NINJA and YO-LANDI VI$$ER during their visit last week to Tokyo, Japan.
The Cape Town group DIE ANTWOORD performed in Japan last week. THEUNIS ENGELBRECHT spoke to them afterwards.
'You have to eat everything with chopsticks, even your Rice Crispies! And we stayed in these fancy hotels with heated toilet-seats my friend - the toilet seats have even got a bum-spray button that you can push and it washes your bum clean. And here you get these little Japanese girls that run on your back to massage you!"
These are the words of NINJA from the Cape Town's rap-rave group DIE ANTWOORD live and direct from Tokyo where he performed last Sunday with YO-LANDI VI$$ER and DJ VUILGEBOOST after a performance the day before in Osaka. This was part of the Summer Sonic music festival where performers like Stevie Wonder, Jay Z, Taylor Swift, Guns n Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies, The Offspring, Tribe Called Quest and 30 Seconds to Mars also performed.
DIE ANTWOORD'S performance at Summer Sonic was part of their world tour that started in June in South Africa. In July they performed in Poland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Serbia, Germany, Hungary, Chicago, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia and New York.
"Flame on! Konichiwaaaaaaaaa!" said NINJA on DIE ANTWOORD'S Facebook group (that is now got over 106 000 followers) one day before their arrival in Japan. Within half an hour there were interesting comments from various parts of the world. Marilu Snyders wrote: "Welcome welcome! See you in the front row, from Sasolburg (South Africa) to Osaka, that's how we roll!" Non Nonnon from Tokyo wrote: "In my home town Tokyo? Yatta! Yippeeee! Go to a public bath, check out convenience stores with doors that play music and sit on a funky washlet." And from Derry Ireland, Kevin Kegadeth O'Kane writes: "Them crazy japs are gonna loooove you mentalists."
NINJA from DIE ANTWOORD in Tokyo. NINJA says, "The Japanese don't understand what we are rapping about, but they understand us on a deeper zef-zen level."
A rollercoaster, this is what DIE ANTWOORD'S world tour is. Their record label, Interscope, released a short-clip of 5 songs last month, as an appetite-wetter for their debut album $O$ and the reactions have been very good. BBC Radio 1 have been playing their hit single "Enter the Ninja" heavily - After the radio station played the single for the 1st time they received so many requests to play it again that on the 3rd day they announced that it was "record of the week". ($O$ is finally getting released on the 5th of October 2010.)
A person would think that NINJA, YO-LANDI and VUILGEBOOST would be exhausted by this point, but don't believe it. They took a breather in Japan.
"There are beautiful ancient Zen temples and a lot of good fortunes and spirits", says Ninja.
"The Japanese understand f***-all what we are rapping about, because they don't even speak English, but they understand us on a deeper zef-zen level.
"We at least know a few Japanese words like konichiwa (hello there), arigato (thanks a f***** lot) and karimashta (i understand perfectly what you just said) - so we all got on like a house on fire! Sometimes it feels like DIE ANTWOORD was made in Japan and programmed in South Africa, and now we are back home here in Japan. Our visit here was a zef-zen neon-manga energy explosion!"
It was also YO-LANDI'S "ultimate shopping experience," says NINJA. "All the clothes are so cute and sexy. She bought so much stuff that her suitcase couldn't close."
Yo-landi said, "It was the first time I was in a country with so many shops that have clothes that fit me.
"And everything here looks like a toy-world: even the people, the cars, houses, shops, everything. There are very cute cartoon characters and Japanese writing on everything. And the food is alien."
A big Japanese toy company GOOD SMILE COMPANY asked NINJA and YO-LANDI to make NINJA and YO-LANDI toys with them - something else to keep them busy besides the 4 albums they still have to make for Interscope; not to mention the feature-film and all the music videos they are also working on at the moment.
"We have our hands full with DJ VUILGEBOOST, " says Yo-landi.
"He always wears a mask on stage, and when they see him like this, a lot of people are scared of him. But the moment he takes that mask off, the girls start cooking around him and want to get him into bed. The other night, after consuming an unbelievable amount of Saki, he kissed two Japanese girls. The girls were best friends before this happened; but then VUILGEBOOST f***** everything up nicely again."
Everywhere they go, DIE ANTWOORD get presents from their admirers. "NINJA got a T-shirt that says STORM in Japanese text. He also got a badge that they give to Japanese school-kids with Japanese text on it saying: 10 OUTA 10! WINNER!"
The rest of DIE ANTWOORD'S year is going to be just as busy.
The world tour is still not finished - Last night they performed in Norway; tonight they perform Sweden; tomorrow night they are playing in Budapest, Hungary; Tuesday in Zurich, Switzerland; Wednesday night in Vienna, Austria; Thursday in Munich and Friday in Berlin, Germany, and the following week 2 shows in Amsterdam, the following Saturday at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium together with artists such as Placebo, Iron Maiden, The Prodigy, Groove Armada, Eels, Limp Bizkit, Goldfrapp and Gogol Bordello. After this they play on the 28th of August at the LED Festival in London.
Then they come back to South Africa for 3 weeks to make a new music video. Then on the 26th of September, they return to the USA for a month and a half long tour to promote the release of their $O$ album.
AFRIKAANS - IN YOUR FACE - IN JAPAN!
DJ VUILGEBOOST from DIE ANTWOORD'S, before the groups performance last Saturday in Osaka, Japan.
MARILU SNYDERS hails originally from Sasolburg (South Africa) and now lives in Osaka, Japan, where she teaches English and Yoga. She attended DIE ANTWOORD'S performance in Osaka and told us what happened.
