What is Zef?

Putting it simply, South Africa is a diverse nation. With a long and complex history of immigration and race relations, today’s post-Apartheid South Africa gets seen very rarely in the world’s media landscape. For many westerners, South Africa’s history stops with the election of Nelson Mandela.

Die Antwoord is a three-person “rap/rave crew” hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa. Led by rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, with support from DJ Hi Tek, Die Antwoord claims to be representing Zef, a cultural movement among white Afrikaaners, “the descendants of Dutch homesteaders who have been living in Southern Africa for almost 500 years” (Bishop). Because whites are a minority of the total population, Zef is a minority movement in South Africa.


Zef, which literally translates to “common,” is a subculture adopted by lower-class white South Africans only in the last 15 or so years. Physically, it’s like throwing it back to the worst fashions of the 1980s. Zef is unapologetically tacky and bright. It is aggressive and in your face. Yo-Landi Visser can be seen in her videos wearing multiple watches on each wrist, sporting her signature rat tail and straight bangs. In the video for ‘Baby’s On Fire,’ she wears a matching bra and shorts decorated with a standard yellow smiley face, an outfit you’d really only see at a warehouse rave in 1993. Zef is, in a way, similar to the culture surrounding country music in America, a refined and mainstream interpretation of historically considered “White Trash” customs.

Contextually, Zef is rebellious. As the story goes, for generations, white Afrikaaners have continually adopted the culture of their parents, probably in a way to separate themselves from other races and communities within the racially divided country. In the post-Apartheid nation, however, there’s no longer pressure for whites to retain this elitist culture.

South Africa is a large, heterogenous nation with a rich (although tense) history behind it. For a nation which produces very little media content in the worldwide media landscape, what comes out of South Africa and into the west is highly selective. There is very little, if any, media content in the international eye that is produced by and representative of black South Africans. White South Africans make up less than 10% of the total population, and yet the bulk of the popular media seen by the west is produced by that faction. 

Die Antwoord’s overseas influence is undeniable. They are signed to Interscope Records, and their worldwide record sales are impressive for a South African trio representing a minority subculture. Die Antwoord’s popularity, and the very nature of their exclusive representation of South Africa, may indicate that post-Apartheid South Africa is not as far along progressed as the rest of the world is lead to believe.





South Africa, Benin, and Other Countries Get “Happy”



“Happy,” the joyous hit song by American musician Pharrell Williams, has been an international success, topping music charts in 24 countries around the world. The music video for the song, which features Pharrell and others walking and dancing down the streets of Los Angeles at different times during the day, has spawned a number of remakes by fans, which have been shared through YouTube.
This fan remake initiative has not been confined to the United States. Recently, South African media station eTV spotlighted some of the best “Happy” videos from several African countries, including South Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Algiers. These videos are all shot in a style similar to the original “Happy”, but alter the format to highlight the local people, dance, and culture. This shows how, despite the proliferation of an American pop cultural artifact, glocalization makes it relevant to the culture of these specific countries.

Happy in Cape Town, South Africa, which has gained nearly 200, 000 views on YouTube:


Happy in Cotonou, Benin, which has gained over 168,000 views on YouTube:

Additionally, the global popularity of the song was also recently recognized by the United Nations, when the UN Foundation partnered up with Pharrell for their annual “International Day of Happiness.” Established in 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, the day acknowledges that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and recognizes “the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples,” according to the resolution. Pharrell encouraged fans to tag their videos with the hashtag #happyday and on March 20th, highlighted several videos from around the world on the website 24hours of happiness. This initiative exhibited a convergence of media producers, international politics, and active audience participation.



[Original Happy Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM%5D

[eTv article: http://www.etv.co.za/news/2014/03/27/more-happy-videos-around-africa%5D

[Slate Article Featuring #happyday compilation: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/03/20/a_pharrell_happy_supercut_for_international_day_of_happiness_video.html%5D



The Hinglish Epidemic

The language usually associated with India is Hindi. However, this language is spoken mostly in the Northern part and is the official language of the government, not the nation. Spread throughout the country are various dialects and even entirely different languages. With this being said, the only language that enables people from all over the country to communicate is English. India is believed to be the second- largest English- speaking country after the United States. This cultural imperialism is reflected is many aspects of the culture. Most people in India want their kids to attend schools where English is taught, often by Catholic priests. When you call someone and the line is busy, the automated voice message says “Dial kiya gaya number abhi vyast hai” which translates to “The number you’ve dialed is currently busy”. Increasingly more Bollywood films are mixing Hindi and English in the film dialogue and musical numbers as well. Below is an example of a song from the movie Race 2 (notice even the movie name is in English).

This development seems to be creating a new culture for India and is eroding at the idea of the  “pure” Indian culture that may or may not have existed before India’s exposure to the West.


The Buzzfeed Influence

American media website Buzzfeed is probably one of the most popular sources for information.  The crass writing, the ‘listicles’, and the funny memes and gifs accompanying each article make Buzzfeed an easy place for people to update themselves on the current headlines or take mindless quizzes.  There has been argument over the last few decades that American society and the younger generations are not able to read long and detailed news articles, and many times today people only skim the first paragraph of articles.  But the writers at Buzzfeed know how to make journalism and news ‘fun’.

