Admiral & Jahseed Winners

Helen Herimbi

The semicircle that the Nasrec Arena had been turned into wasn’t packed, but most of the crowd was attentive. DJ duo du jour Goldfish were playing.

The smooth vocals of a male lathered over uptempo beats we’d already heard during the first round were booming through the sky-high speakers. And for the umpteenth time, the audience cheered and lifted their arms whenever the smoke machine proved to be working.

It was the Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash – a battle of the bands that has artists from different genres trying to outdo each other when it comes to entertaining the crowd. The stage had four mini-stages with vertical, oval banners that screamed each performer’s name.

The show was hosted by TKZee’s Kabelo Mabalane.

Representing dub/reggae was the African Storm Sound System made up of The Admiral, as selector, and Jah Seed, as MC. Flying the flag for Motswako was Khuli Chana, who performed with a live band that included DJ Raiko of Kool Out Live.

Dance was taken care of by the internationally known and locally respected Goldfish. The multi-award-winning DJ Cleo was in charge of the kwaito stage.

While watching Goldfish make use of the smoke machine yet again, I was talking to a friend about the bizarre choice of venue on the energy drink’s part. “It just has no soul,” she remarked while looking around the Nasrec Arena – you know, the same place the Rand Easter Show is held.

This was, of course, when compared with the first-ever “Clash” that Red Bull hosted in the country. An international concept of the brand, Sound Clash, was given a local flavour a few years ago.

At the time hip hop band Tumi and The Volume went head to head with indie-rock band The Dirty Skirts at the cool Carlton Centre Sky Rink. There The Volume’s frontman ended up taking his shirt off way before Rick Ross made that popular for big boys.

Nasrec wasn’t too shabby though, just way too big for the number of people who showed up.

Also, having four cultures clash was a little ambitious as the gig, which opened its doors at 9pm, went on and on and on like an Erykah Badu song.

Incorporating elimination rounds earlier on might have been the way to go. In that case, a lacklustre Khuli Chana would have been the first to go. His Morafe group members were present for most of the show and he was never alone on stage to show us how versatile he is as a muso.

DJ Cleo was self-indulgent but competent in getting the crowd to move, but he still wasn’t touching Goldfish. If they didn’t have to put their hands on the decks they could probably also literally have held the audience in the palm of their hands.

However, Jah Seed and The Admiral were by far the best act of the night because they played different elements of their culture (from dub to dancehall to reggae). The other reason is because Jah Seed was taking the competition seriously and included some trash-talking about each contender too.

But the deciding factor was probably the rump-shaking ladies in skin-tight pants that were on stage not once, but twice. If you’ve seen uncensored dancehall videos or been to Ragga Nights in Newtown then you get an idea of how beyond PG this show was. But even without the ladies pulling off splits and other, erm, dance moves, the music was moving. The African Storm Sound System put on a good show and deserved to win.