Die Riel van Hip Hop
Stephen Fourie Photography

Die Riel van Hip Hop is a celebration of Riel dance and uses Hip Hop to weave stories of language, identity and culture.
It employs multi-media with graphics by the pioneering graffiti artist, Mak1 to imitate the animated story telling style of Riel dance culture.

Featuring a plethora of Afrikaans rappers including Hakkiesdraad Hartman, Jerome Rex, Emile XY?, V.I.T.O , DJ Ready D, klipkoprock innovator Frazer Barry, a live band under the direction of the renowned Camillo Lombard, a whole lot of dancers, poets and storytellers, it is a true reflection and coming together of diverse, talented Afrikaans Coloured performers.

In an attempt to bridge two cultures, Die Riel van Hip Hop does so by exposing the vulnerability of a society struggling to find its path, fusing what was, with the present. By combining a traditional dance form and storytelling style of the indigenous people, with the modern day spirit and energy of hiphop dance and rap, it instilled an atmospheric sense of belonging and pride in the audience; ‘Jy kannit gevoelit’.
It used what in Hip Hop is called a cipher, which is based on the concept of indigenous cultures’ use of a circle around a fire to entertain with song and dance, to narrate and for ritualistic and spiritual intent.
It drew the audience in throughout, the same way a rap cipher draws a crowd, or the way in which a story stills a child, it drew you into that space by using it as intended; to bring people together.

It was well directed, a challenging task I can imagine, working with such a mix of professionals from varying performance fields, and with the ever present cipher, everyone was exactly where they needed to be.
Yet nothing could beat the infectious energy of the audience. Perhaps it was the proud reflection of themselves in every rap, story or poem, and in every dance move and beat.
Maybe it was the unique and sometimes familiar characters, in the Old Khoi woman whenever she delivered a feisty tale and made you feel like you were a little kid sitting around a fire, or the lively and intricate footwork of the riel dancers which reminded me of the b-boy’s 6-step.
Perhaps it was Hakkiesdraad’s intricate flows which made you tune in a little more closely or the brief moment the stage was transformed into a club and DJ Ready D had the whole joint raised with his funky flares and classic cuts.

Technically the sound posed some challenges. With rap, especially when you have more than one MC on stage, it is incredibly important to have a balanced mix between band and vocals and from where I was sitting, the band was just too loud, often drowning out the MC’s. The difference in audio quality between the handheld microphones and stage mics, in combination with a lack of projection from certain performers, impacted my ability to always hear everything. At times the graphics, although creatively dope, did not always add much to what was happening on stage, however the beautiful lighting and ‘befokte’ cast made up for it.

I expected more of a dance production, a collaborative Riel-Hip Hop performance, yet I was immersed in a tale of a people so proud of who they are, so inherently talented, although I felt that the narrative gets a bit lost at times. I was completely enamoured with some of the characters, the varying Afrikaans dialects and the journeyed soundtrack. With just a ‘bietjie’ polish, Die Riel van Hip Hop deserves on more more stages throughout the Cape, Karoo and the Boland, as this performance proves that there is an audience for Coloured theatre, that there are stories to tell, but more importantly, that all Coloured stories are not the stereotypical tales of gangsters and poverty or drugs and prison.

Die Riel Van Hip Hop debuted at The Suidooster Fees at Artscape on 29 April 2017 and was made possible through funding from kykNET.
The show was conceptualized and produced by Shihaam Domingo of The Domingo Effect who also co-directed the show along with Elton Landrew and Lauren Hannie.
The musical direction was a collaboration between Frazer Barry, Camillo Lombard and DJ Ready D.
Lightning design was by Fahiem Bardien with set and costume design by Shihaam Domingo.
Images supplied by The Domingo Effect are by Stephen Fourie Photography, the official photographers of Die Riel van Hip Hop.

Bruinou.com is honoured to welcome Shameema Williams to our team of correspondents.
Shameema, herself a luminary in the South African and International Hip Hop community, is best known as one third of the legendary Hip Hop group Godessa.
Besides being a prolific writer with articles in quite a number of publications, Shameema owns and runs Vanguard Music Company and she is also a cultural activist with an interest in artist development with a focus on Hip Hop.