Adam Haupt Launches Static with Hip Hop Performances at the Centre for African Studies
This is how Crain Soudien, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, explained the title of UCT Film and Media lecturer Adam Haupt’s latest book, Static: Race & Representation in Post-Apartheid Music, Media & Film at the launch, which took place at the Centre for African Studies on Friday. The event was a meeting point of academia and contemporary culture, complete with DJs and a specially designed cake for the occasion.
Haupt later added that the title could refer to the way “people engage and don’t engage/listen to one another”.
The book was thoughtfully introduced by Soudien, who gave a marvellous tribute to Haupt. Soudien reflected on how difficult it is for academics to get published, saying it is essentially a “triumph over self-doubt”.
“It’s very much like musicians putting out an album,” he went on to say, “They have to convince a recording company and the company wants to know whether this album is going to sell”. It’s even harder for academics, he said, “because the hoops you have to jump through are more intense”.
After the long process of getting the idea approved by publishers and then writing the book, it still has to be subjected to what is known as a “blind review”, where the book is closely examined by other academics. “If you are faint-hearted it ain’t for you,” Soudien went on to say.
As his third reviewer, Soudien felt the book was most valuable because “it provides a much needed overview of our popular culture, our music, and our art”. The book “introduces important artists and the kind of work they are doing”.
Soudien emphasised that the value of the book is the way in which it “locates these artists in the circuits of power in which they find themselves”. This inevitably means the interaction of iconic rebellion and academic analysis. One key example in the book is Haupt’s critique of Die Antwoord as a band which “uses mass media strategies to repackage apartheid era thinking on racial identity”.
In telling stories of local artists Haupt “pays homage to them,” Soudien said. “In retelling their stories and, moreover, situating them historically,” Soudien reminded us, Haupt is in effect “paying homage to them”.
Haupt was grateful for Soudien’s kind words. He spoke about the hard process of writing and how “the book itself went through an identity crisis”. He sees the book not as “a distant or objective exercise” but rather one that “cuts to bone”.
Exploring themes of economics, power and dominance, as Soudien mentioned earlier, Haupt assesses the awkward moments in our country’s cultural history, from “Umshini Wam” to “The Spear”, Die Antwoord and “De la Rey”. “The book assesses our internalisation of neo-colonial ideas on race and gender,” Haupt said.
Following his speech, Haupt introduced Jitsvinger, an Afrikaans poet and performer who was described as “creative, lateral and intelligent”. His performance drew on jazz traditions, the spoken word and hip hop. Jitsvinger was followed by the rap group Driemanskap who gave a powerful performance in both English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. Adam referred to them as “the future of hip hop in Cape Town”.