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The Popular Cultural Practice of Hip-Hop Among The Indigenous !Xun and Khwe Youth of Platfontein, South Africa

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Indigenous African Popular Music, Volume 2

Part of the book series: Pop Music, Culture and Identity ((PMCI))

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Abstract

Throughout the Indigenous world(s), the music culture of hip-hop has become increasingly popular, prompting scholars to tag it as “the new native anthem” and a central site for unpacking ideas of authenticity and contemporary Indigenous identity. As Sheryl Lightfoot (2016, Global indigenous politics: A subtle revolution. Worlding beyond the west. London: Routledge: 202) notes, “the global Indigenous Hip Hop is not just Native people performing hiphop; rather, it is part of a conscious movement that seeks to assert the sovereign rights and humanity of Indigenous people as modern subjects”. Among the Indigenous !Xun and Khwe of Platfontein, South Africa, the global hip-hop music culture is appropriated and localised to negotiate restrictive urban spaces and project self-identity and counter-narratives against externally imposed colonising ones. The !Xun and Khwe are descendants of the Indigenous hunter-gatherers San (popularly known as Bushmen) of Southern Africa who traditionally occupied the Kalahari region across Southern Africa, and whose identity and practices have historically warranted the intrusive curiosity of researchers, journalists, filmmakers and tourists. Using ethnographic method from 2013–2018, this chapter critically analyses the appropriation and influences of hip-hop in the Platfontein Indigenous township.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    https://hypebeast.com/2020/7/hip-hop-most-popular-genre-2020-streaming-sales-data-info

  2. 2.

    Indigenous people have been historically represented as “primitive, docile, pure and authentic” (Chandra, 2013; Guenther, 2006). Hence young Indigenous people are generally expected to fit this stereotype (by their traditional-minded parents and grandparents and members of the public).

  3. 3.

    Hip-hop is regarded as a “cultural” form because it contains the key elements and patterns of symbolic action and meaning that are deeply felt, commonly intelligible and widely shared among members of the hip-hop community. The culture of hip-hop incorporates four prominent elements: rapping (i.e. the oral), tagging or bombing (i.e. the visuals: marking the walls of buildings and subways with graffiti), DJ-ing (i.e. aural: collaging the best fragments of records by using two turntables) and breaking (i.e. physical: break-dancing) (Hager, 1984). It later expanded to include verbal language, body language, attitude, style and fashion (Kitwana, 2002).

  4. 4.

    The most cited case is the South African right-wing Boers (a white settler group), who appealed to the UN in 1995 to be recognised as an Indigenous group (see Tomaselli, 2005).

  5. 5.

    The popular history of San nomadism has however been contested and challenged by some contemporary San scholars such as Le Roux and White (2004: 16), who maintain that based on some oral testimonies, “the San lived in well-defined territories belonging to different bands and clans who guarded and protected their natural resources”.

  6. 6.

    This debate is around the legitimisation of a separation between earlier and the new inhabitants (see Comaroff & Comaroff, 2009).

  7. 7.

    During the highly controversial 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA), for instance, President Jacob Zuma, responding to question on racial intolerance in the parliament, was quoted as saying “the San and the Khoi Khoi are the original inhabitants and owners of the territory now being referred to as South Africa” (http://www.enca.com/south-africa/live-president-jacob-zuma-replies-sona-debate).

  8. 8.

    This identity, a primitive “savage” portrayal of the San, is based on the idea and genomics that San or Bushmen are the most genetically ancient people on Earth, having existed for more than 40,000 years in the Southern African sub-continent (see Diop, 1974).

  9. 9.

    It was notably utilised by the South African advertising industry in a number of campaigns (e.g. the Vodacom advertisement aired during the Rugby World Cup in 2007, in a South African Railways advertisement and even the national crest of the South African government (see Buntman, 1996).

  10. 10.

    Referring to the weed in his hand.

  11. 11.

    Nicki Minaj is a female American rapper.

  12. 12.

    Here is the official website of the festival organisers: http://www.kdfest.com/.

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Acknowledgement

This research was conducted under the auspices of Keyan Tomaselli’s Rethinking Indigeneity project, partly funded by the National Research Foundation and the University of Johannesburg. My thanks also to Prof Ruth E Teer-Tomaselli, University of KwaZulu-Natal, who supervised the early phase of my specific research on the hip hop project.

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Correspondence to Itunu Bodunrin .

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Bodunrin, I. (2022). The Popular Cultural Practice of Hip-Hop Among The Indigenous !Xun and Khwe Youth of Platfontein, South Africa. In: Salawu, A., Fadipe, I.A. (eds) Indigenous African Popular Music, Volume 2. Pop Music, Culture and Identity. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-98705-3_20

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