I teach at the University of Cape Town. Like any institution that has a colonial history, it will, not surprisingly, have its implicit, institutionalised, age-old and persistent legacy that demands a generous amount of deracination. Deracination: the other side of the race coin, but not yet in our national conversation. I leave the complexities of this for another occasion.

Since I believe that the process of my own more interesting education and empowerment started with the shock of alienation and disempowerment that went along with enrollment at that university in the 1980s, I think a dose of deracination is always healthy (a pity, though, that it does not allow deracination away from whiteness for those who subscribe to that epithet). Almost certainly without fail, on walking home, I am, have been, will be, re-racinated, so to speak. I will encounter someone who will – excuse my over-sensitivity – privilege the visible aspect of my body, my skin, and behave accordingly. Most hurtful and angering, the clutch at a bag or the wide berth that white women will give me.

For most of my day, I am a decently educated person who teaches 18 year-olds and older about literature, English literature. It is not entirely preposterous to think that I may have the son or daughter of the white woman I encounter on the sidewalk in my class. When she clutches her bag though, I am no longer a teacher to her son or daughter. With the aid of that powerful tool we call national crime statistics, she has been able to reduce me to a cipher of criminality: the black man. I am no longer an agent in how the world sees me.

I do not expect, nor want, to be greeted with a vigorous nod and smile by strangers. I understand the caution of women in a society which is riddled by crime, a society which, by measure of its rape statistics, is terrifyingly close to losing its humanity. But this understanding, this attempt to grant my encountered white woman some measure of sympathy, this little step of the imagination – what is it like for her? – this attempt to humanise her rests on my dehumanisation, and I am complicit with her.

How does one respond? Remain silent and so allow the hurt and anger to fester? Is it any surprise that an ordinary little burglary turns instantaneously into brutality? How can we not see the connection between, not crime per se, but between the often brutal turns it takes, and racism in South Africa. Yes, crime too is complex, and I do not intend to explain it away and blame it on racism. But it seems that ‘ordinary’ crime – the crime that poor individuals commit in order to survive, like housebreaking (in South Africa, yes, mainly by black people) may contain in the surprise encounter with the homeowner (yes, often white) a moment of recognition, a moment which South Africa at large still needs to experience.

I am sure that to the white homeowner the suspicion of black criminality is confirmed. But the black criminal? What goes through his mind? What triggers the swift move from housebreaker to murderer? Is that not perhaps the catharsis Fanon speaks about?

Since I am educated, I may be less prone to criminality and will not lash out at my fellow citizen. And, since I have intellectual pretensions, I hurry home to husband the anger and write it out of me. But then, the demons of paralysis: everyone’s writing about it, what new things can I add? And, am I oversensitive? Will I, in Ndebele’s words, ‘reduce [myself] to the status of complainant’? Will I be admitting to a psychological weakness? And what about making public an almost physical hurt that goes to the very core of one’s sense of self? Is that the weakness? That I, often described as confident to the point of arrogance, can in the instant it takes someone to clutch at a bag, feel like I have been bludgeoned? Is there indeed not something wrong with me? And so doubt creeps in, and the moment of writing paralyses. But here I am, writing.

I admire writers who remain calm: Njabulo Ndebele, Xolela Mangcu, John Matshikiza. I marvel (or am puzzled?) by my friends who shrug their shoulders at these little encounters they also experience. One of my friends even has the perfect counter to the ‘chip on the shoulder’ remark: ‘I make sure I have a chip on both shoulders, so I remain well-balanced.’ How, in short, do they maintain power, agency, sanity? Is there, indeed, something wrong with me?

By its frequency and by its nature, my encounters with white women are emblematic of a central aspect in racism. It is race that allows it: the construction and continuing use of race as an explanatory concept prevents us from understanding our world in other ways; prevents us from allowing even the possibility of explaining the world differently and, possibly, more accurately.

If I am walking briskly, in Rondebosch, with a bag of groceries in each hand and what is clearly a bag of books on my back, one can make certain assumptions about me. Rondebosch – UCT; books – student or teacher; groceries – can satisfy basic needs; together with brisk walk – in a hurry to get home and eat after a day at university. Rondebosch is full of such figures. There goes a student. There goes a university teacher.

In his basic activities and needs, how is a black student or teacher different from this figure? (The male pronoun is deliberate since I am concerned with the black man read as criminal threat.) Certainly there can be no difference: both are in a hurry to get home and eat, irrespective of what personal histories and tragedies may lie behind any stranger we encounter. Indeed, it is a stranger, and we cannot know. It is what we add in our ignorance – the domain of assumption – that is my concern. If we allow this racial qualifier, if we submit to a desire for the racial qualifier, if we submit to the need to describe the world by using such qualifiers, we open the door to a range of assumptions.

This is an old story. The neutral is of course not neutral, but white; the black nevertheless signifies a deviation from the neutral. So, still, the white is often described in neutral terms and only the black is racialised. Racialising the white does not resolve the issue, it simply provides balance. I am not interested in balance.

It is the actual use of racial categories that should be scrutinised, still, again, against especially the world’s love affair with asserting ethnic and racial identities. From the need to see the student as black it is an instantaneous switch to seeing only the black and to a blindness regarding groceries, book bag, brisk walk. Seeing the black man gives way to the non-rational and the looker sees only blackman, the category, no human, nothing but a cipher of criminality. Nothing, and she clutches at her bag.

Where does this power of the white woman over me lie? When did I concede it to her? Did I concede it to her? And if the criminal is an unwanted presence, which it is, then I am again the unwanted presence in a white suburb, no matter how many black people populate it. And what about guilt? The exhaustion of white guilt is well known. But what about the black man who now feels guilty for causing the encountered white woman such visible anxiety? What is it in that brief moment – she sees me, she cluthes at her bag? How do I maintain agency? Shout a quick, sharp ‘Boo!’ at her?


I am, also, what is called ‘coloured’, a term that still rankles, and it is finally the Mike Nicol piece (‘The trouble with Cape Town’, M&G, 3 August 2001) that drove me to the page in an anger that I feel, now, as I write this, dissipate, because I have attempted again to unpick something in me, something of which I think South Africa is far from resolving. A national sore which will not heal; something both public and thus open to intellectual scrutiny; something which can cause private agony, the confession of which, in turn, is an admission of vulnerability and cause for paralysis.

I found Bryan Rostron’s piece about Cape Town (M&G, 20 July 2001) worthwhile because it certainly described my experiences of public Cape Town. Some of the encounters he describes or quotes are too familiar: people quizzically quoting you the price of an item, assuming that you cannot possibly afford it, and so on and so forth.

The accusations of ‘coloured’ racism, quoted by Rostron, and said by a black person. Another thing that rings true. Since I pass as ‘coloured’, I am often privy to such racism, on a parallel to what Rostron described several months ago in another article about his encounters, as a white person, with white racism at dinner parties. An interesting footnote to this is how some white people, complete strangers, will make assumptions about my racial politics because I am ‘coloured’ and freely espouse racist views about black people.

All in all, the Rostron article about Cape Town puts in writing, in a newspaper, experiences and perceptions of Cape Town that I share, that I have heard in conversation, and so on.

But certainly it cannot be simply a matter of perception, as Mike Nicol suggests in his response: ‘this is true if you see the city as colonial redoubt’ (my emphasis). If it is a matter of perception, then the response or counter to that can only be another perception, as indeed Mike Nicol goes on to do: he uses the figure of the teenager to explain how he sees Cape Town. His depiction of Cape Town as made up of so many things, from the beautiful to the ugly, while more complex, more balanced, does not give to me what is my dominant experience of the place. No matter how hard I try to see the mountain, to wonder at a pair of pied crows cajoling in the air not more than 50 metres up, I will be walking along a sidewalk where certainly I will be reminded of the ugly.

