A ‘war of words’ has broken out on Facebook between two of the soulful house scene’s biggest, strongest, most talented artists. Osunlade and Monique Bingham, over the current state of affairs in South Africa.
Having never been myself I am not able to comment on either and can only read these two excellently constructed passages and watch from a distance as the world “takes sides”.
It began with Osunlade speaking out after a recent trip to South Africa and sharing his views on the racism he witnessed there. He even goes on to ask artists from around the globe to boycott the place and says some pretty harsh words to those he sees condones it and adds to the way things are there.
Monique Bingham in turn hits out at his words and tears a strip out of him with her reply.
It makes for pretty strong reading.
Fair play to Osunlade for not backing down and sharing Monique’s post on his own wall and continuing to stand by his words.
I think once the dust settles something positive will definitely come from these exchanges.
It’s been about ten years since my last visit to South Africa and I must say this trip has more than opened my eyes that apartheid is alive and kickin! It’s absolutely the most white privileged place I’ve ever experienced in my life and from this date I vow never to revisit it as long as it’s in its current state! With all the love we artists receive from our brothers and sisters there, it’s not enough for me to justify the treatment and moreso the conditioning that has become the norm for those black Africans. I suppose I, like most was caught up in the smoke and mirrors of the scene and how our music in general is received there, yet never had I realized the sad state of things. I experienced racism far beyond that of America which I thought was impossible. Not only have blacks been trained to walk with their tails between their legs like well trained monkeys but white supremacy is almost a given and not much a taken privilege. To walk with respect as a black man, I was looked upon as in a “how dare you” from the blacks themselves., even to the point of being served after any white person by black attendant in say business class on flights to simply feeling like it’s not my place or right to be in such a position. I am a man like anyone else and I live my life in a treat me as U wish to be treated, but I couldn’t help but feel outraged at how sad things are in this country. Of course there like anything are the exceptions, I’ve met some amazing people of both sides of the coin but again, performing for so many beautiful black people, sharing moments and music and feeling the love of home, knowing these people probably gave their last to experience hearing me and my peers only to return to some township lesser state of living and treatment didn’t sit well with me. Again I know many will have their opinions about what I’m saying but I could give two fucks., it must be said! I admit like slavery in the states, which is alive as well today., things takes time to heal and move forward but fuck me, this is a new day where people are celebrated for coming out gay or even changing sex to being applauded for doing what should be common human courtesy toward one another. I wont sit nor accept the state of this nonsense. Black peoples of South Africa you are not slaves or servants to the whites in YOUR country, I know not what is needed to make change internally but I urge you to wake up and act! Again I know nothing of your personal struggles but from the outside looking in there is more acceptance than any kind of respect or fight for what’s rightfully yours! Having Nelson Mandela’s name on things or singing songs is not enough. WAKE THE FUCK UP AND ACT LIKE TOU HAVE SOME DIGNITY!!
We come from kings and were never meant to only share our culture, land, bodies and spirits as anything less. Light and Power To Us All! I say us as I am you and I hurt experiencing this painful journey.
ps: I urge and call anyone brave enough to refrain from performing in this country., think about your spirit and not your pocket., I know for most this territory is a big part of your career and a huge cash cow however, know u condone and contribute to something far larger than your wallet and music.
