It's raining. "Weather's brilliant in Cape Town, so I don't smirk I smile", says Fat (Ashley) of Cape Flats based Hip Hop outfit, Brasse Vannie Kaap (BVK for short). I'm laughing already. Fat - warm in manner - feels strongly about Gatsbys, overpricing of CDs, the right of the band to eat as soon as they're hungry, and other pop culture. But much more strongly on issues of identity, and the making of a new South Africa.
BVK's appearance at the launch of a new documentary film - WHEN THE WAR IS OVER (details below) - is about commitment to Africa. The film documents the story of two ex-cadres of the Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW), a militant teenage self-defence unit in the 80s. Now, one's a gangster, and the other works for the government fighting gangsterism. Both are scarred by their past, still immersed in a violent world.
"We're a group with social awareness that speaks from the heart. Whether it's negative or positive, it's a matter of life," Fat says.
"Because I come from Apartheid. I've been in boycotts and I did throw stones, and I tipped over post office vans. And I know these guys [from the film] because we attended the same school."
BVK make change. They've reached across what many assumed was a cultural divide - from black to white Afrikanerdom - and created a common cultural heritage in the process. A new fanbase was born at the KKNK. White Afrikaaners love them. Bungies love them. Overseas crowds love them, and they're huge on the flats.
This crossing of bridges was a "visa versa, tit for tat" thing - BVK are disarmingly humble about the role they've had, saying that their misconceptions crumbled as much as those of their new fanbase were forced to. "It's basically because we (Band and Afrikaans, predominantly white audience) saw eye to eye."
Is the whole concept of what it means to be Afrikaans is changing? "If you gonna walk with an idle mind and think that the language that you speak is gonna die, the only way it's going to die is if you keep your mouth shut." "Evolution and revolution have shown us that it's an adapt or die situation." They have tannies coming up to them saying: " 'Keep on waving the flag, because you guys are truly here to support Afrikanerdom.' And we're like '...cool ...WHAT?' "
BVK are part of a groundswell of caring (for want of a hipper word ) in South African hip hop -. Some of SA's best hip hop - from Godessa, to Max Normal, from BOP to BVK - is totally free of cliched "Yo, bitch in the hood" (c)rap.
Fat reckons that Hip Hop's returned from the States - where it's big - to its small but real origins in Africa. "The baby has come back, and it's in the cradle again, and we want to nurture it the way it's supposed to be.
"The youth record labels fabricated the whole studio gangster stuff, creating the plastic MCs, who'll never earn respect, only money. "I can also talk about "you bitches, you 'ho's'. But for me that's jargon. And I'll tell you straight - if I must now call you a bitch, I may as well call my mother a bitch."
"If you're not educated you're going to speak like that. Which means you're going to shoot hollow points for the rest of your damn life."
"That's why we treasure hip hop that much. And it comes from Africa. So we must respect it."
But Fat says "Hip hop to us has been 'roots resurrected'. The way we speak and the way we tell stories reminds us of our ancestors. The way your grandmother told a story. The drums of Africa, the pounding of the drums, the consistency."
His favourite Afrikaans word or phrase? "Vir die pad... to me that means, 'let's do whatever we have to.'"
***LIVE: Ashley AKA Fat MCd the event.*** THE GIG: BVK At the launch of WHEN THE WAR IS OVER - at the Bonteheuvel Civic Centre. The film will also be screened on SABC1 on 14 April 2003 at 10pm as part of its regular Monday night documentaryscreening.THE FILM: Taking a strongly cinematic approach, it deals with the after-effects of the South African Struggle as experienced by surviving ex-members of from the Bonteheuwel Military Wing (BMW), a militant teenage self-defence unit from the mid-1980s. Focusing on two ex-activists, it reveals the scars left amongst what has become the country's lost generation.
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