It seems as though this trend in ‘listicles’ has influenced other parts of the world however.  Here is a Buzzfeed article crediting the Nigerian Buzzfeed, Oodera: http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/nigerian-buzzfeed-is-the-best-buzzfeed

And not only that, but Disney has even started a blog modeled after the Buzzfeed format:


And most recently, Israel has a sort of tribute website to Buzzfeed called PlayBuzz:


It is no secret how much American media influences other cultures in the world especially through entertainment, and in a way Buzzfeed has made a new form of entertaining journalism.  This could be considered a form a of glocalization.  Just like McDonald’s has implemented itself all over the world, the Buzzfeed model is now being introduced to various cultures.  Buzzfeed may not be branching itself out purposely necessarily, but they do automatically advertise these ‘knock off’ sites by writing articles featuring them.


Social Media as a Life Preserve

Social media served a vital information sharing source during the 2011 East Japan earthquake and tsunami, also known as the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Not only were popular news organizations tweeting about the disaster, Twitter and Facebook performed as a lifebuoy for some, as families and friends searched for displaced-persons, safety identification, volunteer organizations, fund raising, and moral support. The hashtag, “#prayforjapan” was trending on the anniversary date of the earthquake just recently on March 11 on Twitter. Social media main purpose is to connect people, exchange information, and to collaborate with other users. And it did just that and more at the most crucial time in need for Japan. Many relief organizations such as the American Red Cross also looked to social media to aid the country. 

Other ways people took advantage of social media to meet the needs in terms of aid and relief for Japan can be seen through online campaigns such as “#Hands4Japan” on Crowdrise. Two Japanese-born venture capitalists started a campaign on the online fundraiser website, Crowdrise.com, to match donations until the campaign reached its ultimate goal. The campaign specifically supported the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.

Other key hashtags that were directly linked to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami included:

#Jishin – general earthquake information
#Anpi – confirmation of the safety of people and places
#Hinan – evacuation information
#PrayForJapan – general moral support for victims

These are all a few ways how technology met the needs of the victims in Japan when viewed in a cultural materialistic perspective.







Bermuda controversy: The Son of Soil

In 2007, Wiki Leaks released documents that revealed the findings behind investigations into the Bermuda Housing Corporation, which invested up to $800,000 into drug trafficking in the United States. Behind the entire investigation was “The Son of Soil” who was said to be the person that leaked all the details of the investigation.

Here’s The Son of Soil’s letter to the people of Bermuda (link):



In that letter, the Son of Soil calls for a revolution of the Bermudan people against the Premier, the leader of the Government in Bermuda.

Later in 2007, the Son of Soil came out and revealed himself as Harold Darrell and said he had received death threats from the government itself in this article from The Mid Ocean News.

Before his resignation, the Premier Ewart Brown, announced that the government would stop using one of the two major newspapers, The Royal Gazette for advertising, citing a desire to use online media.


The Rise of K-pop Vs. The Asian Male Stereotype


K-pop fans in London

K-pop fans in London (Soompi.com)

For the past decade, Korean pop, music or K-pop has seen a steady rise in popularity across many parts of the world. Known for its expressive visual performance style, its all-male or all-female bands, and it’s intensely dedicated fans, K-pop was  already wildly popular in South Korea and Japan throughout the 1990’s and mid 2000’s. Since the late 2000’s the K-pop music industry has spread even further, with huge fan bases in parts of Latin America, Northeast India, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. In 2011, the K-pop boy band Big Bang won the award for best Worldwide Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards, beating well known nominees such as Britney Spears.  And in 2012, K-pop was called “South Korea’s Greatest Export” by TIME Magazine.

Despite the international spread of K-pop, here in the U.S, K-pop music remains a fairly niche part of our culture, only recently growing in popularity outside of East Asian and Asian American groups. The media stereotypes about East Asian males as geeky, comedic, lacking in masculinity, or simply martial arts masters may have some effect on its ability to reach mainstream U.S audiences. Many of the most popular K-pop acts are indeed male pop singers, who are seen as idols and heartthrobs for their fans, much in the way that young American male pop stars are seen  here in the U.S.

K-pop group Shinee (via Tumblr.com)

K-pop group Shinee (via Tumblr.com)

To date, the only K-pop act to reach mainstream success in the United States has been Psy, who’s infamous “Gagnam Style”  currently boasts over 1.9 billion views on YouTube, was a memetic sensation during 2012. Despite this success, much of its infamy and popularity in the United States stemmed from its comedic elements and the hilarious dance and video rather than a true interest in Psy as an artist. Psy was able to break into mainstream American media with comedy, rather than the artistry and heartthrob factor of other Korean acts. And since that brief surge of popularity in 2012, Psy has, indeed faded into the background of mainstream American media’s awareness.


Psy in “Gagnam Style”

Psy doing the Gagnam Style dance  with Ellen and an awkward audience member on the Ellen Degeneres Show (via Tumblr)

Psy doing the Gagnam Style dance with Ellen and an awkward audience member on the Ellen Degeneres Show (via Tumblr)