Musical sundaze

This thing is growing way out of proportion,” says DJ Blaq T, more smug than fearful, while surveying a crowd of about 500 people gathered at Vosloorus Stadium’s grassy parking lot. ‘I imagine these people filling up this entire space,” he says, gesturing to the vast patch teeming with people and cars.

DJ Blaq T’s vision of himself controlling a sea of party people filling up the entire stadium might not be as far-fetched as it seems. Held in February, the 14th in the series of monthly gigs — held in early February — referred to as Evolokxion Sundaze, has been tagged as a farewell event for the Spruitview-based, New York-bound Blk Jks. It has arguably drawn the largest crowd in the event’s year-and-a-half history.

It is nearing sunset as the Jks wrap up a triumphant set. Guest DJ Blunted Stuntman mixes in a bunch of electro breaks, something of a departure from the Evolokxion All Stars’s usual hodgepodge of throwback hip-hop, dub and Afro sounds. Some in the crowd momentarily lose their step as the abrasive beats take root. The rain begins to fall, the music stops abruptly for about 30 minutes as a makeshift gazebo is hastily assembled.

Later the crowd begins to surge again, this time to a dub-heavy set that includes a one-drop blend of Erykah Badu’s On and On and eventually peaks with Bob Marley’s Is This Love. Darkness descends, the rain keeps trickling but the crowd hardly tapers.

‘It was a way of getting street cred,” says Blaq T of Evolokxion’s beginnings. ‘What’s the point of being out there when people in your own hood don’t know you?”

In late 2006 two DJs decided to throw monthly gigs. One had just returned from Cape Town and had dabbled in graphic design. The other had worked local reggae sound systems and now worked with leather. The gigs were intended to showcase their skills while simultaneously marketing their wares. They invited friends and acquaintances to a small house in the township, whose back room doubled as Martin’s leather studio and the first Evolokxion got under way. Martin’s aunt’s house would prove perfect, as Blaq T says, because it allowed people to be closer together, so they could ‘network and communicate”. The idea took off not because of its novelty, but more because it drew from the township youth’s rich history of assembly and reciprocity.

‘Back in the day we were very involved in the Rasta thing,” says a guy who calls himself Bat, who handles the culinary side of things at Evolokxion. ‘It started there, in fact, doing sessions and contributing fruit and ganja and stuff. That’s how those sessions happened.”

Martin agrees. ‘Reggae sessions were like the hottest thing here in the late Nineties. They were held every Sunday. Everyone went to church and afterwards you’d know where the place to be was. They’d move around from one place to another.”

‘Evolokxion is different because we have people who are shoemakers and fashion designers who come and showcase their clothes, which was something that didn’t really happen with the Rastas,” says Bat.

Indeed, the roots of Rasta run deep in this township, both as a spiritual-political force and a fashion aesthetic. Cutting Edge Sound System, who ran the turf here a few years ago, were said to be christened by Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka himself after his visit here about 10 years ago.

‘When it would move around the East Rand and go to, say, Springs, we’d get into three taxis and accompany the sound,” says Martin of its cult following.

So it seems Vosloosrus, once a violent pre-democracy flashpoint, has always been resiliently alternative. Martin points out that there are no shacks in Vosloosrus, as if the hood’s middle-class leanings have somehow tinctured its taste in popular culture.

‘I’m proud of people from this township that end up in the industry,” says one Mrembula, an Evolokxion regular in a PAC T-shirt with a Haile Selassie pendant around his neck. He counts among them singer Zamajobe, the band Khumbula and youngsters such as Impande Core and Crack Jazz Foundation. ‘The way they carry themselves — they are wiser on the larger stage.”

It’s difficult to speculate on the future of Evolokxion, as it hardly has any visible structure to speak of. What is clear is that in the townships counter culture is becoming the new mainstream.

Evolokxion events take place on the first Sunday of every month

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

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