Certainly perception plays a large role in how we describe the world, and certainly some things can be perceived in many different ways. But by casting the Rostron article as true depending on how you see Cape Town, what is then true is again dependent, in a way, on a state of mind. I see some of my experiences in the Rostron article; those experiences are experiences of racism; my experiences of racism are often easily dismissed as perceiving something which is not there. An article which confirms some of my experiences is countered by the same argument: the incidence of racism is a matter of perception. If you experience Cape Town as overwhelmingly racist, you walk around with half-closed eyes. We end up with competing perceptions, one true for X, the other true for Y. Equal truths, another site of paralysis. What do my descriptions of racism matter if they are one-sided, my perception of a small piece of a wider reality?

It is towards the end that the Nicol piece exasperated me though: ‘I’ve heard the coloured voice declare off record: this is our city, what do blacks want here? What is needed now are coloured voices to articulate publicly the deeper issues behind these sentiments’ (my emphasis).

My exasperation is partly caused by the writer, and partly caused by whomever the ‘coloured’ voice or voices are which he quotes. Nicol is, after all, merely relaying what he has heard and what many other people have relayed and what many other people have said.

My contention with the writer surrounds that definite article: ‘the coloured voice’. By suggesting a singular ‘coloured’ voice which is racist towards black people, the ‘coloured’, all ‘coloureds’ are swiftly, by virtue of a definite article, cast as resistant to the presence of black fellow Capetonians.

When I walk the streets, in other words, I am a cipher of criminality and a cipher of racism, irrespective of whether I engage in criminal behaviour or not, irrespective of whether I espouse racist views or not. I am both a target and an agent of racism.

Nicol’s definite article is simply a galvanising moment for me. I have been following with despair, since 1994, the rise of the ‘coloured’, in the context of a world captivated by the assertions and celebrations of ethnic identities. And it is this that is bothersome. We still give to ethnic and racial categories so much explanatory power and by so doing fall into easy thought. So it was the ‘coloured’ vote that left the Cape ‘unliberated’, one more addition to our politics that remain race-driven. Thanks to the media’s political analysis, I was also a National Party supporter. Criminal, racist, NP supporter: is this what is meant with multiple identities?

The ‘coloured’ is exactly that category which subverts our reliance on race as an explanatory category; the ‘coloured’ confounds racial thinking and should be read as emblematic of the non-existence of race. It is an old story, but one that bears repeating. How do you know someone is ‘coloured’? Skin colour? Good luck. Accent? Music? Again, good luck.

Unfortunately, the ‘coloured’ is now a race and the individual who can be described as such easily stands in for the race, the group. Then, whatever we have constructed to believe about the group can help us to interpret, in an instant, the individual. The line between racial thinking and racism is thin thin thin.

Here, now, I no longer care how many people assert and celebrate a ‘coloured’ identity. And here I turn to Nicol’s ‘informants’. I am sick and tired of ‘colouredness’. Fuck ‘colouredness’! And fuck bobotie! It is parochial, limiting; and it feeds racism. This city is not yours, in the same way as it still does not belong to black Capetonians. You are again simply a buffer, the bodygaurd of white capital. Here I am, a ‘coloured’ voice, on record.

rustum kozain

first published on the web here: http://groundwork.wordpress.com/2006/07/03/fuck-colouredness-and-the-coloured-voice/

February 19, 2013

assagai – hey jude

Filed under: music,music and exile symposium — ABRAXAS @ 9:09 pm

From ” Assagai ”
Label: Vertigo — 6360 030
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: UK
Released: 1971

A1 Telephone Girl
A2 Akasa
A3 Hey Jude
A4 Cocoa
B1 Irin Ajolawa
B2 Ayieo
B3 Beka
B4 I’ll Wait For You

Guitar — Fred Coker
Tenor Saxophone — Bizo Mngqikana (Bizo Mngqikana, Bizo Mnggikana)
Alto Saxophone — Dudu Pukwana
Bass Guitar — Charles Ononogbo
Cornet — Mongezi Feza
Drums — Louis Moholo


“Hey Jude” is a song by the English rock band The Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
The ballad evolved from “Hey Jules”, a song widely accepted as being written to comfort John Lennon’s son, Julian, during his parents’ divorce – although this explanation is not universally accepted and even McCartney has given conflicting accounts over the years.

“Hey Jude” was released in August 1968 as the first single from The Beatles’ record label Apple Records.
More than seven minutes in length, “Hey Jude” was, at the time, the longest single ever to top the British charts.
It also spent nine weeks as number one in the United States—the longest run at the top of the American charts for a Beatles’ single, and tied the record for longest stay at #1.
The single has sold approximately eight million copies and is frequently included on professional lists of the all-time best songs.

Single release

“Hey Jude” was released on 26 August 1968, in the United States and 30 August in the United Kingdom, backed with “Revolution” on the B-side of a 7″ single.
The single was the debut release of The Beatles’ record label Apple Records; in the US, it was also the first Beatles’ single to be issued in a company sleeve rather than a picture sleeve.

“Hey Jude” began its sixteen-week run on the British charts on 7 September 1968, claiming the top spot a week later. It only lasted two weeks on top before being knocked off by another single from Apple, Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days” (a song which, incidentally, if not penned was actually produced by McCartney).
The single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 13 September; that same week NME reported that two million copies of the single had been sold.
The song entered the US charts on 14 September 1968, where it stayed for nineteen weeks.
Two weeks later, “Hey Jude” was number one in the charts, and held that position for nine weeks, the longest time spent by a Beatles’ single at number one, as well as being the longest-playing single to reach number one.

On 30 November 1968 NME reported that sales had reached nearly six million copies worldwide.
“Hey Jude” became the biggest-selling debut release for a record label ever, selling an estimated eight million copies worldwide and topping the charts in eleven countries.
“Hey Jude” was the top Billboard Hot 100 single for 1968, according to year-end charts.
Less than three weeks after its release, the record was certified gold for sales of one million copies.
In 1999, it was certified 4x platinum, representing four million units shipped.

Critical reception

Upon the release of the “Hey Jude” single, Time contrasted it with its B-side “Revolution.” Time wrote, “The other side of the new disk urges activism of a different sort” as McCartney “liltingly exhorts a friend to overcome his fears and commit himself in love.”
Music analyst Alan Pollack praised “Hey Jude,” saying, “it’s such a good illustration of two compositional lessons—how to fill a large canvas with simple means, and how to use diverse elements such as harmony, bassline, and orchestration to articulate form and contrast.”
He also said it is unusual for a long song because it uses a “binary form that combines a fully developed, hymn-like song together with an extended, mantra-like jam on a simple chord progression.”
Pollack described the song’s long coda and fadeout as “an astonishingly transcendental effect,” while Unterberger observed, “What could have very easily been boring is instead hypnotic”.
John Lennon said “Hey Jude” was “one of his [Paul’s] masterpieces.”

“Hey Jude” was nominated for the Grammy Awards of 1969 in the Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal categories, but failed to win any of them.
It did win the 1968 Ivor Novello Award for “A-Side With the Highest Sales”.
In the 1968 NME Readers’ Poll, “Hey Jude” was named the best single of the year.
In 2001, “Hey Jude” was inducted into the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 2004, it was ranked number 8 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it #7 on The Beatles’ 100 Greatest Songs.
It came in third on Channel 4’s list of 100 Greatest Singles.
The Amusement & Music Operators Association ranked “Hey Jude” the 11th-best jukebox single of all time.

