MELINA MELETAKOS

“Ek rap vir die eer van eerlik wees, elke lyn soos die pyn van `n geweer teen jou neus / ek weet dis als te hectic, maar ek skryf wat ek sien, Bittereinder vat jou orals soos `n dink-en-dans masjien,” says Bittereinder’s Jaco van der Merwe as he spits out the lyrics of “Die Dinkdansmasjien” to a sea of smitten gangster arms in Hatfield Square.

It was the launch of PartyAt, a new mobile application that shows you where all the events and specials are happening in your area. It was also the start of RAG weekend and the audience, which consisted mostly of cherub-faced first years, was being schooled in fat beats and thought-provoking lyrics.

It’s exactly what the Afrikaans hip-hop trio hope to do with their second offering, Die Dinkdansmasjien: make you ponder their expressive lyrics and have a good time while doing so.

“Instead of it being very intellectual, conscious rap, [some] people can come to the show to party and not get into the lyrics, and other people can get into it. It offers both without detracting from the other,” says Peach van Pletzen, one half of Bittereinder’s beat-making part of the machine.

This idea of the multi-faceted machine has taken on a presence of its own, almost as if it is the invisible fourth member of the band which has steered Bittereinder’s sound into a slightly darker, more menacing direction.

“There’s this machine presence, which kind of has a deep voice and I think that was kind of a running theme for a lot of the stuff we did. A lot of the stuff is kind of hard, gritty and industrial, and a lot of it is also quite fast,” says Louis Minnaar, the other cog that drives the beat-making piece of the machine and the man responsible for all the band’s visual elements.

“I just think it often makes for us, as producers, more sense to make a texture for lyrics that are slightly darker as opposed to quirky. We did the quirky, happy thing with `n Ware Verhaal and I think now we’re looking for something more dramatic,” says Van Pletzen.

Like `n Ware Verhaal, Die Dinkdansmasjien boasts a number of collaborations with music-industry heavyweights. “Jaco always says that part of hip hop is collaboration. He loves collaborating with people who are not particularly in the hip-hop genre,” says van Pletzen.

Cue Shane Durrant, the charismatic front man of indie band Desmond & The Tutus, the man whose loony stage antics have been described as “what Mick Jagger would be capable of had he grown up listening to kwela,” and probably the least obvious person to appear on an Afrikaans rap track.

But rap he does, under the alias of Kwaad Naas, the man who skops the track dood as he explains, “I grew up in the Moot, but my Afrikaans is limited to net `n paar woorde.” The song “Kwaad Naas”, which is about how Afrikaans and English people both slaughter each other’s languages, has become Bittereinder’s cross-over song of sorts into the English market, explains Minnaar.

Van Pletzen agrees: “It wasn’t the plan, but it’s important for English people to just take note. What they do with it is up to them. A lot of them are now listening to the album and some of them are getting into it and some aren’t, but at least they’ll give it a try.”

Another striking collaboration is an almost eight-minute-long track which features eight well-known South African writers’ thoughts on a particular subject. The impressive list consists of The Buckfever Underground’s Toast Coetzee, Hunter Kennedy, Ilze Ontong, MJ du Preez, Andries Bezuidenhout, Mavis Vermaak and Tom Gouws.

Were the Bittereinder boys worried about the risk involved in making a track so different to anything they, and anyone else really, has ever done before? “If you make an entire album of three-and-a-half-minute singles and hits, three, four months later, there’s nothing to hold onto. I felt ‘Regstreeks’ gave the album a certain depth and that’s very important,” explains van Pletzen.

One thing that certainly hasn’t changed is Bittereinder’s ability to put on an unmatched live performance (they have been nominated for Best Live Act at this year’s MK Awards). How can Bittereinder convince their fans to vote for them? “We’ll come to every little town and play a personal thank-you show, whether it’s to 30 people or 300 or 3 000,” says Van Pletzen with a smile.

Now if that’s not motivation, what is?

Photos: Hendro van der Merwe

 

 

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