Die Antwoord in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Thursday 20 June 2013.
It’s still not clear if the group is all a hoax, an art project, or a counter-cultural movement, but when Die Antwoord strut out onto a stage – mics in hand – none of that matters. Coming all the way from South Africa, Die Antwoord practically revel in their totally outlandish appearance, seeming almost as if they have dropped down from a different world entirely.
Of course the band’s real strength lies in their ability to utilise familiar forms of rap for a totally alien purpose. Everything they do is vaguely familiar, yet also somehow unlike just about any other artist operating in any genre.
The band’s penchant for pure showmanship was evident form the start, with a long dragged out introduction. The lights dropped and the music went quiet as the audience bristled with anticipation, but still the band was nowhere to be seen. Eventually a figure in a hooded figure in a luminous orange tracksuit approached the DJ box. DJ Hi-Tek introduced both himself and Die Antwoord with his signature track DJ Hi-Tek Rulez.
As this piece of pure gangster bravado drew to a close, to similarly dressed figures emerged at either side of the stage. This was of course the remaining two-thirds of the band – Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. The duo launched into the bawdy flurry of Fok Julle Naairs – the track that caused a record label to drop Die Antwoord when they wanted to release it as a single. The sold out crowd clearly had no such problems with the song’s tongue-in-cheek levels of excessive profanity – singing along to every word.
With lyrics that flow from Afrikaans to English (as well as incorporating slang that lies somewhere between the two languages) it would be easy for something to be lost in translation. But with a slickly rehearsed stage show grounded in incredibly catchy beats, Die Antwoord did everything to transform the gig into a riotous party.
At the end of Fatty Boom Boom the theatre erupted in chants of “Ole, Ole, Ole”, so loud that there could have been a full football stadium backed into the Olympia. By now Ninja was stripped down to his boxer shorts (emblazoned with the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”), his heavily tattooed body displaying the titles of the band’s two albums in bold lettering. Ninja threw himself around the stage with a kind of animal fury, climbing the DJ box and diving into the crowd, all while spitting out a sustained fusillade of arch lyrics.
The gig surged on, culminating in a heady rendition of I Fink you Freaky and Never le Nkemise accompanied by a barrage of techno beats, strobe lighting, delirious cheering from the crowd and untamed on-stage antics from the band. It felt like a party that could continue until the small hours, but after an encore of Enter the Ninja it was all over. The set lasted less than an hour, but it was crammed with so much bold attitude and pure energy that it didn’t matter.
Die Antwoord distilled a huge amount of power and purpose into such a small space of time that there is scarcely any description that adequately defines the performance. Like the band themselves, the show defied easy classification, and actively subverted expectations.
In other words, it was far more enjoyable than watching a skinny white rapper with a funny accent jump around wearing nothing but his underpants had any right to be.
Die Antwoord Photo Gallery
Photos: Yan Bourke