February 11, 2013

professor eugenie brinkema: Aryan Kaganof and Formalism After Presence


I’d like to begin today by proposing a difference between a “fragment” and a “segment.” Segment derives from the Latin secare, to cut; it suggests the division or subdivision of some thing X; implies a part that is bounded by a line, whether real or imaginary; and in this division, this notion of some strip, piece or part divided, it suggests how those divisions remain sworn and bound to the whole unified thing from which they were originally cut off and which they now, in their present form of being a segment, remain a segment of X, or a subsection or subdivision of X, where X may be a circle, but X may also be a bowel. It is thus fitting that Eisenstein, the great stylist of the cut, would admonish that “With such organically thought-out and photographed parts of one large significant and general conception, these must be segments of some whole, and by no means […] stray, strolling études” (Film Form 92). Every segment holds out the seductive lure of every ideology of recombination and totality.

A fragment is an entirely different thing. Frangere, to break, as in bread, or a glass—but also a neck or a skull—but also to breach (as in to breach a contract); the fragment involves a mutilation, a broken piece of an undiscoverable something; a remnant; a scrap; a fracture; but also sharing the root frag- with fragilis, fragile, what is, in fact, easily breakable. (And as in George Crabb’s early-19th century dictionary entry on the term, what is ultimately most subject to fragmentation is what is also subject to finitude: “Man, corporeally considered, is a fragile creature, his frame is composed of fragile materials.”) A fragment is a part broken away, and this broken piece contains within itself the dimension of what is broken, what is incomplete, what is interrupted in its continuity. While a segment is acted upon by the cut, the fragment contains within itself the pure dimension of already being broken without making recourse to its origin; or, rather, the fragment is broken from an always imaginary and impossible to recover origin. If that break constitutes something painful, the source of that pain is not rediscoverable; the pain is born out in the very ontology of the fragment. Any fragment bears each fragment’s fragile mutilation, which is to say the very form of mutilation, in itself. I suspect this is a fairly uncontroversial distinction.

I am beginning with this division because it would seem that there are theorists and artists who hold to the unity-cut logic of the segment, and those who bond themselves to the episteme of the break in the fragment. As this panel is broadly about the role of the critique of metaphysics in film theory, it should go without saying that I am putting the fragment on the side of the affirmation of the play enabled by the noncenter which is not a loss of the center that the Derrida of “Structure, Sign, and Play” associates with the Nietzschean turn. And again, I suspect it is fairly uncontroversial to link the fragment to a broader poststructuralist affection for the particular, the contingent, the detail, from Barthes’s work on the punctum to Derrida’s attention to paratextual and parergonal textual effluvia.


The underground filmmaker Aryan Kaganof, about whom I will speak today, makes films constituted around an aesthetic and an ethic of the fragment. His films feel like constant restatements or reappropriations or accumulations of perversities; these schemas of enumeration paradoxically destroy the eidos of enumeration, which is a relation based on hierarchization. Indeed, Kaganof insists on this fractured dimension of his work, writing in a manifesto that “the atomic unit of the RE:MIX is not the shot, but the fragment—which is a clump, a volatile conglomerate. Granular, dense, and stuck together” (Nostalgia for the Future).

But if Kaganof emphasizes the remixed collection of fragments at the risk of reinstating an assembled totality, I am more interested in one of the consequences of organizing one’s corpus around the fractured fragile piece of the fragment as such. Specifically, that in its remnant dimension, the fragment as a form holds out the pure notion of the break. Kaganof’s films thus are decomposed as much as composed; the privileged atom of his work is a 2-to-6-minute long mutilated piece of film marked by a kind of violence, not one that explicitly takes place in the otherwise unbroken image, but a force bound up with the fragment as its formal condition of possibility.

Kaganof was born in South Africa, but fled to Amsterdam when he was 19 to escape conscription into the Apartheid army; in his early years, he made films under the name Ian Kerkhof. His work is influenced by Debord, Bataille, Rilke, and Burroughs; by porn and by extreme performance art; and as much by contemporary South African jazz musicians and poets as by the British avant-garde filmmaker Peter Whitehead. (Whitehead, if originally best known for his 1960s pop music promos with the Rolling Stones, is perhaps better known these days for his assertion that Osama Bin Laden made the most significant film of the 21st century.) This assemblage is mutually concerned with the transformative possibilities of radical aesthetics, each working through, mutatis mutandis by field, the expressive dimension of modes of bodily and formal strain, discomfort, disintegration, degradation, and extremity.

These titles of a few of Kaganof’s many films betray, despite his stylistic heterogeneity, his enduring conceptual interests: Nice to Meet You, Please Don’t Rape Me! (a satirical musical about violence in South Africa; one ad for the film reads “From the Country that Gave You Apartheid, Now the World’s First Rape Musical”); another is Beyond Ultra-Violence: Uneasy Listening by Merzbow (a documentary about the experimental Japanese noise musician Masami Akita, whose otological excesses have also appeared as scores for several of Kaganof’s films); the Bataille-citing and bodily-fluid gushing The Dead Man 2: Return of the Dead Man; and the fairly self-explanatory The Boy Who Masturbated Himself to a Climax. Kaganof works in numerous media formats, often shooting on digital video that is blown up to 35mm, and is best known outside underground circles for one such experiment: the 2007 SMS Sugar Man, a feature-length film shot entirely on cellphones. He curates and churns out work; and his website, kagablog, functions as a manic archive of assembled writings, images and meditations. His work, replete with vomit, shit, urine, cum, is also, it must be said, oddly playful.

The 1994 film I’m focusing on today, 10 Monologues From the Lives of the Serial Killers is, in some ways, exactly what it claims to be—except in so far as the title lies (more on that later).

The film is organized around the rhythm of fragmentation, the cadence of wrecked, degraded things—broken bodies, genitals, histories, voices. It opens with a voice intoning one of Kaganof’s poems over a painfully white screen: “In the beginning was the mountain, Then the cloud, Then the radar station, Then the helicopter, Then the cancer…”; Fragment 1 turns on the real voice of serial killer Ed Kemper (aka “The Co-Ed Killer”) over the grainy blue-tinted image of a man framed in a cell, smoking a cigarette, rendered less object than cause of the making-exquisite of disrupted light. The opening lines of the film abdicate the privilege of speaking monologically: the pronoun “I” is first posited in a state of pronounced refusal: “Well, I’m not an expert, I’m not an authority; I’m someone who has been a murderer for almost 20 years.” Fragment 2 reverberates to “Murder Avenue” from the Geto Boys; in 3, a black man nearly invisible in the far left corner of a dank space speaks the 1968 “The Generations of America” litany from J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition in a clipped preacher’s cadence that rises to a crest of guttural bluesy exhalations of “Sirhan Sirhan shot Robert F. Kennedy. And Ethel M. Kennedy shot Judith Birnbaum. And Judith Birnbaum shot Elizabeth Bochnak…” Fragment 4 sets grainy and degraded home movie footage to Roberta Lannes’ short story, “Goodbye, Dark Love,” a farewell to the abuses of a lover who has shot himself: as the meat of the decaying film fades, we hear of the post-mortem hillside that it is all “hair and skin and blood and flesh and him and him and him.”

Fragment 5 wilds to Charles Manson’s meditations on freedom, while 6 turns to a recorded dialogue between Ted Bundy and James Dobson on the dangers of pornography, recorded the day before Bundy’s execution, and set to the image of Kaganof masturbating while double exposures project pornographic images onto his body (so he is screen and surface, cause and effect of his own arousal). Says the actor speaking Manson’s words, in modulating sound sync that devastates the immediacy of the performance: “My head is empty; I have no opinion.” (One cannot help but note, given the title of the film and the conceit of its fragments, that Derrida says of the specificity of the interior monologue that it is a form of auto-affection—here, Kaganof literalizes and pornographizes this notion.)

Fragment 7 returns to Ballard, a voice recounting an anal sex scene from Crash. Over a mostly black screen with flashes of indeterminate peach and pink, this image is reduced to tones, the nervous spasms of a textual body in cut-up forms, like reopened wounds, like bits, even, of lovely skin. After returning to the dark crimson of the Geto Boys, Fragment 8 sets a grainily whispered diary entry from Henry Rollins over surveillance imagery trailing a woman, violence always about to arrive without arrival. Monologue 9 places a 1979 voice recording of Kenneth Bianci over a long shot of a body bound to a chair—each mode of violence opening up a formal modification in the arrangement of limbs. Fragment 10 returns to the Ballard Atrocity Exhibition, and at the end, an off-screen voice commands, “Stop,” and so the film does.