Just read Osunlade’s post about racism in South Africa urging international artists to boycott and not come here. He said he experienced racism worse than in the US or anywhere on the planet. Now I don’t know where Osunlade lives and I do not know how long he was in South Africa. He said he was here 10 years ago and I assume was here this year for a few days. As someone who lives in the U.S and now spends weeks and now months at a time here in South Africa for the last 4 years I have many feelings about what he said. There is shocking poverty here no doubt. All abject poverty is shocking. There is deeply entrenched racism here of course. Apartheid ended 15 mins ago. But the leap from being disturbed and disgusted to telling South Africans to wake up and stop acting like monkeys? Telling those of us whose music resonates here more than anywhere else in the world not to come? To paint those of us who come here to perform and sing for the crowds that dig us, as mercenary interlopers more concerned with our wallets than our principles? Accused of somehow supporting a racist apartheid like system just by my presence here? Eh eh. Now you crossed a fucking line. And there is no way in hell that I am just going to sit here and have insults like THAT leveled. HOMEBOY you left Jozi and went to PARIS LONDON AND AMSTERDAM?? The architects of imperialism in Africa. Easy to grandstand and call for a boycott in a country where you aint been booked for ten years. My music does not resonate with drunk white kids in Europe so I don’t be going there often. I think you saw some deep shit here and it fucked up your head. I swear the song I just wrote with Nathi was almost written for you. We are artists and I have been writing tune after tune about my experiences in this country. It has been more of an inspiration creatively to me than anywhere I have ever been. But to try to make me out to be some kind of leech on poor black African people? I take some seeeerious issue with that. You told South Africans to wake up? Who the fuck needs you to tell them to wake up. The arrogance and condescending tone of your post for someone who was here for 5 mins, THAT was shocking to me. Americans man. Hope you hear all that “western privilege” in your own voice. I don’t know where the fuck they took you brother and I’m sorry that was your experience. I don’t disagree with a lot of what you said. I am not naive by a long shot about racism and poverty here or abroad. Urging international artists to boycott the whole country as though this is an apartheid state that doesn’t have an elected black government is ego fueled histrionics. Yeah there is some fucked up shit here. Tell me where black folk don’t catch hell? The moon? You think the whole of SA should be boycotted? But not London? Not Paris? I’m gonna have to tell YOU to wake up. If everyone were to boycott everywhere there is racism and poverty none of us could go anywhere. You think your mere presence is giving legitimacy to the ANC government that you oppose? Return the fee to Soul Candi and stay in Europe where you feel comfortable. Those of us with almost exclusively African fans are not interlopers. To imply that everyone in SA is dirt poor and everyone outside is rich is as inaccurate as it is immature. I am an underground artist. I don’t play all over Europe or even the US. My fans are here. And when black ass Shimza asks me to perform at HIS show in black ass Tembisa with my black ass band from Tembisa my black ass is going. Why the fuck wouldn’t I? What would me refusing to go accomplish exactly? And I am not supporting a racist government or giving legitimacy to a racist system by doing so. I’m playing music for my people. Boycott? Really? And what pray tell are we exactly boycotting? What exact political conditions are you calling for an end to with this supposed boycott? And what exact political benchmarks would have to be hit for you to end this boycott and return? I don’t think you know.that’s some dangerous shit to throw out there. You were angry and rightfully so. But you flew off the handle and attacked the very people you purport to support. I am a black woman in a racist sexist industry so I stay pretty angry. I am a black woman who has been treated like shit in London AND Paris AND New York and have never been treated with such respect as I have been here in South Africa. I have been treated worse in California than Jozi. Forgive me if I don’t join your hastily called for, ill-conceived boycott. My conscious is clear as hell. Have you told your boys who play to nothing but spoiled privileged white kids in Ibiza to boycott? Ain’t that some shit. White kids get to dance to whomever they want but poor black kids in SA shouldn’t? for their own good I guess? And that doesn’t sound like white privilege to you? The love I receive from my people here on their soil is nothing I am giving up anytime soon. Your post was some ego drenched reactionary bullshit. Brother you had a bad experience. Join the fucking club. You had trouble in business class frown emoticon getting your champagne last? Come in the back to coach with us! All the flight attendants are househeads! We hang out take pics drink