Finally South African hip hop is spurring national debate, and it’s not Die Antwoord. No it is Dookoom, the new Cape Town hip hop outfit fronted by local legend Isaac Mutant, that has caused a huge stir with its video Larney Jou Poes (roughly translated: F..k off White Man.) Much has been written about the video, from the likes of radical black consciousness intellectual turned member of parliament Andile Mngxitama, to constitutional law professor Pierre de Vos. Even Vice’s music blog Noisey ran an extensive piece on the video.
“Larney Jou Poes,” directed by young white filmmaker Dane Dodds, is an awe-inspiring work of black rage – farmworkers who down tools, revolt and burn the word “Dookoom” onto the side of a hill. The word originates from dukun / doekoem, a colloquial word used by coloured people. It has its origins supposedly in spiritual practices of Indonesia. It means a shaman, traditional healer or diviner but it could also be an insult. At some point in history the word gathered negative connotations in the Cape, signifying prejudice against Malay traditions brought on the slave ships from the East. The video is aesthetically quite dark – a muddy black and white treatment endures throughout, every shot almost underexposed.
The anger is palpable real – drawing on hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation. In the four-minute music video – it carries a strong YouTube warning in the beginning – we see a white farmer and the lyrics say: “Many farms had Farmer Abrahams. I work one of them and so would you. So let’s go burn ‘em down.”
The director said in an interview with film industry publication Biz Community that he chose the song out of a few from Dookoom’s A Gangster Called Big Times EP because he found it challenging.
“It made me feel uncomfortable and I felt that it expressed something that should not be real, but probably was,” said Dane. Unbeknownst to young Dane, this shit is all too real.
Isaac Mutant was inspired by the De Doorns Wine Farm strike of 2012, where workers demanded an increase of their meagre daily wage of R69 to a more livable R150. South Africa has a long history of oppression and abuse on wine farms, from slavery to indentured labour, where white farmers paid workers in alcohol – a devastating practice that has led to generations of alcohol addiction and dependence.
When Dookoom pulls the middle finger and says “Fuck off white man!” it is this continued history of violence that they are raging at. But as Pierre de Vos put in his analysis of the Dookoom backlash, not everyone understands or acknowledges that structural racism exists today. When you call out white racism in South Africa, you get labelled a racist (which Isaac cleverly anticipates in the song.) Much to the advantage of Dookoom, Afrikaner rights group Afriforum (who claim to exist to promote the interests of minorities in South Africa) labelled the song “hate speech” and have made an application to have it banned. This will only give more credibility to those that are buying into the message and the authenticity and cool that comes along to it.
Perhaps the only critique of the song that I agree with was Adam Haupt’s suggestion to change the name of the song to “Larney, Jou Piel” – (White man, your dick) thus subverting Cape Town’s age old misogynistic insult. However, that’s a discussion for another day. In the meantime, turn the bass up and nod your head to Dookoom’s beat, and imagine a day when all Larneys, regardless of race, will have to share their ill-gotten gains.
This article was first published on Africa is a Country. Check it out here