31 October 2005

Mingling with important people

This weekend I attended the First Lego League –event at the Century City in Cape Town. In the Lego League kids from different schools had built electronically controlled robots from the Lego blocks and had to programme these small machines to do certain tasks. While doing a feature from the event I ran into the Minister of Education in Western Cape province, Mr Cameron Dougmore.
The interview was an interesting one. Not for the reasons it was supposed to be, but for the fact that I had no idea who I was talking with. It is always a bit awkward to start interviewing a minister by asking “So, who were you again?”. But he understood the situation, me being a foreigner and all. I asked questions regarding the event that we were in as I was supposed to and he gave me nice, rather promotional and harmless, but nice answers.

If I would have known about this chance in beforehand my line of questions would have been very different. Given the chance to prepare questions I would have gotten in to the matters such as the run down schools in the poorer townships, inequality of state and private schooling, which as a Scandinavian I cannot understand and the security in the state schools. Once again my local connection, Shaqir, was talking to me how out of control some kids are and how that affects to the security of the others. Or how he felt that he should save money in order to get his daughter in the private school. His daughter, Aminah, is now two years old.

So, I did not ask any of these questions. We did not get into a chat about anything very interesting. At least he was impressed with the Lego robots. That is better than nothing, I reckon.

26 October 2005

Don't Get Me Wrong...

Nowhere else in the world have I heard sentences starting so often with ”Don’t get me wrong I’m not a racist but…”. Rest of the sentence is always irrelevant because everything that needs to be heard was said in the beginning. I am in the middle of recording interviews for a radio documentary about the present condition of the country and funnily enough the people who tend to find someone to point the finger at are white. Not all the white but it seems like all who do, happen to be white. I have a feeling that there is much less victimising going on amongst the ones who actually were oppressed. I find it hard to figure out what to make out of this. Is it me who is missing something or is it the different upbringing? At least we have proven that it is not the colour of the skin.

I was just reading local paper Cape Argus and on the front page it had a story about a man who was not let in to two different, predominantly white, pubs due to his skin colour to watch rugby. Owners of the places were convinced that they are not racist but they just have a right to separate people in to different areas according to their origin. Apparently the other pub had a policy where, what they call, “non whites” are allowed to be downstairs but not upstairs. The owner says that this proves that he is not a racist because “If I was, why would I let them in at the first place”. Firstly, here it is a norm to talk about them or them people and they shouldn’t find it offensive and secondly, who can honestly say that this kind of segregation is not racist.

Strange thing also is that I seem to belong into a very small minority who loses their sleep over this. Don’t get me wrong I like Afrikaners… but what the damn is their problem!

25 October 2005

Offensive lyrics and public transportation Cape Town.

I always was the one against having censored versions of the songs as it often seems to be rather obvious to everyone what is being said under the beeep. For the past weeks I have changed my opinions slightly. Here in Cape Town the public transport is based on an independent minibuses which are called Taxis. They are mostly Toyota Hiaces and in one of them you have 17 passengers + driver. I have been in these whenever I have been in Africa as they are norm in most of the countries but here they seem to specialise on playing songs that are very offensive. Particularly considering the history of the country I find it very sad that old ladies have to listen these ignorant Americans talking about bitches, hoes, diamonds and using the big N-word which these people have heard far too much in their past.

Unfortunately the music mostly seems to be 50cent and likes of him … I have been thinking that maybe I should burn some cd:s to give away to the drivers. Mr Biko we would need you now more than ever.

Driving culture here is something quite different that many of us might be used to. Yesterday I was in a car crash when I was in one of these taxis going home and a pickup truck drove recklessly from petrol station to the main road only to crash with one van. The driver must have been high on something because nobody would drive so poorly. After the crash pickup truck driver started reversing with high speed from the car it hit, and came directly towards the car I was in and crashed that as well. Nothing happened to anyone in our taxi but in the other one some girls on the backseats got a rather big hit on their back and didn’t look very pleased with the incident. I can hardly blame them.

Big plans

It’s been exactly two weeks now since I arrived to Cape Town. I start to be very used to waking up every morning and being busy until I go to bed. I don’t know if that is a particularly African thing but to me it seems that this continent never rests. Funny how so many people assume just the opposite. I have had my first show which could have been better. Some trouble technically. I always thought I would be over that kind of problem, but it seems that every studio takes its casualties. I have also been doing some features and helped a guy, Junior, to learn how to do them. First one was about tourist and how much they know or care about the harsh realities of townships. Not much was the answer. They seem to be more keen on the Table Mountain and Robben Island. Tomorrow we will go to an orphanage first thing in the morning. That should be an eye-opener once again. Don’t really know much what to expect. I also have a few other interviews lined up and I am very excited about them. Shaqir has been helping me a lot which has been great. So much easier to get into the culture and systems when there is local back up.

I am looking into the ways to get my features and shows uploaded here on the blog. So keep on checking this space.

10 October 2005

Cape Town - The first few days.

After postponing that seemed like forever I finally arrived to Cape Town, South Africa last Friday. The reason for me to be here is my work at the community radio station called Bush Radio. It’s not just any station but the first South African community radio and the one, that the linguistic and respected social commentator Noam Chomsky described by saying,

"I have had quite a lot of contact with popular media in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, and have rarely come across achievements comparable to yours. I appreciated the vitality and seriousness as well as the very high level of professionalism and dedication of the staff and volunteers from all over the globe.
What you are doing at Bush Radio is extremely important."
- Noam Chomsky

So needles to say that I am absolutely over the moon about being here. I had my first day at work today and got to know more about the structure and organisation of the station. I also got to know the studio by being a technical operator for Bassie, the afternoon presenter for the show called Backchat. He had plenty of experience at the station and seemed like a nice man altogether. So far it seems like there is not such a competitive environment than at the radios I have worked for in Europe. That would have been very odd anyway keeping in mind the communal idea of the whole broadcasting model.