So those are the monologues that comprise Kaganof’s Ten Monologues from the Lives of the Serial Killers.

But the title of this film, as I mentioned, lies. Or, rather, there is a curious and pronounced carelessness to its choice of words. Monologos, we all know, means “speaking alone, speaking singly” (from monos: single, singular, one, alone, only; logos, of course: word). Several of the fragments, however, involve multiple speakers. Furthermore, despite the titular insistence, not every mode of speech, whether monological or dialogical, is associated with a serial killer. But once the monologue is no longer the definitive mark of each fragment, then the epigraphical and epilogical voice droning “In the beginning” should properly count towards the final tally; or, if the title seems to hold out the promise of unique or singular monologues, then the two repeated sections should count as two, not four, units of monological discourse: so the film either contains 8 monologues or 12, but it does not contain 10.

The monologues promised in the title, we might say, appear in the opening credits, appear under the sign of the title, only to disappear, to erase themselves with each non- monological, non-serial killing performance. This film more generally is comprised of many such forms of erasure, fading, retreat. Each narrative focuses on some dimension of the past, bearing out a nostalgia for what is lost and gone. What has passed on in the film is multiple: bodies, now corpses; corpses, now decayed; unity, now fragmented; the past, now obliterated; but also more ephemeral things, like memory (as in Kenneth Bianci’s uncanny monotone: “This one I killed; this one I don’t know about; I remember that cunt”). In the midst of this film of disappearances, the text also troubles its own visual presence, constantly retreating into illegible images and the failure of speech to manifest as something seeable. And, of course, each fragment in turn passes—each is there in so far as it comes to not be there, comes to be replaced with yet another.

How is one to read these disappearances, this dimension of where things are not in the text? My claim is that this is fundamentally a film that frustrates any language of formal analysis that would rely on accounting for what is present in the film.
When Derrida aimed to “shake metaphysics,” one of his central targets was the displacement of presence as the center and foundation of Western philosophy. One of the most pernicious effects of the obsession with presence, argues Derrida, was that the history of philosophy becomes a photology, “a history of, or treatise on, light” (“Force and Signification,” 27). This emphasis on the seeable and the visible has produced formalisms (neo- and otherwise) in film theory that, even when they claim not to, turn ultimately on discourses of presence. They are therefore ill-equipped to read the ephemeral traces, non- appearances, self-erasure and the violent disappearances that structure Kaganof’s destructured film.

My argument is that a revitalized non-metaphysical formalism in film studies would need to trouble mise-en-scène as a logic of presence. Freud taught us how to take grammar seriously; in his theorization of the unheimlich, he writes, “the prefix ‘un’ [‘un-’] is the token of repression.” In a similar fashion, in order to interrupt formal analysis as photology, I want to insert the sign of negation into the building block of cinematic analysis: a little n. Formal analysis after presence requires reading for what I call in my forthcoming book mise-n’en-scène. This phrase is a grammatical impossibility; it is an error in French. It is useful less for what it represents than for the possibilities it sets loose. Mise-n’en-scene suggests that in addition to reading for what is put-into-the-scene, one must also read for all of its permutations: what is not put into the scene; what is put into the non-scene; and what is not enough put into the scene.

The genealogy of non-unities written by an attention to the mise-n’en-scène is a fitting anti-narrative for Kaganof’s fragments about disappearances. Reading for form after the critique of metaphysics requires beginning with the premise that form has a force, that it is not reducible to any duality between form and content, that it is not to be put to work for the cognitive processes of spectators. Taking seriously a form organized around form’s waning and absence, for its traces and formlessness, suggests that violence in a film such as Kaganof’s is not in the text, in what is visible, audible, speakable or comprehensible, but is an unstable process bound up with the act of reading for its formal charge. Mise-n’en-scene suggests a critical practice that reads with the fragmentation of the fragment without attempting to piece the fragment back together—or, rather, tarries with the fragment, without attempting to turn each fragment into any segment.

Is there a way for the title of this film not to be lying? If we emphasize the logos of monologos, we are back to a metaphysical privileging of presence, and of the imagined immediacies of speech. What I’d like to suggest is that any analytical mode that ultimately takes the title at its (spoken) word, and looks for the presence of what is in the scene, will ultimately reduce this film to an articulation of its themes and fall for the metaphysical lure of logos’ purported bond to self-presence, immediacy or what is as a pure conveyance of meaning.

Put another way, I’d like to engage in a thought experiment and see what kind of critical possibilities are opened up if we begin with the premise that presence and speech are not where we want to focus our critical energies.

So, once again, does the title of this film lie? There is a tradition of the theatrical monologue in which a person is made to declare or put on trial their own attributes, such that it might be the case that the speaker plays the parts of multiple advocates and of a judge. This forced declaration of attributes might be more what is at stake here. In the classical requirements for the monologue, the speaker must not be the poet; the speaker must address himself in the form of self-prompting (we see this in Fragment One, posed as a series of questions and provocations to Kemper from himself); and, crucially, the speaker must address his soliloquy to a silent interlocutor. Indeed, the non-response of the listener is what makes for the anti-dialogical dimension of the monological. On the one hand, if the other is the spectator, then we should recall Christian Metz’s point in The Imaginary Signifier about the difference between the theater and the cinema—the actor is always present at our absence, and our presence requires their corresponding absence—in which case every film is monological. If, on the other hand, the silent interlocutor is within the text, then we might at least consider whether there are formal manifestations of this required non-responsiveness.

Dead response form suggests a rather different intertextual source for Kaganof’s monological mode: I am thinking here of Beckett’s A Piece of Monologue, which begins: “Birth was the death of him. Again. Words are few. Dying too. Birth was the death of him. Ghastly grinning ever since.” Speaker, the single protagonist of Beckett’s play, insists that this matter is the alpha and omega of what matters: “Never but the one matter. The dead and gone. The dying and the going.” If the non-response of the other is not only the formal requirement of the monologue, it is more so the refusal of a response that Speaker names and performs for some absent him. In other words, “the dying and the going” speaks without response but also in the wake of a non-response, defers response, and declares the impossibility of response.

This same form is at stake in the privileged fragment of Kaganof’s film, which is to say one of the two that are doubled, and the one that concludes the film: the formula of deferral from Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition—“X shot Y and Y shot Z, and Z shot A, and A shot B,” and so forth. This repetition empties the meaning of any one name to the rhythm of repetition; to the violence of the formula; to all manner of formalized violence. The man speaks alone and says everything but “I”. The litany becomes eulogy becomes cadence becomes death count becomes – what, exactly? Just the deferral so that the duration of the formula can exert its pressure on the text. So the title lies a third time, not for the numerical or the falsely monological, but because speech is not what speaks here: the film is something more like a formologue, which deploys form and the formula, makes present the force of the formal.

Although the entire film involves stories about the past, marked by forms of obsession, repetition and rumination, the explicit chain of names in the Atrocity Exhibition bits takes this broader logic and literalizes, or radicalizes, it. As though pressing on what Nancy calls “the threshold of community,” the voiced deferral puts on display the form of the deaths of others. If this is unrecognizable in its mode of address, if the semiotics of the death count become pure cadence and rhythm to which no response is possible or adequate (the truest sense of the monological), this is not the case of form obliterating sense, but of the sense of deferral functioning as the impossible assimilation of these deaths. It is thus the form of deferral that enacts the double sense of Ballard’s use of the word “generation”: what is made to go on, and what has already, definitively, passed on. That double sense cannot be in the text—it is neither present, nor bound up with presence—it is, rather, where the scene defers and what is constituted by this form of deferral, this disappearance without reference to what at any point appeared.