wine and many have come to my gigs. But to say blacks here are trained to walk around with their tails between their legs? That’s beyond the pale. None of the black people I know and now call dear friends here are trained like “monkeys”. My dear friend’s brother was shot dead fighting apartheid. My homeboys fought in youth armies during apartheid and were arrested as children. My boy is still fighting with his law degree working within the system against the corruption of a now black government. They fought in a REAL African revolution. Like ones with guns and shit. Not a fashion revolution. Lose your illusions and romantic notions about Africa and be fair in your assessment. You don’t see white privilege in fucking New York? You’re mad, you’re disgusted, you’re angry, everyone is. But nobody’s stupid. And this shit is complicated. We know who got all the fucking cows and all the fucking land and all the fucking money. Everyone is painfully aware. Are you some sort of savior that landed here stayed two days and are suddenly more enlightened than those born and raised? Wake up? And do what, start shooting? What does wake up really mean or is that some shit that makes you feel better cause now you said something. Well hooray. That and $2.50 will get you a ride on a downtown 4 train. The attempt to call out hand to mouth living independent international artists like me who are invited to come here and paint us as mercenaries takes some fucking nerve. And until you return your fee, airfare and hotel included to Spring Fiesta you are one of us. I am a proud black feminist and there is no way that I would come here if I thought I was somehow supporting a racist system. My brothers and sisters that I love here are not puppets or monkeys. Not every fan goes home to a mukuku after the show but hell yes too many do. And yes I am mad at that shit! How can a president build a multi-million dollar home while whole neighborhoods still aint got lights on the street, or don’t even have a street! But baby step outside Paris and what do you think you find. They were rioting on Tottenham Crt Rd in 2010 and that did what exactly? I wish you had stayed longer. I wish you would have taken more time to have this conversation with a group of South Africans under a beautiful Jozi sky. The deepest most profound conversations of my life happened here. I love people here. I have family here. And not you or racist white folk or ignorant shallow black folk are running me out of Africa. I wish you had come to a more in depth conclusion. Things always change too slow and never enough but they are changing. Everything changes. There is nothing worse here than you see in Trench Town or La Perla or Port au Prince or Sao Paulo or Indonesia or China. Are you boycotting those countries too? Shall I boycott Jamaica until people stop bleaching their skin? Anti-Africanism, anti-blackness, white supremacy are cancers spread all over the globe. Shall we all go gig on Mars? You do nothing to further what I think is your cause by calling black South Africans monkeys. I mean damn Osunlade. Damn. South Africans should wake up? I think SA just woke you up. This is Africa and shit gets deep down here. I bet you and I probably agree on more issues than we disagree. But you were here too short a time to make such a sweeping insulting judgement on such a proud resilient people.
sorry another long one…
Ok I really would love for this to be my last post on this particular issue with Osunlade and his post on boycotting SA and my retort. I can’t handle this ish. The anger as well as praise we have received from now thousands of people around the world has been enlightening to say the least. We have messaged privately as I probably should have done from the damn start. Reason no. 29 on my list of reasons why I never really post on FB. And I want to keep that private conversation private. I have his permission to share the messages and I might. He certainly can but as I thought more about it I don’t want to. The last few days have been for lack of a better word, deep. I realized more than ever that the pen is mighty man. Words are powerful and when passionate people get angry they can really start some ish. I think when you are angry you get lazy. You want to say something to shock the system. And we all get real brave behind a keyboard. There’s no way I would have said to his face what I said in that post. Certainly not in the waaay I said it. And I know in my heart he would never have said to that 20000 strong crowd at Spring Fiesta what he said in his post. He loved that gig. He loved the people he met here 10 years ago too. But anger and a keyboard are a bad mix. When I landed here for the first time in 2011 with my band in Capetown we were happy as hell! Had my man with me, my brother Leighton Moody hooked us all up nicely, we were on a bill with Earth Wind and Fire, Bra Hugh, Wayne Shorter. We were taking pics in the lobby with everybody fanning out completely acting like we were fans, not artists booked to play! Talking, chilling, laughing oh this is great the sun is shining and we’re in AFRICA! This is so cool! and then you’re driving and you see it. You see your first