I wait in anticipation for the next local screening to take place. It lives online with one of thousands of bookmarks by its side. It’s the next local music video played out of South Africa. It usually comes up in my search bar, or suggested to me one of local content pushers. I, along with many music consumers out there, twiddle our thumbs while sneak peeks are released. We tell our friends. We make sure we’re logged in when it launches. We watch and re-watch once released.
Bye Beneco’s new video has been freed onto the web. It followed a process very similar to that described above.
At first, I see its initial value as I scan the video. “Chemirocha” is a trippy song about a metamorphosis of life and its experiences. Then I watch it again, multiplied by 5 times, and I am sitting with a rendezvous of enthusiasm, not only for this band, but many like-minded musicians out there too.
It’s called effort. And that is what they have done- made it, so we can appreciate what is on offer. ‘Chemirocha’ comes from the Kipsigi tribe in Kenya and tells the story of how the American yodler, Jimmy Rogers- half antelope, half man that was named Chemirocha who became a God like symbol for the tribe.
The video encompasses all band members from the start uniting them by sipping on (what I would imagine) the drug ayahuasca. Covered in insects and colourful flowers, with a man adorning antlers and murals defeating all parallels of time, space and nature, the video sets the tone for performance art. Much like this video, musicians in South Africa tend to take on that route, defining themselves through their art of sound in their imagery. The director, Ben Jay Crossman is known for his documentary style videos, and is no stranger to Bye Beneco. He directed and edited an earlier video of theirs for “On the Line” which had a familiar buzz and mood in its production. Also enjoying the role of set design and art direction, he has facilitated fire, the desert, Frida Kahlo crying pink ribbon tears, all while getting the band members to amuse us with their silly/quirky/warped portrayal of their journey into what could be initiation rituals of being brought into the tribe. If we look deeper, we become aware of the connection Crossman has to the band- how he captures their personalities, their taste and their behavioural antics, all while documenting them in beautiful shadows of light.
This is not just a video, its art.
Art, especially defined by performance, seems to be a common thread in local videos. Directors have their choice of many talented musicians out here, and as film makers, videos are a sure way of expressing their vision without breaking the bank.
Xander Van Der Westhuizen shoots for Beach Party, The Dollfins and Gateway Drugs. His imagery is simple, but profound. The audience is hooked because he stays true to the song and nature of the band. He uses location, few props and the connection of the cast/band members to each other to prompt the concept- which is basic and minimalistic, but at the same time charming. For both Dollfins videos, the focus is on the characters, rather than the narrative. Each person gets to play a role, thus getting a chance to perform for an audience that doesn’t need to show up, but rather log in. It’s almost as if the moment was created before the footage.
The Frown feels as if they are debuting themselves for the first time each video gets a play count. “The National” welcomed Eve Rakow to stimulate and provoke peoples senses by fuelling her audience with content that gets people talking or leaves them with a feeling of awe. She performs because she has to; she wants more from her audience.
PHFat gives all of themselves over to their audience in “House of Clashes.” They bare their egos or other sides of personalities so we know there is more to them. Performance art is not only for the stage, it lives online.
Umlilo videos stand out from the moment they start. Think drag and dress up, with bold contours of make-up, mad fashion and flexible dance moves. They make themselves matter. The music in itself is a performance, so the visual activity supplements its intention. They are shot to make you feel, whether it be discomfort, intrigue, awe or disconnect, their videos stand out from the norm. From facial expressions to gestures, body movement to style, they aim to encapsulate their package as art.
Video subject matter makes the stills stand out. Our viewing pleasure is heightened because of the performance. Their visual outlet is as important as their music. Nowadays we can’t allow a song to elevate online without its aesthetic partnership. Videos go viral, not songs. Every blog is pushing local content because they see its potential to spread. It gives them an opportunity to live online forever. We bookmark to re-watch. They are like mini films. We share, review and archive. We click on that link because we want to know more about that person, and it’s up to the director to capture their essence or ego to keep their audiences captivated. Performance is the key element, it is what keeps our process of excitement new every time.