Yesterday I also met for the first time my friend Shaqir Erasmus. We have been posting on the same message board on the Public Enemy website and now happened to be at the same time in the same place. Shaqir is a local guy and he, his daughter Aminah (who by the the way at the age of two was the happiest and most smiling little girl, or boy for that matter, whom I have ever met. Shaqir told me it is because she doesn’t know better) and his mate Kurt, who was also a local policeman on a day off, showed me around the ups and downs of Cape Town. Went from the town centre to the tourist beaches of Clifton and to the half way of Table Mountain where an amazing view over the city opened before our eyes. From there we continued to the rougher townships including Gugulethu and Manenberg. If anyone ever dares to say that there is no difference between the conditions of the races here you can just slap them immediately. Although country would have democratic equality, the economical one seems to be far from reality. This obviously is not a shocking news for anybody but needs to be said as always when I meet white South African people in Europe they say that racism doesn’t exist except maybe in the form of black people not liking them. You can slap them as well. Hard.

Few fotos from our drive here. In Manenberg where some of the pictures are from I was able to go out with camera because Shaqir and Kurt introduced me to guy called Rufus, who had been in prison for a long for a murder, but who now had changed his ways and lived more positively in the community. But he was so respected that nobody dared to disturb me being an annoying western tourist. I wouldn’t have messed with Rufus either after seeing the scar on his throat.

(the title of the set is still wrong but no worries the fotos are right)

I also met another friend of mine Sofia on Saturday and I will be moving to her place next Sunday. She is far too nice person but I was happy to accept the invitation. Her place is located in Wynberg and at the moment I am staying at a small lodge near the station. People from Bush Radio were nice enough to fix that for me before I arrived.

I also got to know the time for my first show. That takes place this Saturday 3-4pm. It is going to be international hip hop. In the future I try to move into more constructive show but it is better to start easy, ain’t it. If you are interested hearing the show click here on Saturday and the time is GMT +1.

I have had a first day of work now in many months so I seem to be forgetting things as they come and go but few more notes that I must add here in the end. There is absolutely no words that can make justice to the authority and beauty of Table Mountain here. I knew that before but now I am reminded. Broadband internet connection costs here approximately 150 Euros, which is sick. That's all.

1 October 2005

Two stories with the price of none.

I have witnessed two very moving incidents this week. A film and a concert. I start with the latter.

This Thursday I went to see Talib Kweli concert in Helsinki. He has been one of my favourite rappers since he came out. Music has been rather stylish and most of the times very conscious although he refuses to be political rapper. And I must admit the gig was good. He had good energy and the length was quite okay as well, him being on stage for over 1,5 hours which is decent for a one man with the back catalogue that he has. He performed songs I wanted to hear and only left me missing maybe only one or two that didn’t make it into the set. Sometimes he was screaming a bit too much. He has such a great voice, a very distinctive one indeed, and that I feel is one of his strengths. When he was rapping with his normal flow it was great because nobody does it quite like him, when he was loud it was energetic and got the crowd going but when he screamed it just sounded like he didn’t trust the microphone. There wasn’t all that much of screaming but it did happen few times. Nothing too serious really. Also the DJ of the show DJ Chaps did decent scratching mix and the singer whose name I unfortunately missed had a beautiful and very soulful voice.

Now the downsides of this gig. The venue could not have been worse. Not much anyway. It was Helsinki Club which used to be for young and obnoxious business people rocking their Boss suits and now it has been taken over by young bling bling hip hop kids. You know the white kids with their hair braided and who listen to G-Unit and sell-out stuff like that. It broke my heart to see Kweli there when there would have been whole different demographics in the show if it was at Tavastia or anywhere like that. Many rap fans skipped this one just because of the venue and although they missed a good show I cannot blame them.

So the crowd was young, they used every excuse to throw the Roc-A-Fella diamond hand signs in the air (honestly now.. what does Talib Kweli have to do with it?) and generally nobody seem to understand what took place on the stage and it was a pity indeed. Crowd also failed to know what a B-Boy and B-Girl which kind of created a awkward moment. Not only were the customers “wrong” but the setting of the club is not good for live gigs mostly because it is not simply designed for them. There was also constantly too much smoke on the stage. There were few times some minutes that I couldn’t see the performer from the distance of few meters just because the smoke was too thick.

A great concert and I am happy that I saw that but few small things could have made it so much better. It cuts me deep.

Another experience of the past week was a film called “Sophie Scholl”. A German film about the student resistance movement in the second world war. Sophie Scholl being a very brave 21 year old girl who participates in the distribution of anti-regime flyers, gets caught and goes trough the justice system which is not very balanced as you might guess. The film was based on the true story and although it was good as a film it was more moving as a story. I understand that there must have been some minor changes in the events in order for it to be a film that people generally want to see but I felt it was still a story for us all to see. Story that one would like to relate to but only in theory. How would you act if you could lose your life over your beliefs? That is obviously a big question which I am not trying to answer here. I just feel that it would be very healthy for all of us to face the question so that we could appreciate the people who are political prisoners, people who won't have free and fair trial and not only the ones that we see in the news but also the ones who we will never hear about.