We got invited to the MK MVP launch, but since it was in Cape Town, and we’re not, we decided to send Nick Mulgrew just to make sure some of the free food and booze didn’t go to waste. After wolfing down some Salmon Roses, Nick took in this year’s MVP’s and noticed a few too many similarities.


Five months ago, MK, South Africa’s only non-hip-hop-orientated music channel, made an announcement. They were to give a handful of South African bands – and their chosen film studios – the opportunity to make a music video funded by MK. 142 bands submitted proposals; a dozen were chosen.*

Last Thursday the fruit of the third yearly iteration of the MK Music Video Project competition came into public view for the first time, at a small premiere at a Nu Metro in Canal Walk, Century City, Cape Town.

It was good of MK to have the premiere here. It meant that all of the artists from Bellville that were chosen didn’t have to drive very far to have themselves plied with salmon roses and flavoured vodka. After all, almost every music video that was about to be presented – save for, most notably, Van Coke Kartel’s video for “Buitenkant II” that curiously took the guise of the opening of a B-grade, Johannesburg-based version of 2011 neo-noir crime flick Drive, replete with self-referential credits and plenty of middle-distance staring at cityscapes – were shot in the Western Cape. Further, a full quarter of the videos were given to bands that featured Fokof offspring – aKing, Van Coke Kartel and Francois Badenhorst-van Coke, who featured in Gazelle’s “Val Van Die Ryk”. Their videos were at times disappointingly tepid and among the least imaginative of the lot.



It’s a well-understood fact that MK isn’t the fine curator of South African music that many people would like it to be. Its orientation toward hard rock, white rappers and twee Afrikaans folk is almost a given more seven years after its conception. It ensures its survival by pandering to the same sensibilities that were behind the rebirth of Afrikaans alternative rock a decade ago, sure, but its continuing insistence on including commissions from bands that don’t really need funding for music videos every year – see: Jack Parow – left more of a bad taste in the mouth than initially expected, especially given the middling quality of some of the final products.



It was also noticeably white. Throughout all 12 videos, exactly three black people were the subject of scenes of any length: one child at the end of The Plastics’ decent, animation-splashed ode to childhood wonder, “Best Pretender”, and two security guards working at a mansion owned by Gazelle and Francois van Coke. It was strange to see vision after vision of a Western Cape almost entirely populated by white people; perhaps that was precipitated by the fact that almost every musician awarded a video this year was white and male.




Apart from the lukewarm efforts that such a self-reinforcing, pat-on-the-back form of musical culture that outlets like MK are likely to produce, there were, happily, a number of very good videos that came out from the project.

Motion City Films’ video for Bicycle Thief’s “Goodbye Ian Curtis” featured grainy, decades-old travel videos from shot of and by Josie Borain – South Africa’s first bona-fide supermodel and a face of Calvin Klein during the 1980s – juxtaposed with shots of herself taking photographs of herself in an opulently-styled mansion with an iPhone. Abrupt cuts from shots of the achingly beautiful Borain (and a peek at her perfectly-formed left tit that left the audience at the premiere hooting and hollering) and her husband Pierre (who died in ’86 from an aneurysm) to her now, weathered but dignified, evoke a powerful sense of loss and change. It helps, too, that the song is a dreamy and evocative cut itself.



Jakkals & Crave Pictures’ video for “Rum Trifle” wasn’t particularly strong narrative-wise, but its composition, make-up and post-production were glowing, golden and gorgeous. PHFat’s well-choreographed teleportation safari throughout Cape Town was also fun and effective.




The successful videos of the lot are proof that the competition works, on a level: team up a sparkling young band with a bright studio, and the results are – more often than not – excellent.

I’d say to MK that they should, then, cast their net a bit wider. That three quarters of the selection of bands this year were Cape Town-based (plus one from Stellenbosch) shows flaws either in their dissemination of a call to submissions or their selection process. That the same bands feature in these sorts of schemes year after year, even when they are the minority among less predictable choices, is indicative of an insular culture, and a serious problem of perspective.

They might defend it by saying that including high-profile acts in turn bring attention to the smaller, breakout bands. And that’s probably true: balancing need and merit is no doubt a tricky task for MK. I have a feeling, though, that most under-funded bands in South Africa could’ve gone without watching what it would look like if aKing blew R70k on a glitter-laced performance video for a song with a sneering chorus hook of “Keep calm and carry on”.

aKing would probably rather have that, but, honestly, it’d be better if it didn’t.







Header photo by Nick Mulgrew.

*Edited cause we got our facts wrong, but now they’re right so you can sleep safe.