Ballard’s chain as Kaganof stages it involves a mutual deferral of origin and end. The rhythm of the formula repeats until the arbitrary, contingent and off-screen, which is to say external to the monological, voice declares “Stop”—deferring any final or last victim. And, likewise, the rhythm of repetition brackets any notion of the origin that might begin and thus promise coherence to such a list through its linking algebraic terms. Not least because Ballard starts with 1968 and Sirhan Sirhan, he leaves at minimum before the list the assassination of John F. Kennedy; 1968 arrives too late, which suggests that it is not the beginning in the sense of an origin at all. If we go back to the literal founding text of meta-physics, there, Aristotle proposes the kinoumenon kinei, the unchanging, primary substance of the “Unmoved Mover.” Kaganof’s film defers not only a telos for the list, it also refuses the fantasy of the “Unshot Shooter” who would ground or center the fragment. This mathematical transitivity is founded on grammatical transitivity, and the mise-en- abîme of transitivities extends so long as the voice has not yet declared “Stop” to this expanded field of relations.

This scene is built on ruins; it is constituted around the devastation of origin or end. If we analyze the presence of what is “in the scene,” including the presence of the speaker—the body, the voice, the dripping water, the dankness of the space—we reassert the primacy of a vocal and visual presence, a photology, a photophilia, a logophilia. If, instead, we take seriously fragmentation and the formula, then it is transitivity as such that exerts force in this cinematic bit. No image in the film, least of all this part of it, contains explicit acts of violence—rather, the juxtaposition of word and image deploys violence in and for the form of the film. Violence at the end of the work involves this suspension of origin and end, involves the force of deferral such that it is impossible to say that it is ever there in the film.

If the fragment includes its break, then the fragment is not reducible to any formalist logic organized around simple presence (i.e., the content of the fragment). Mise- n’en-scene suggests these are not monologues, but formalogues; but if formologue still holds too tightly to the logos (it is almost impossible to do away with), then I propose yet another revolution in the title of this film in order to make it not lie: 10 Formalgias, recalling that algon, as in nostalgia, really means a mode of aching pain. For it is formal material in deferred broken pieces and not pieces of flesh or the past that suffers, that bears out a chain of transitive suffering in the film.
Kaganof’s work is no less violent for that.

Eugenie Brinkema Massachusetts Institute of Technology Paper Presented March 23, 2012 in Boston, MA Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference

January 25, 2013

mick raubenheimer interviews felix laband

Filed under: felix laband,mick raubenheimer,music — ABRAXAS @ 3:33 pm

Felix Laband and the Impossible Day.

When I call Felix Laband up I have no idea what to expect. It’s been six wide years since ‘Dark Days Exit’, Laband’s high watermark following on cult favourites ‘Thin shoes in June’ and ‘4/4 Down the stairs’, the latter two albums having already re-sculpted dance-floor soundtracks throughout Cape Town, and brought him to the attention of hip German Electronica and Acid-Jazz label Compost.
‘Dark Days Exit’, widely and wildly lauded by critics throughout the hipper corners of the globe, introduced a more pensive aspect of Laband’s musicality. Its moods shifted from prettily haunted to vaguely ominous – its beauty was carved in twilight spaces, its beats shuffling in shadow. It was a great record, and – by his own admission – was created in a period of inspired productivity.
Following the clamor of praise and applause, Laband opted to withdraw from the adoring crowds. Then seemed to fall away from the earth itself.. leaving, in his stead, the usual proliferation of whispers and rumours that tend to accompany such sudden and sustained disappearances.
I’m surprised at the relaxed voice on the other side of the phone, inviting me to his studio in Rosebank. When my editor asked me to interview Laband at his new spot in Jo’burg, I calmly assured him that Laband was very much Cape-centric, and that his ‘new spot in Jo’burg’ was probably just another snippet of ficticious rumour. Several days later – more than a little disbelievingly – I found myself driving up a typically pretty, leaf-twirling Rosebank street.
Stepping into Laband’s home is like stepping into a living Felix Laband album cover, in 3D. The cozy, calm space of trees and geriatric-friendly gardens outside are replaced by Laband’s signature cheeky, unsettling manipulations of found images –
Here’s Barack Obama’s face blooming Ziggy Stardust tattoos; there’s Mugabe poking his newly mandible-fanged head through an ANC poster; here’s a cute huddle of Pornettes being penetrated by lucky skeletons; there a sweaty babe being ruptured by weird technologies.
Some of the collisions/collages bear the legend ‘Deaf Safari’..

‘And that shit’s happening right now..’

Laband and longstanding girlfriend Lauren have to pop out to a friend’s place (I’m a tad early), and instead of asking me to take a drive and come back later, or wait outside, Felix says I can chill in their lounge, “We’ll just be 15 minutes..”
From whichever perspective you view it, this is a very prettily ribboned gift for any journo or fan to receive – 15 minutes of unselfconscious exploration.. of inspecting the periphera, the creative traces of an artist’s living space. I flip through two boxes of records, which, along with the room-lining cd collection (hopping from book-shelves to cardboard box to cardboard boxes to crates and back) is mostly, and surprisingly, generic. No Steve Hofmeyr though. A handful of dvd’s scattered about are more intriguing – some dark and experimental titles wink at me.

When they return (“Feel free to read some books..” Laband mentioned before leaving) I’m paging through an occult pulp novel by Ira Levin (author of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.) “You should check these out; insane stuff. Important,” he says while scooping up a selection. Then he pops off to make some coffee (“Do you take milk?”)
Felix Laband has been reading. A lot. The tumble of books he hands me are mostly non-fiction, “this guy missioned right into Sierra Leone, amazing shit.” Rwanda’s RPF; psychopathic child gangs in Sierra Leone; political analyses of corrupt regimes; the behind-the-hush cesspool of what SA troops did and experienced at the border in those sinister Eighties; ANC rebels being taught the primal power of necklacing in Angola. “These kids (in Sierra Leone) basically waltzed into the capital and hacked off everybody’s limbs. Everybody’s.”
Heavy stuff, and one can see it in Felix’s eyes, in his gait, the heaviness. It takes something out of you exploring the dark – it claims its pound of flesh. Africa, that is Laband’s new mission – the Africa behind the scenes, behind the screens, behind the vaulted walls of fearful rich white/black folk soothing Africa’s reality away with the salve of money. Money has become the ultimate security system – the metaphorical distance that turns tragedy into comedy, or at least into something inoffensive. Whatever’s been in his veins before, Laband is mainlining harsh reality, “It just freaks me out that this shit (the Rwandan genocide and ongoing nightmares in Sierra Leone) went down while we were teens. It makes you realize that some people exist in a living hell, while others party next door.”
Laband is tired of the hip crowds, the self-congratulatory throngs of Capetonian Hipsters, with their jaded wit – with their comforting distance from hacked-off limbs and prepubescent children torturing people for kicks. “It makes you realize we’re all flesh,” he says, in reference to some deeply disturbing Sierra Leone footage he’d seen.
Laband is meaning to inject some reality into his music too. That, and some Jozi. I ask him about his move to Johannesburg. The answer is simple – he wants to mix with new artists, new rhythms; he wants to move new crowds.
One of the tracks he plays me off the long-pending new album ‘Deaf Safari’, is neck-deep in Kwaito.. but a tweaked Kwaito – bounce-heavy, yet Alien.. Another track snakes ingeniously around the rhythmic rants of some North African evangelist. Said track freshly reveals the inherent musicality of African sermons – music is Everywhere, in prayer and damnation alike.
It’s an interesting approach, ‘Deaf Safari’: Get people boogying to get them thinking. Listening to the ‘Deaf Safari’ tunes I sense Laband’s got his approach down.. The familiar motifs still pop up here and there – tinkling vibraphones, prettily looped acoustic guitars – but there’s a new edge here: Dark Funk – Phosphorescent beauty which can only be appreciated in shadow..
“People can talk all they want, and I guess I’ve kinda lived up to all the rumours… but when ‘Deaf Safari’ drops I want it to hit. I want it to mean something.”
Laband started off as a teen punk – ‘Incurable’ when he was in Standard 7, later ‘Fingerhead’. It was listening to electro-Goth and Industrial groups (Alien Sex Fiend, Skinny Puppy) that got Laband interested in programming (their latter outfit utilized a drum machine).
That spirit – adolescent, hungry – is still there, waiting to pounce.

