Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Show Dem (Make the Circle Bigger)

Sorry I haven't posted anything new recently, it's kind of a crazy time for me. This is just a quick update to share a great song/video from South African artist JR featuring HHP. The song is called "Show Dem (Make the Circle Bigger)." Thanks to the guys over at Ghetto Bassquake for putting me on to this.

South Africa has been receiving a lot of attention in the blog world lately, presumably due to the upcoming World Cup. As a result, I've been turned on to its amazing and diverse music scene. There's a ton of great stuff coming out of the country right now, including Kwaito and all sorts of great Electro/Dance music (Pitori House, Shangaan Electro, just to name a few sub-genres). I'll try to put some of that up in the coming weeks, but this will have to do for now.

Lastly, Mulatu Astatke, the father of Ethio-jazz, just came out with a new album titled Mulatu Steps Ahead. You can listen to the first single off the album, "Green Africa," here.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Congolese Sapeurs and South African Smarteez

Over the past month or so I've been really taken up by two unique fashion sub-cultures in two very different African localities: the Sapeurs of both Congo-Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo (and the Congolese diaspora in France and Belgium) and the Smarteez of urban South Africa.

The word "Sapeur" comes from the acronym for the movement, SAPE, which stands for Societé des Ambianceurs et Personnes Élégantes (aka Kitendi-the religion/cult of the cloth). The term and acronym are also a play on the french verb "Se Saper," meaning "to dress." It is a culture of high fashion, with Sapeurs sporting suits and formal clothing in a style reminiscent of the 1930s with designer labels such as Armani, Gucci, and Versace.

La SAPE has been around for at least 25 years now and was popularized by the famous Congolese (DRC) musician Papa Wemba.  The fasion cult was created in response to Mobutu's "authenticity movement," which was an attempt to break from European colonial identities and create a more "African" Congo. As part of this "authenticity movement," Mobutu advocated the banal abacost uniform, a Zairian spin on the three-piece suit, as the official attire of the new Zaire (now DRC). Papa Wemba and other Sapeurs developed their style in opposition to this aspect of the "authenticity movement."

Here are a few pictures of Sapeurs:

For more information and pictures:

The Congolese Sape by Héctor Mediavilla
Colors: Paradise is a Fabulous Suit
SAPE by Francesco Giusti

the Smarteez:
I know considerably less about the Smarteez of South Africa. I can tell you that the style originated in Soweto, that it is much more of a youth sub-culture and has little to nothing to do with politics. There tends to be an emphasis on color and a lot of the ensembles are seemingly "random"-an eclectic mix of colors, accessories and styles.

For more information and pictures:

South Africa's "Harajuku" Kids
Mail & Guardian: The designer, the buyer and the irreverent edge
What a lot 'o style they've got: A close analysis of the Smarteez