We were never ready for the style seen at Red Bull Music Festival in Johannesburg
Words: Zane Lelo Meslani | Photography: Bantu Mahlangu
Johannesburg received a major bill of over 80 artists to grace and light up 8 venues across the big city in the weeklong festival. The general outcome in the festival's attendance was quite the marvel, any regular Joburg groove kween would have told you that they were never ready either! Even as it was unseasonably cold with the rain on some days, we embodied the lyrics of rapper Cardi B: “A hoe never gets cold.”, as fashionable as we were.
With a cacophony of music genres that catered for every crowd you can think of, the week seemed to be a great one as each day went by.
Friday night, the busiest day of the festival, had venues bring their own vibe. Republic of 94 located up Juta Street had everyone asking ‘Waar Was Jy’ - a show that celebrated the birth of 90s Kwaito and seeing the reincarnation of the recent 2000s, the story of modern-day Kwaito with artists such as Oskido, Kid X and the iconic Trompies gracing the stage for Pantsula culture. Spotted at the Braamfontein venue were kasi Pantsula gents who incorporated classic dungarees, colourful shirts, one-piece jumpsuits, Dickies printed bucket hats and Converse All Stars. The sound of Kwaito doesn’t just stop at the music, there’s a culture of dance and a history of recreating Africanness that might have been lost in our past. The venue was decorated with old school box TV sets, and mannequins dressed in orange jumpsuits and striped shirts your uncle wears to family functions. It was a moment of sheer black culture to see brands such as YFM, the radio station that pioneered these sounds and artists, saluting their roots as we spotted two girls wearing original YFM t-shirts and black jeans: iconic
Kitcheners hosted a handful of experimental millennial artists such as Angel-Ho, Stiff Pap and gqom king DJ Lag. This lineup of future beats, hip-hop electronica and bass goes without saying, the alternative expressive kids showed up in distressed, XXL jeans and bomber jackets, pink faux fur and crop tops, leather fanny packs and in-season spring/summer local designer wear. Next door, dubbed as Jo’burg’s key watering hole, Great Dane hosted a twerk-fest hip-hop night featuring the likes of Rouge, K-$ and Uncle Partytime. You can never go wrong grooving with the cool kids of Braamfontein.
The mainshow of the festival at 1 Fox Street with the act that topped the bill was grime superstar Skepta. And yes, he loved our Instagram story. This night saw youthful cross-culture of sounds and styles, with Hypebeasts linking up with the Tracksuit Mafia squads, while gender non-conforming beings trailblazed their style alongside African textile-print-wearing folks. The individualistic style tribes seem to relish in the freedom of being able to wear what makes one feel comfortable, without the fear of perhaps being judged yet ready to strike a pose for any camera that comes across them. Langa Mavuso is performing in the background, wearing a beautiful red and black embroidered Mexican Mariachi-type blazer with large shoulder pads and next up was Shekinah who serenaded the crowd with her charming pop hits - two young stylish musicians who own the heartstrings of many across the country. 340ml also stole the show that night with their dub, reggae, metal and afro-jazz influence in their sound. Everyone got what they wanted.
As I walk through the venue, there’s a sense of pride felt in people owning who they are in that moment. The strobe lights are dancing, and the party is set to get going, while everyone is anticipating to hear Skepta at midnight. The flickering lights bounce on flashy accessories and while the beats glimmer, a few hipsters in high-waisted jeans and adidas two-piece tracksuits pose for their Instagram followers to see. Events like these dot the city’s subcultures and puts them under one roof, while everyone brings their differences, the only thing making us common is the love for music and style that defines us.