London — Sub-Saharan Africa has a huge variety of local music cultures but not so many films or TV series about their histories. Russell Southwood talks to Asi Mathaba, Founder, Asi-B Films about his latest offering, a history of South African hip-hop.
Asi Mathaba spent four years researching and documenting the history of South African hip-hop. The series presents his relationship to the music and how it has changed over the years.
“Everything is told from my point of view and looks at the people who influenced me like Public Enemy and Prophets of Da City.”
The documentary has thirteen parts of 24 minutes each and he is currently in negotiations with SABC for its first showing:”Should the deal go through, they will buy the local rights and I will sell the international rights.”
The series will challenge some of the received ideas about South African hip-hop.
“What I’ve found is that there is a real perception that it came from America. But the early artists were more inspired by African sounds experienced in Cape Town in the early 1980s. People like Prophets of Da City, who blended elements of hip hop music, reggae and traditional African rhythms. What they did was influenced by American hip-hop but they made it their own.”
The early South African hip-hop in Cape Town was also a voice for those opposed to the Apartheid Government and more local issues like drug-taking and gangsterism. In contrast to that city’s more socially conscious artists.
“Johannesburg had its own version of hip-hop, only focused on the commercial side of it… When it went materialistic, I lost hip-hop. When African kids start dressing like Americans and talk American slang, it’s killing our positive culture.”
On a more positive note, he highlights Kwaito: “The kids are trying to find their own identity with a distinctive version of hip-hop influenced by their own beats.”
He also name-checks Amapiano which came out young people in the townships using social media to reach audiences: “They don’t want big record companies. They produce in backrooms and know their audiences.”
His other major project has been producing short film’s for the National Film and Video Foundation’s Directors for Youth Filmmakers project. Since 2018, he has produced 20 shorts, the idea of the scheme being to take 10 writers and develop their scripts over three-six months.
The resulting films are all broadcast on SABC and some have won awards. He is currently producing the scheme’s third slate of films.“Some of the filmmakers are employed in local TV. It’s a good starting point.” – The Street Journal