19 Responses to “MK MVP”
  1. Jolling! says:

    Mk benefited from Apartheid.

  2. Bob says:

    There is no excuse for lack of imagination, but please, PLEASE, let’s not complain about a few white guys actually receiving funding for something for a change!

  3. Spot says:

    Wow. Talk about getting your facts wrong. And if the there’s an issue of majority bands being from Cape Town then perhaps look at the actual SA Music landscape. the best acts stems from Cape Town at the moment and big ups to them!

    Further more I see MK is the only media entity that is actually backing the industry the way it does. What other radio station, TV channel, blog etc. puts money behind South African artists?

    It’s easy to complain, but then what are you doing to help the South African music industry?

  4. Jolling! says:

    “let’s not complain about a few white guys actually receiving funding for something for a change”

    Yeah, cause white guys never get funding for anything. That’s well known…

    “the best acts stems from Cape Town at the moment ”

    Actually the best acts stem from Joburg, and are making names for themselves overseas, like Spoek and Blk Jks. The acts from Cape Town just have an entire TV channel dedicated to promoting them so they’re all anyone ever seas or hears.

  5. Spot says:

    And what about the likes of Trace Urban (who now has an SA office) or then Channel O or Mzansi Music even? I recall Spoek being nominated for an MK Award when no one else played the video…
    I went looking for Blk Jks videos and couldn’t find any. Please direct me to them. Maybe we can get the music channels to play it?

    You’re missing Gazelle who is also making waves across the world, The Frown is playing a festival in Europe soon. The Parlotones are actually taking making the bold move of moving to the USA.
    And what’s you’re views on the international fanbase that Die Antwoord managed to create?
    Point is that there are plenty more SA artists doing well worldwide in their own right and they should all be recognized for their achievements.

    Best acts can be considered a personal opinion that will differ from person to person.

  6. Joling! says:

    I agree that there are plenty more SA artists that should be given recognition other than those from The Western Cape.

  7. Jolling! says:

    Oh, and it took me less than 3 seconds to find this BLK JKS music video

  8. Spot says:

    @Jolling! Awesome, but in a months time the video will be four years old already. I think Mzansi Music should perhaps look at playing it.

  9. Joling! says:

    If onlt there was a TV station which paid for music videos to be made…

  10. luke says:

    the frown, gazelle and parlotones are shit. if they are what you consider ‘the best acts in sa’ then fuck your opinion. it’s wrong.

  11. Hater says:

    Your blog is shit

  12. scrone says:

    Haters gonna hate. And I’m not talking about DIY. Also, all the best bands are from CT? Hahahahahahahahahaha!

  13. xdoomx says:

    One thing Durbanisyours does to help the music scene:
    Gig guide:

    Look, all the content isn’t Durban exclusive.

    Show me somethingyouhavegot that covers anything outside of the Western Cape?

  14. matt_theknight says:

    All the best insults are from Cape Town

  15. keags says:

    We’ve all been thinking it, Nich just said it.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Francois van Coke or Pierre from Die Heuwels in an MVP video.
    And they are the guys that really need the cash for video’s and exposure, right? Yeah.

  16. CJ says:

    It is sad to see that race gets pulled into this as with most things in the post apartheid SA… Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we support ALL SA bands if they merit it? 🙂

    This is one blogger’s opinion.. I was there too and I enjoyed it. I like and support most SA bands and I don’t care where they are from in SA or the color of their skin. I respect the OPs opinion, even though it differs from mine.

    But let us look at some things brought up in the comments

    MK picked these bands with a list of requirements stated clearly in the original competition. Did JKS and Spoek even apply? Did they meet the requirements?

    Pierre did not feature in any of the videos this year. Francois appeared in 3 because he is one of the hardest working guys out there. Please read that again, I am not saying he is the ONLY hardworking one, merely one of them. I also think that the bands in WC support each other more, this is just my feeling on that issue as only the bands from other provinces will be able to answer that truthfully. That is a feeling I get if I look at the collaboration coming out between WC bands/artists.

    MK promotes bands from all over, just look at the talent they have at their festivals, but they also need to look out for what their viewers want.

    I stand firmly behind any band/artist with enough balls to make it in SA music… And ANY channel promoting them… No matter of race or standing in society. I also stand behind any person/blog and their right to their own opinion.

    At the end of the day the choice to watch the Youtube/Vimeo/MK video is yours.

  17. matt_theknight says:

    your opinion is just one commentator’s opinion.

  18. Alexander says:

    Thought “The Plastics” had a lovely video, but the one for “Bicycle Thief”… what a wank.

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