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South African Music after Apartheid: Kwaito , the “Party Politic,” and the Appropriation of Gold as a Sign of Success

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“ Kwaito ” refers to the musical genre associated with South African black youth in the post-Apartheid era. Essentially a form of dance music, in its most common form kwaito is intentionally apolitical and represents music “after the struggle.” The term “kwaito” also refers to a whole youth culture complete with vernacular and fashion norms. The “values” of the kwaito generation reflect mainstream consumer capitalism. However, kwaito is infused with, and complicated by, its own unique history. Therefore, the adoption of European capitalist values by the kwaito generation does not lend itself to simple analysis. I focus on the place of gold in kwaito culture. A system of racially based exploitation ensured a stable and cheap supply of labor for the white ruling class. This system was cruel and nothing short of barbaric. I explore the tragic paradox of a “new South Africa” which has—with kwaito as its form and kwaito musicians as its leaders—appropriated gold as a sign of success and ostentatious wealth. Such a theorization is, of course, overly simple, and a much more elaborate analysis is necessary for a meaningful discourse of kwaito to emerge.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-07-01

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