glimpse of what you’ve always been told Africa was like. You set your eyes on miles and miles of those shanty shacks “mukukus” and it silences you. It’s shocking as hell. How can we just have come from this gorgeous hotel on this adorable block of shops that look more like the French Quarter in New Orleans, and a short drive away there’s this? This unsettling feeling of there’s no way this can stand. This is a recipe for disaster. How can so many have soooo little, and so few have soooooooo much? you do have a sense of “oh my god somebody has to do something now! This is insane how can they shut off the electricity for hours or days at a time with no warning?! What?! And how can there be no plumbing in a town that is miles long?! Something has to be done now!” As though a natural disaster took place and people were placed in ramshackle temporary housing. But they were there bfore 94 and they’re STILL there. But then you leave and you keep the great time as your memory of SA. And then you come back and you expect to see it now. but it’s still shocking but you have another run of great gigs and fans that love this music like NOWHERE else. And you keep that in your head because the mukukus are too complicated to deal with and what can you really do anyway? And then you come back again and now you’ve played gigs there and you’ve seen it so you’re less shocked. And the next time less shocked, and then not shocked until you get to the point where you’re like oh that’s just how it is here. Mukukus juxtaposed to gorgeous gated community after gated community that look more like Orange County than Africa. Like riding the subway to work in NY. People beg you for change and they walk through the cars and then another one comes through and asks for change, and then another asks and then you’re on the street and another one asks and another. And you feel like you couldn’t possibly give to everyone who asks so you give to no one. You go on autopilot. “Sorry don’t have it, sorry don’t have anything” and then they just kind of disappear to you.
If I may paraphrase what I believe was the underlying message of Osunlade’s post: apathy and indifference are the enemies of progress. And the more we “get used to it” the more we normalize this kind of disparate existence by just remembering the good and throwing away the hard stuff. And there is sooo much good. But it is the normalization of the status quo that is the issue. It is not normal, it is not ok, and something must be done. Now the $50,000 question is what do we do? I have no effing idea. He said boycott! I don’t agree. I think it will solve nothing. But he’s a strong black mu fua and he goes for extremes. He does that in art and life and we have all respected him for it until recently. Osunlade aint backing down from $hit. He believes everything he said but I know his anger got the best of him and he said as much. He had his momma with him when he came through Jozi yall. Expecting to show her a great time and to have one himself. Now it’s one thing to get messed with yourself but if someone is disrespectful to your momma, you see red. Anyone would have. You get angry and say the most shocking things you can so people feel as slapped as you felt. I too used “drunk white kids in Europe” as shorthand for white privilege in my post. Man if it wasn’t for drunk white kids in the UK my career never would have left Ave A. Some of those drunk white European kids that dig the sound that we love here are the most open liberal minded people in the world. One the best gigs of my life was with a gang of drunk European kids in Edinburg. And a bunch grew up to be some of the producers we all love today. That was laziness on my part. Choosing language to shock and not to heal. I apologize for that cause it was wrong and offensive and some have called me out too. The same lazy shock tactics I believe my brother did with the “like trained monkeys” comment, the lightening rod of his post. He just wanted people to feel it, to not be numb to what he saw, to not be indifferent. His momma got treated like crap by black people in Africa and that felt like a slap so he slapped back. We can understand at least that much yes. I want him to rephrase what he said. I want him to apologize for the language but never the message. I urge no one to boycott South Africa. Racism and poverty are in no way their exclusive problem. That shit is everywhere. I urge no one to boycott Osunlade or Yoruba records. He is a gifted man with deep love in his heart for SA and for his craft and is a GIANT in this scene. He feels using music as escapism is beneath its purpose. That it is spiritual, it has power. I know house heads everywhere agree with that. He loves his people so much so it enraged him to see that so little had changed in his mind since his last visit here. I urge EVERYONE to come here to Mzansi and spend those dollars and pounds and euros etc. all over and see how deep it gets and how beautiful it gets. And I will try to “feel” SA more than just love it and let that lead me where it will. I love the RSA. I will always love it. But in truth it’s easy to love South Africa from a 5 star hotel in Sandton. Maybe too easy.