Hot hip hop stirs street spirit

‘Can do’ at­ti­tude helps grass-roots team set stage for first-ever African con­ti­nent break­dance com­pe­ti­tion at this year’s Hip Hop Ind­aba

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODVIBES -

THE AFRICAN Hip Hop Ind­aba is some­thing every­one should ex­pe­ri­ence – and there’s an added in­cen­tive this year: it is host­ing the first African con­ti­nent break­dance com­pe­ti­tion.

The an­nual event, and, es­pe­cially, its crown jewel, the Bat­tle of the Year break­dance com­pe­ti­tion, is some­thing by the hip hop cul­ture and for the peo­ple who are part of that gen­der, race and class-bust­ing cul­ture.

Spon­sors for this year’s event in­clude the City of Cape Town, Goethe In­sti­tut and Pro Hel­ve­tia, Red Bull, Puma, Qual­ity Bev­er­ages, Bu­tan Wear, Cypher­styles and Bush Ra­dio, but African Hip Hop Ind­aba spokesman and co-founder Emile Jansen also gives spe­cial credit to a ho­tel chain’s sim­ple kind­ness.

“When we do our na­tional schools tour – tak­ing the Heal The Hood work­shops to all the peo­ple – we have al­ways just slept on peo­ple’s floors.

“This time Protea Ho­tels gave us a room. This was us go­ing all the way around the coun­try, do­ing two schools a day from Mon­day to Fri­day, on the road for two-and-a-half months to reach about 150 000 kids. Those rooms were a life­saver.”

Here is a self-start­ing grass-roots or­gan­i­sa­tion with a track record span­ning more than a decade, ku­dos that in­clude voter ed­u­ca­tion, anti-racism work­shops and HIV/ Aids aware­ness, and a thrifty but un­stop­pable “can do” at­ti­tude. Surely fund-rais­ing is merely a ques­tion of writ­ing pro­pos­als, or pick­ing up the tele­phone. Jansen smiles wryly. “We wrote a syl­labus on how to teach break­dance on the Cape Flats, with kids in classes from Mon­day to Fri­day, and work­ing on putting laities (kids) to­gether from dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties.

“The old Ven­ture that I drove artists and crews and every­one around in for years even­tu­ally col­lapsed and we sukkeled (strug­gled) af­ter that.

“Peo­ple were quick to say they would hook us up with a van to move the kids be­tween Grassy Park, Laven­der Hill, Khayelit­sha and Mitchells Plain.

“Politi­cians like say­ing things like, ‘The gov­ern­ment has all th­ese ve­hi­cles; we can make this work’, but there was not one re­sponse to or­gan­ise trans­port.

“So we took con­trol; we did the gigs called Cape Flats Up­ris­ing… and bought our­selves a van.

“We do what we need to make it a re­al­ity.”

The Ind­aba this year fea­tures the first multi-coun­try African con­ti­nent break­dance com­pe­ti­tion.

“We take Heal The Hood to ev­ery lit­tle dor­pie that we can find, and one thing we re­alised is that the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties, and be­tween dif­fer­ent African coun­tries, is miss­ing and it made a lot of sense to ex­pand across the bor­ders.”

Jansen says the team went to Zim­babwe – “to work on the de­vel­op­men­tal side” – and to Morocco, which has a team com­pet­ing in to­day’s Bat­tle. Nige­ria will also field a team.

Var­i­ous strug­gles have be­dev­illed this year’s con­test.

“We fought a long, hard bat­tle to get an­other venue and an­other date, but we had no choice but to do it dur­ing the fast (Ra­madaan).

“I’ve al­ready had a few phone calls from kids who want to par­tic­i­pate say­ing, ‘please come and ask my mommy if I can be there’. I’ve done a few of those, go­ing to par­ents and ex­plain­ing that the Hip Hop Ind­aba is a good and a healthy en­vi­ron­ment, and a good thing.”

While draw­ing strength from their own suc­cess, Heal The Hood is also tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from their new African con­tem­po­raries.

“The scene in Sene­gal is huge. They’ve been do­ing it a long time, and there’s a big cul­ture of putting out tapes and CDs, and a ridicu­lous work ethic. Ours is pick­ing up, but it seems to be de­pen­dent on what the in­dus­try is do­ing.

“Peo­ple are see­ing you can’t al­ways rely on a deal or a la­bel; they’re see­ing that you’ve got peo­ple here, so let’s do a show; let’s do a tour.

“Cre­ate your sounds and your rhymes, write your po­ems and prac­tise your moves and work out a way to get it out there.”

The first African con­ti­nent break­dance com­pe­ti­tion is be­ing staged to­day. B-boys and B-girls will com­pete across cat­e­gories in­clud­ing B-Boy Crews, Nu-Skool, Pop­ping, Krump and Un­der-13s.

Heal The Hood will fly the top crew to the in­ter­na­tional break­dance cham­pi­onships in Braun­schweig, Ger­many, on Oc­to­ber 17.

The event will start with qual­i­fiers at the Good Hope Cen­tre at 3pm. Tick­ets (R50) are avail­able from Com­, African Mu­sic Store (Long Street) and Shelflife (Loop Street, 021 706 0481).

The team will also of­fer work­shops from 1pm to­day.

For more in­for­ma­tion, see AfricanHipHopInd­

HEAD-SPIN: The slick moves of B-Boys and B-Girls will be show­cased this year.

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