Hungry Futures.

Felix Laband is revisiting his live band days – ‘Deaf Safari’ will be the first Laband album to feature his own vocals, own lyrics. “I’m at a place where I have something to say..” From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be something of an onslaught.

Check one. Check 1-2-3.

First published in BPM Magazine.


January 22, 2013

Forest of a thousand tongues – Kate Bush and the kick inside

Filed under: mick raubenheimer,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 3:42 pm

When Catherine Bush was thirteen years old she was already versed in the language of piano, and in the old pump organ kept in the shed of the family’s sprawling, East Wickham farm.

By fifteen she had authored dozens of songs, some of which – including hit ‘The Man with the Child in his eyes’– would appear on her debut album four years later.

Intrinsically English, Kate Bush’s highly romantic musical world was rooted in the older British Isles which still hummed with legend and lore – whose fields and forests were still home to mysterious creatures of neighboring Gaelic and Celtic descent. Worlds whose secrets were magickal, rather than magical.

Of Royal line come.

Kate’s journey into the world of Pop music was more than a little charmed. She was born into a musical family – her dad was a doctor who was also a talented pianist, and all of her siblings became musicians. Much of the material for her first albums was conceived in the rambling idyll of the Bush farmstead. Discovered at age sixteen by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, who subsequently championed her – even producing her first professional demos – by nineteen she was topping the British charts with the delicious histrionics of ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Bush’s first album, ‘The Kick Inside’, was an auspicious debut. Her already sophisticated musicality and gymnastic vocals aside, its songs referenced literature, philosophy, and more obscure fields, and wasn’t shy of courting the dark and outre’ – the title track tells the story of an incest-sprung pregnancy by way of the sister’s romantic suicide note.

Bush was also unabashedly sensual, but rendered sex and sexuality elegantly – poetically – compared to the coy vulgarity of most Pop and Rock trends. Her infectious celebration of feminine self was manifest in the gloriously un-checked twists and leaps of her shining vox.

More so than any female artist before her, even Patti Smith, Bush was a potently independent artist. Still a teenager when ‘The Kick Inside’ was released, she stood her ground against her record label, EMI, insisting that the idiosyncratic ‘Wuthering Heights’ be the lead single, rather than their pick – the more Rock oriented, accessible, ‘James and The Cold Gun’.

By the release of her third album, Bush had asserted near total control of her music. By 1985, with the release of masterpiece ‘Hounds of Love’, she controlled every aspect of recording; operating from her stable-turned-cutting edge- studio.

Bush’s unflinching independence would inspire a legion of subsequent female artists, perhaps even more so than her brilliant musical flair. The likes of Tori Amos, Aimee Mann, Florence & The Machine and Joanna Newsom seem unthinkable without her precedence.

Beneath the shimmering surfaces.

That Bush’s 5th LP, ‘Hounds of Love’, following on a string of commercial hits from previous albums, would be her highest charter yet, is testament to her uncanny gift for marrying commercial success with eccentric originality.

If one takes into account that the second half of the record is essentially a Prog- Rock concept album about a woman drowning – now humming, now booming with technological experimentalism and Jazz undercurrents – its success beggars belief. The single (and four of the first five songs on ‘Hounds of Love’ would become high-charting singles) ‘Cloudbusting’ even knocked Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ off the number one slot in the charts..

As a whole, ‘Hounds of Love’ is a strange creature: It was sonically sculpted to have two halves. The first consists of ‘The Pop World According to Kate Bush’ – a sonically delightful space which houses ‘Running up that hill’ and ‘Cloudbusting’. Its second half is more demanding: An aural suite exploring the hallucinatory experiences of a drowning woman, it flows and ebbs, never becoming prosaic. The ‘Ninth Wave’ suite contains in its depths even more layered beauty than is to be found in the glinting genius of songs that precede it.
A phenomenon of an album.

mick raubenheimer

[First published in Muse magazine]

January 21, 2013

helgé janssen reviews The Trees spin – Amsterdam Bar, Glenwood.

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:20 pm

During December, the Trees launched out on a wild spontaneous escapade to the City of Gold, tearing through the streets, borrowing instruments along the way and causing mayhem wherever they appeared! Strangely, yet to their eternal credit, their exuberance met with some opposition up north.

Cutting to the chase @ Amsterdam Bar on Friday night, dressed in white shirts, black trousers and braces, The Trees launched into their short set with a determination to make the most of a sound system that was not co-operating. That they pulled it off has much to do with their drive, their infectious songs and the fact that they are tapping into (and spearheading) a new musical genre: blue-grass punk-funk rockabilly (organised) chaos. This definitely is a cutting edge of musical exploration in SA today. Forces this night collaborated to have them produce a rock-ribbed set – to get it all to work no matter what obstacles stood in their way! One had a sense that that whirlwind whizz up to Gauteng has stood them in good stead.

The new line up consisted of Matthew Ilbury on guitar (sometimes lead, sometimes rhythm) and Guy Mitchell on drums. Matthew (from Black Math) with red-aflame-hair, made a striking visual impression and slotted into the mix as if born to it. Guy, tall naked legs exposed to maximum effect, (in grey shorts and braces!) drove the rhythm, beating out the demons with expert aplomb! He created an interesting crazed dramatic visual: as tall as he is, the miniature drums obscured at the back and he, crouched at floor level. Up front, founding member Daryn Higginson (guitar, vocals) kept the focus well centered and whose cool grounded approach was impressive. James Cross (Banjo/vocals) supplied the necessary sparks to the Catherine wheel set, while Hezron Chetty (Violin) wove through, around and between the tempo keeping the presentation tidy. I certainly missed the dynamism of Bobby Cross (Bass) who has moved to Cape Town – and who was to be replaced by Tyla Burnett (according to their FB page) who was unavailable for this gig.

The rise of The Trees on the Durban music scene has been somewhat meteoric and one hopes that they don’t get a speed wobble and fall a part!

Their statement is certainly spreading irresistibly, for I cannot remember ever seeing Amsterdam Bar that packed.

(There is a gaping hole in the wall behind the stage where there is a foosball table….which always encounters raucous players. The simplest solution (and its not even going to cost a cent – a pull-down blind would be a touch of genius!) would be to hang a temporary sheet over this hole and allow the artists performing to be given due focus. With a single person on stage, the competition is daunting. I am surprised Durban muso’s themselves haven’t done anything about it…or perhaps they have? Too much to ask?)

