Words and photos by James Oatway
Ghetto Voice @ the Lizard Lounge, Port Elizabeth
"Die is frans se gronde... hier pleeg ons net sonde, so please hou julle monde, want hier is ons die honde." This haunting lyric is part of the Schauderville Hip-Hop group Unauthorised's powerful number, "Nommerdronk", referring to prison gangs like the 26's and the 28's. Unauthorised performed along with 6 other Hip-Hop groups from within the Nelson Mandela Metropole, on Saturday night at the Lizard Lounge as part of the first (and hopefully not the last) Ghetto Voice Hip-Hop festival. The Lizard Lounge was the perfect venue - the sound was great and the lighting was classic underground.
Hip-Hop is a culture that comes out of the poorer working class communities, where unemployment, gang violence, drug abuse and domestic violence are rife - this is why many people tend to associate Hip-Hop music with these negative things. However, rapping, music and dancing are ways of expressing daily experiences in these communities in a postive way and the Ghetto Voice Hip-Hop festival gave people the chance to do this.
Breaknoise, a purely dance act from the dusty streets of Gerald Smith in Uitenhage, opened the evening with some highly energised and acrobatic breakdancing that left those who were watching them speechless. These guys must be incredibly fit because they danced for hours throughout the whole show, breaking to the rhymes of the rappers and the beats of DJ Miles (chief spindoctor for the night). Another dance act, The Azanian Rockers also had a turn on the mat, but it was Breaknoise who stole the show.
The Whole Shabang, an Afrikaans Hip-Hop group from Rosedale in Uitenhage delivered the first vocal performance and this set the high standard for the rest of the evening. Shabang have a very similar style to their more famous Cape Town counterparts, Brasse Vannie Kaap, and also convey their messages in a humorous way.
After them came a barrage of lyrical attacks from New Brighton based Kemetic Flow who had a definite American flavour, not sounding unlike the mega-famous Wu-Tang Clan. Dumile Manxoyi from the Afrikan Hip-Hop Movement gave an eloquent speech on the unifying powers of Hip-Hop across all colour and race boundaries, while highlighting the African Origins of Hip-Hop. This was followed by popular Kwaito group Phitizela's performance. Phitizela brought a more African flavour to the show and demonstrated that Kwaito is another form of Hip-Hop.
Unauthorised finished the show in style with some skillfull Afrikaans vocals. Unlike Shabang, their rhymes have a much darker undertone and they deal with the problems that they experience on the streets of Schauderville, such as gangsterism and drugs. Their style is not just classic Hip-Hop, but also blends in some smooth singing - reminiscent of Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony as well as some funky ragga styles. Their music is very original. Unauthorised were the last group on the official perfomance list, but other uninvited guest artists did get a chance to squeeze in some rhymes through the backdoor.
In Port Elizabeth there is currently no official Hip-Hop venue and groups rarely get the chance to perform in front of large audiences. This means that the talented groups that delivered such original and energetic performances on Saturday night are not getting the exposure that their alternative and rock music counterparts are getting... Their talent is not being showcased nearly enough. Let's hope that Ghetto Voice II happens in the near future and that more talented and professional artists will get the opportunity to take part in boosting the PE Hip-Hop scene.