/ 8 February 2010

Zef side, stateside

Is Die Antwoord really taking over the interweb?

“Intriguant, attirant, et irritant a la fois” (intriguing, attractive, and irritating at the same time).

That’s what one French Twitter user had to say about South Africa’s latest internet sensation, Die Antwoord, whose sudden online fame (or notoriety) has had both local and international audiences intrigued, entertained, and more often than not, a little confused.

So who are they, and why should you care? If you haven’t been exposed to Ninja and Yo-Landi’s crass brand of zef rave-rap, here is a quick guide.

Um — zef?
Zef is, basically, an Afrikaans term that refers to a “white trash” style and culture, although pinpointing a definition is pretty difficult. Think mullets, vests, sadly out-of-date patterned shorts and faded jeans. Think roll-ups, bashed-up Ford Escorts and bad tattoos. Add it all together, and you might get zef.

So, are Die Antwoord really zef?
Not at all, although many who aren’t familiar with Ninja’s (Wadkin Tudor-Jones) and Yo-Landi’s (Yolandi Visser) other guises (read: overseas audiences) have assumed they are. They were both involved in MaxNormal.TV and the Constructus Corporation, with different names, background stories and characters.

Like Goldie Lookin Chain, they portray characters, but they do it really well. Sneaky sneaky. Some commenters on YouTube and other sites where their videos have been shown have felt cheated when they found out that it’s all an act.

So why does this matter all of a sudden?
The videos for Zef Side and Enter the Ninja made their way on to US-based culture website Boing Boing, and then they went viral, with the group’s website crashing with all the extra traffic. The YouTube video for Zef Side currently has more than 300 000 views, and Enter the Ninja has reached almost 500 000 views. The Facebook fan page suddenly swelled to 15 000 members, and, in the days after the Boing Boing debut, the #Die Antwoord was mentioned about once a second on Twitter. There is a large overseas audience, rare for any South African group, and there have been a huge number of requests from US viewers to release an album and go on tour in the States.

So are they really taking over the interweb (and the world)?
Well, it depends on what you mean. The official website now proudly proclaims that the group are taking over the interweb (and this ambition is also mentioned in the lyrics of Enter the Ninja), and certainly they have developed an internet following that most South African bands could only dream about.

The video has been planted in many foreign websites, from culture to music to fashion blogs, and the number of hits just keeps growing. But, according to Google’s Zeitgeist (which looks at search trends), the huge majority of searches are still local. And many of the comments on YouTube have been from locals who have only discovered the group after all the hype.

Oh. So I’m not the only one. Should I care?
That’s up to you. Let us know what you think.