January 5, 2013

Self-Portrait With Hair Down

Filed under: kagapoems — ABRAXAS @ 4:29 pm

It’s 2:33am on the Saturday morning
(the one That used to be Friday
night) The music playing is
Oskido’s Church Grooves.
Everybody is Drunk.
Except me. I am
only An aspi-
rant drunk.
But by all
that is
Holy I
to drink
My way there
Before 3

All I want is you
Nothing else is true
Life without you is a fraud

Once again
My thoughts edge
towards the forbidden
Once again Darkness Envelopes
my laughter As I kneel down
At the river’s edge In
order to drink From
the bleeding moon

Once again
I sip her forbidden
streams. Pierced, bleeding,
frantic, Wanting nothing less
Than the impossible

then The lights
came on in the
Sasas Bar. I
was still
sober. I
In all
the unemptied
glasses But it wasn’t
enough To redeem me. Life

without you is a fraud
Nothing else is true
And all I want is

December 29, 2012

Grahamstown – 1985 to 1989

Filed under: derek davey — ABRAXAS @ 12:21 am

There’s something completely warped about Grahamstown. Every time I drove into the valley the town nestles and stews in my sense of direction would shift about 90 degrees and north just wasn’t where it used to be. I heard rumours that it was built on where a number of ley lines meet and cross, but I never managed to dig up any more on this.
Grahamstown was a huge chunk of my life, as I went to do my “national service” there for two years, before attending Rhodes University for five years straight after that. The town is made up of the army base on one side, the university on another, Fort England mental hospital on the third and the township, which overlooks the town on the fourth side.

The town was the bastion where the anxious1820 settlers gathered, after they were dumped there by the English to fight the surly Xhosas, who weren’t taking too well to the concept of being colonised.

The tiny dorp also has the dubious distinction of having once had the highest rate of alcoholism in the world, apparently holding the Guinness Book of Records title at some stage for its abnormal prevalence of drunkards.

It’s the also educational and cultural centre of the Eastern Cape, with a disproportionate amount of schools, Rhodes University and the Settlers Monument, which forms the home base for the annual festival of the arts. Last but not least, Grahamstown has 52 churches, which dominate practically every quaint little street, where people still often live in old, converted army barracks or horse stables.

I began my seven-year sojourn of Grahamstown as a very naïve, reluctant “troep” who was bought in by train from Cape Town to fight for white South Africa before I was able to fully reason for myself what that actually entailed or meant. It was a vicious awakening for my 18-year-old being; the six months of training I received before being shipped off — first by truck to Port Elizabeth, then by “flossie” transport plane to Namibia, to fight on the border – was characterised by baking summer days and freezing winter nights. The bush was scrubby and filled with thorn bushes, and as the new recruits panted and sweated their way through the Eastern Cape dust, I kept my thoughts to myself, being urban and English, and surrounded by Afrikaners from mostly rural backgrounds, or towns much like Grahamstown itself.

My pass times, when we were allowed to go home, consisted mostly of hitch-hiking back to the Cape to where my buddies and parents lived, but I did get to see some of Grahamstown, as my parents knew a lecturer and his wife there, and I stayed with them at times. I even got to recite some of my anguished teen poetry in the Journ department recording studio, complete with reverb and delays. Hopefully this has long been deleted or lost! I was not a happy camper; I resolved to never return to any institution filled with males, like prison, or army camps, and cycled through Rhodes on a bicycle, drooling over what appeared to be thousands of young, nubile female students lounging by the pool and strolling past in flimsy, revealing clothes to lectures.

Unsurprisingly, when I did get to study at Rhodes, I was obsessed with women and making up for what I regarded as years of lost time of not having had sex with them; I wanted as much sex as I could get with as many as possible of them, and all of it immediately, thank you. I was terribly inexperienced and painfully shy but I did manage to seduce a fair number of willing lasses nevertheless. Nuff said.

I initially took my studies very seriously, as the prospect of doing “camps” if I was to fail impressed itself upon my mind constantly. In my first year, I attended every lecture, took notes, and typed them out; spent hours in the library, and swotted diligantly for each and every exam. I even took up karate and smoked very little dope.
I do recall one evening going up the koppie beneath the monument, above my res, for what I thought would be a quiet toke just before the exams started. I had left a wonderfully carved and wire-wrapped chillum up on the hill, and the cops had evidently found it and were waiting for its owner to reappear. As I took the first hit, a cop van suddenly switched on its headlights, and began to race towards me. I reacted immediately, sprinting down the hill towards campus. Miraculously, I cleared a tall, barbed wire topped fence in one leap and raced across campus, into a toilet, where I waited, panting, for 15 minutes, before changing my jacket inside out and heading back to my res.

Things started to fall apart a bit in my second year, when I moved into my own digs and began playing in a band called Vader Jakob. We wore black and shades and long coats and listened to Nick Cave and Joy Division and drank as much beer and took as many drugs as we could find and caused as much ‘kak’ wherever we could.

I’ve got some pretty vivid memories of our gigs: we were invited by the Women’s Movement to play at an End Conscription Campaign gig; we all took downers; the clarinet player started playing figaros, while the singer was trying to plug in his guitar; the clarinet player, an immense chap even then, passed out and fell onto my amp, and both fell off the back of the stage. The women ended up screaming for us to leave. “Fuck off! Fuck off!” We had discredited their movement.

At another gig we managed to convince a new club’s owner that we would open for the national festival at his venue, and chased all his patrons away. He kept unplugging our amps, and we kept plugging them back in; eventually he was physically strangling the lead singer and yelling at him to shut up.

There were also some memorable lines; while practicing at a digs, an old hotel, the landlady entered the room and found us bashing on old car suspension springs and on the walls with firewood. “Raak julle mal?” (are you going mad?) she asked. While practicing in a sports room on a Sunday morning, a priest crossed the field opposite and addressed us politely with: “It’s impossible to worship with this going on.”

The third memorable line was when Tony Gush, the narcotics agent who had made it his holy mission to save the drug-gobbling students from themselves, raided our practice room just after most of us had consumed a huge dagga pipe. I had not take part, being on a bit of a “cleanup” and I smiled at a huge police sergeant who was trying to put the fear of God into us. “Ek gaan jou kry, pappie!” (I’m going to get you, upstart!) became part of our lore and legend.

Rhodes was basically divided into two separate “camps” – there were the guys studying for BSCs who played rugby and drank beer, known as the “buggers”, short for “rugger-buggers”; and then there were the BA and art students who smoked dope and listened to alternative music, known as the “bungies”. There were a few surfers who crossed the line – they were sporty but also smoked weed – known as the “rugger-bungies” but they were a rare breed indeed.

Our little gothic group sometimes ran afoul of the buggers, as we, unlike many bungies, also drank. One of our group also used to take these much larger guys on, and got beaten up several times. Once, outside a club, he was held by his hair and his face mashed to pulp on a bugger’s knee. I was held back from stopping this by the bugger’s burly mate. His cousin was called from the club and dashed down the road and kicked the bugger full in the balls. When this produced no discernible response he took out his flick-knife and slashed the bugger a neat, perfect cross on his forehead, which drew sufficient blood and shock to deter the face-pulping and allowed us to make our escape.
I also used to hang out with a lesbian woman who would cause shit with men in bars, who would then turn on me and want to beat me up! Apparently I beat some buggers up once who caused shit with my friends, but for some reason I have no recollection of this, which is a damn shame …

I found a steady partner in my third year, and stuck with her for about five years, my first long-term relationship. I consider myself lucky to have been able to do this, as, for my psychology honours, I wrote about how conscripts who returned from the border war often had difficulties in forming and maintaining lasting relationships, and expressing or allowing intimacy in them.

I kept studying after doing my honours, because the longer I was able to do that, the longer the army camps were kept at bay. My Masters degree in psychology was initially focused on difficulties exiles experienced on returning to South Africa, but I eventually wound up doing it on battered women leaving their husbands, as I had a friend who worked at the POWA shelter, and was able to obtain access to women who were stepping out on their own after abusive relationships. Basically I found that it could be any catalyst that sparked off their leaving their abusive partners – it was more the point that they had reached by that stage in their lives, the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In the end though I came back to journalism as a means of making a living, after trying unsuccessfully to make a career out of music, and then out of photography. I’ve always been able to write, and these days I correct other people’s stories and seldom write my own.

More than two decades after leaving Rhodes, most of the friends I hang out with still are the people I either met then, or are friends of those whom I knew at university. What made the experience of being in Grahamstown, at Rhodes, so special? What is the bond that still unites us?