DIE ANTWOORD'S unexpected visit to Japan was announced in June. Just when my ex-patriot depression was hitting an all time low, caused by my heart-wrenching absence from the motherland during the World Cup Soccer Tournament, when a friend of mine from Sacremento told me that NINJA and YO-LANDI were going to come play on my island.
I let my boss know I am taking the day off two months before the time, so that there would be no obstacles in my path straight to the front row of Die Antwoord's debut show in Osaka. In the darkness of my first and most-intense homesickness, the news of Die Antwoord's visit streamed into my kitchen.
I wanted to know how an ex-patriot in the Far East was supposed to proceed normally during her motherlands golden moment, how I was supposed to function with a smile on my face while my heart sat on the other side of the world. And then came DIE ANTWOORD...
Saturday night 18:15, the Dance Stage at the Summer Sonic music festival, Osaka. We are so ready for this performance. A little hand-full of South Africans (we are a scarce species in Japan) stand right in front of the stage. It's 10 minutes before the show is scheduled to begin, and there is almost no-one here. But slowly, slowly people start to trickle in.
The lights dim. DJ VUILGEBOOST makes an appearance in a grotesque mask and a Japanese joekata robe which makes him look like the worst fear of any Japanese child, the monster behind the sliding paper door. He takes his place in the DJ booth to the rhythm of hard, powerful bass and the word: "VUILGEBOOST!! pumping on loop."
"Yo Japan!!!" screams YO-LANDI VI$$ER as she hits the stage, followed by NINJA.
I remembered I thought: You can FEEL them before you see them.
Before this point the audience was already so pumped up from the deafening beats, and the dark dream images on the giant screen behind DJ VUILGEBOOST that when YO-LANDI'S wake-the-f***-up intro rap slapped everyone through the face they all went mental! As they kick off with "Enter the Ninja" the energy levels are so high that I feels like my cellphone could begin spontaneously charging.
Before they drop their hit "Wat Pomp?" NINJA explains to the audience what this zef-phrase means - something I never thought I would hear getting delivered to a group of sweaty Japanese youngsters. In Afrikaans, my language. Live and warm, in your face.
The whole time there is this guy from Cape Town that keeps shouting things at NINJA from the second row. When he butts in again in the middle of the Afrikaans culture lesson, NINJA turns to to him with a deep frown and says, "Please stop interrupting me, I'm explaining something." I forget his exact words, but they were firm and commanded respect. It also put the Capetonian in his place with a head-knod and a zipped-up mouth. Take a lesson from a NINJA.
While the audience is hanging off NINJA'S every word, YO-LANDI gets changed behind the stage. As she appears on-stage in her super-sexy tight gold ski-pants and bling-puff-jacket the energy is crazy again. "I'm a rich b****," she raps, "the richest b**** with the nicest arse." And she swings that thing! In everyone's face, and the boys smile from ear to ear.
As the song "$copie" begins, the jacket comes off, and even the girls in the audience start breathing heavier. "Shake your arses, shake shake your arses!" raps NINJA.
Everyone is high off DIE ANTWOORD'S energy. It's raw, sexual, disturbing, new, and it's far from finished. NINJA, in his trade-mark Pink Floyd underpants, takes the lead with "Beat Boy." The rhymes and beats are hypnotic. I'm more in the moment than hours of Yoga and meditation can ever get me.
DIE ANTWOORD knows how to work a crowd. To go stand in front of an audience that is 98% Japanese, and where English is only used as a communication language if the words are spoken slow and clearly (and preferably in a strong Hollywood accent), is a challenge for any artist.
A friend of mine went to watch the American group 30 Seconds to Mars at Summer Sonic, and later told me how the lead singer explained to the audience that they must freak out: "No, freak out more, this is how we do it, translate for your friend! Who can speak English in the audience? Anyone? Then translate! Translate!" As the audience stared back at him with blank eyes.
NINJA didn't just hop over the language barrier, he burst through it and crushed it. It cost him less than one minute to effectively explain to an Asian audience what the sentiment, "Your mother's vagina in a fish paste jar" means in the Cape Flats ghetto.
He also got it right to take a full hall of people that are normally bitterly paranoid to try speak a 2nd language, so far as to sing this zef-insult as hard as they could. And did they sing!
With DIE ANTWOORD language is matter of secondary importance. It is just a medium for something much bigger, to deliver a message to an audience on a level where words have no meaning.
They came back for an encore.
After the show I turned around for the first time and looked at the masses behind me. Everyone's smiles shining in the dark. Everyone around me soaking wet from sweat with hair hanging in strings over manic, starry-eyes. Brilliant.
And all-of-a-sudden everyone wants to learn Afrikaans. How did this happen? I wonder. Through what crack in reality did Afrikaans seep through to make it's way through to Japan?
After this electric performance, pumped into the heart like an adrenaline shot, the rest of Summer Sonic looked like a pale photo of last decades hits. Steve Wonder didn't make me wonder about anything, and the Pixies stage presence was, well, just not there. Yawn, yawn, can't we please go watch NINJA and YO-LANDI again please? After DIE ANTWOORD every other performance is spoilt for me. New standards.
It's now five days later, and all my friends that went to go watch DIE ANTWOORD can't stop talking about it. We shared videos, and everyday we had to translate lyrics and explain who Rompelstompel is and what Shoprite Checkers is.
My friends said one of the things about the performance that stood out for them was the way NINJA communicated with the audience. And the fact that it was a performance. The other groups, famous or obscure, all come to play music in front of an audience. DIE ANTWOORD came to kick a performance live in your face. And every person in that crowd, irrespective of nationality, language, or race walked out of there with massive grins and the feeling that something major had just happened on that Dance Stage. Japan just got a little bit weirder.