The eighties were a time of massive social upheaval, with states of emergency peaking the whole apartheid regime paranoia, ultimately culminating in Mandela’s release just after I left university.

The Eastern Cape was especially hectic; I arrived in 1985, the year that anti-apartheid activists Fort Calata, Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlawuli, also known as the Cradock Four – were abducted, assaulted and killed by the apartheid police while returning from a meeting in Port Elizabeth.

Our personal contributions to the ‘struggle’ were petty compared to these guys’, limited to playing at End Conscription Campaign gigs, taking part in and photographing marches on campus where students were sjambokked by the police and the like, but our circle, which was leaning very much towards the left, was nevertheless riven with internal conflicts, fear and paranoia about police spies. The leader of Nusas (the National Union of South African Students) in Grahamstown, was a hero to many of us, as she was so often imprisoned, but turned out later to be a spy, who was probably sucking the cops’ cocks and sipping champagne while supposedly being ‘detained’.

Combined with this huge social upheaveal stuff, as the country writhed like a snake and finally shook off the skin of apartheid, was our own personal upheavals, which involved equally huge changes. I was exposed to Marxism and the UDF just after coming out of the border war and had to reconcile the massive guilt this engendered. I came to realise through my relationships that women were human beings, not the fuckbags we were told they were by the misogynists of the military; I had to reconcile the lust and fear they evoked in me, which had taken temporary root through their enforced absence from my immediate world.

I guess me and my varsity friends were spoilt white brats – most of us were there on our parents’ wishes and purse-strings, and we had half a decade to find out who we were and what the world was about, free from the usual grind of having to make a living. We learned about art and culture and experimented with how to express ourselves through our art and music and dress and debate. Actually we were exposed to and explored some really good art. I was watching Bergman and Fellini and Fassbinder and the like and listening to artists who I still admire today.

We were all passably intelligent and shared a love of bohemian decadence, which extended beyond drugs and partying to several other excesses – I mean, Grahamstown was a fuckfest of note – sometimes at a party one would realise that you had slept with half the people there. Hugely incestuous, we were just damn lucky that no-one bought Aids into the picture, because few of us used any protection and we would have all caught it, and in those pre-anti-retroviral days it was like, a real death sentence.

There was also the fact that Grahamstown is situated just an hour from the coast, and is close to what used to called the Transkei. Holidays in that still unspoilt paradise just defy description, and of course the weed that made its way from there to our university town – often via students themselves – was at times comparable to acid, capable of imparting huge insight or numbing, mindless terror.

We were happily able to maintain our own little bubble in Grahamstown, with its own hierarchies and cool and cliques, and while most of us have largely grown up and had kids and moved on and changed, I think we went through something unique that still holds us together, through social media, no matter where we are on the globe.

Well, you never know what you are going to dig up when you start shovelling though the past; I’ve gone through a whole gamut of emotions writing this piece. It reminds me of something I read recently about the building of the Grahamstown highway. The apartheid power-that-be insisted the freeway ran past the town, not through it, because the old road traversed the township. When the engineers dug through the mountainside a massive cache of unique dinosaur bones was unearthed, which might have otherwise lain undisturbed for another few millenia. Perhaps this piece will dislodge dusty matter for my alma mater chinas; and perhaps some old ghosts will come to life, or, better still, be laid to rest.

Derek Davey

December 24, 2012

sms sugar man

Filed under: 2008 - sms sugar man,trevor steele-taylor — ABRAXAS @ 5:44 pm


South Africa 2008 – 81 minutes

Director/editor/Script: Aryan Kaganof
Photography: Eran Tahor
Music: Michael Blake
sound design: warrick sony
sound recordist: nico louw
Cast: Leigh Graves, Deja Bernhardt, Aryan Kaganof, Bill Curry, John Matshikiza, Samantha Rocca,Jerry Mofokeng, Norman Maake

Johannesburg – an evil, ugly city on Christmas Eve. This is the turf of the lonely and the damned and no more damned can they be than Sugar man (Kaganof) cruising the streets in his Valiant ’66, continually on his cell phone, peddling his girls, white and Asian, to wealthy black punters. This tongue in cheek inversion of the apartheid-years scenario of Afrikaans business men popping off to the “homelands” to sample black girls is delivered with ironic force. From hotel to hotel to palatial apartment, sugar man and his girls journey like Joseph and Mary looking for a manger. The process of the night will awaken something in Sugar man that will be born on Christmas Day, witnessed by no Wise Men nor sheep and cows but witnessed instead, by those who, like him, were lost.

Strangely romantic, consciously transgressive and aesthetically audacious – shot on a battery of cell phones – the film is in addition a homage to Jean Luc Godard’s Alphaville. A checkered production history, plagued by disagreements between director and producer, almost accepted for Cannes but rejected after Kaganof refused to institute alterations insisted on by the Cannes selectors, the film is destined to share the same floor as Citizen Kane and El Topo in the great Cinematheque Hotel of the Akashic Records.

trevor steele-taylor

December 20, 2012

a letter from luzuko

Filed under: luzuko elvis bekwa,poetry,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:24 pm

grand master

where are instigators of peace?, the poets are dead dead dead in this country of ours and politicians are doing doggystyle at broad daylight , and you guys are just chilling as if everything is okay . death of arts , death of cultu—fuck man i hate the word culture for it is used as ticket to corruption now.

grand master i write this with the spirit of zim ngqawana haunting me , tormenting me about the case in marikana , the slaughter of the innocent , the wreched of the earth..
when i met zim i 2003 i was so upbeat thinking that i know the man and his music so as i was talking to him he almost reiterated what mongezi feza said in uk when he was admitted to hospital which led to him being electrotuded which was disguised as some kind of therapy and ultimately led to his death. he said to the personnel there and i quote him ‘you ain’t gonna know me cause you think you know me’
that was exactly what zim said to me but philosophycally. he said if i want to know and understand him i have to start from the beginning i.e his first notable album , san song

admitting though that i only bought san song , his first notable album 3 months before his passing and even then i did not take much interest in it as i was still blown away by the one you sent me , zimology live in bird’s eye switzerland

then 3 months before the marikana massacre i found my self very much in love with his 1st album san song and 2 songs in particular , ode and migrant workers .

but now i will talk of the song , migrant workers because there are 2 versions of the same song by

grandmaster zim himself., the san song version and vadzimu version. in vadzimu it is only one version , jovial non prophetic , just an easylistening version.
in san song it is this long solemn ‘ nail in the heart ‘ version .telling the story of a migrant worker at home , on a train to the mines leaving his family behind and at the mines with harsh working conditions at the mines . infact it accounts to the bleak testimonial of a migrant worker .

to me it seems as if brother zim has been fighting this battle for the redress of the conditions of migrant workers long before num and amcu and other unions that claim to be on the side of the migrant workers .

now grand master we and the whole world saw what happened in marikana , we and the whole world saw what culture has be demonised for the weak though it is kind of angelic for the powerful.though i wouldn’t like to enter into politics of a status quo for the fear of being ‘contaminated ‘ by this ill discipline and counter-revolutionary contagion we see ghosts and figures ascending onto positions of extreme power while we the masses are aplauding in loud cheers and roars . the question i then ask is what has become of this beloved country . this country of lesego rampolokeng , of lefifi tladi, of koos kombuis and other independant dissidant think tanks .

like zim ngqawana , may god rest his soul , i weep for the migrant workers who died mercilessly in marikana

i will sign out with this old xhosa saying ,, nangona inyoka ifile nje kodwa ithambo layo limhlaba umntu afe

i am tempted to say yingoma yabathwa.

December 11, 2012

sarah jane mary hills – child of ancestors

Filed under: helgé janssen,music,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 2:49 pm

keep reading this interview and article by helgé janssen here: http://nbtmusic.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/a-synergy-of-expansive-opposites/

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