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Afrika Shox

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on 29 September 2014

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Transcript of Afrika Shox

Afrika Shox // Leftfield/Bambaataa
Music videos demonstrate genre characteristics
The opening low-angle shot of the Twin Towers in New York immediately creates a sense of insignificance for the audience, as the towers dominate the view. Furthermore, it creates a sense of alienation as we, as the audience, and the character in the video, are dominated by this environment. This sense of alienation could create a dystopia feel to the text - adding to the sense of realism and surrealism blended throughout the video - what is real and what isn't?
The first appearances of dystopia in film came from Fritz Lang's '
Metropolis
' (1927). In this, the city is used to represent the corrupt and selfish consumerist society that is still present today and that the character in the video experiences.
Fritz Lang's '
Metropolis
' (1927)
The use of the big, overwhelming city is also present in other media texts such as Carol Reed's '
The Third Man
'. Here, Vienna is shown as a labyrinth which also creates a sense of alienation, like '
Afrika Shox
' as the character in focus is unfamiliar and uncomfortable in this environment.
Similarly, '
The Matrix
' explores the use of the city as an alien environment. Also like '
Afrika Shox
', the science-fiction genre of this film also plays on the combination and ambiguity between realism and surrealism.
The use of these inter-textual references is concurrent with Goodwin's theory of music videos that states that there are always inter-textual references, whether they be references to other music videos or other media texts.
Carol Reed's '
The Third Man
' (1949)
'
The Matrix
' (1999)
One of Goodwin's points within his theory of music videos is that they will always reflect certain aspects of their genre.
Afrika Shox conforms to this theory in many different ways throughout the video. For example, the electronica/hip-hop genre that Afrika Shox fits into is often perceived as a very urban, underground style. In addition to the use of the city as a surreal, dystopia setting; the city also emphasises the urban, modern nature of the track. The 'underground' concept is mirrored in the
break-dancing scene in the underground car park
not only literally but also as it amplifies the sense that this genre isn't mainstream.
The underground car park scene also could be insinuating ideas of colonisation and white commodification of black culture as there are white men dancing to hip-hop, a genre of music thats roots lie within black culture. The low angle shots of the dancer could also illustrate white Americans dominance over African American culture.
The setting of the video in New York is also poignant because that's where hip-hop originated from in the 1970's, especially in The Bronx.
Throughout the video, there are also references to popular culture such as images of neon restaurant signs which reinforce the modernity of the music. However, this could contradict the 'underground'/non-mainstream concept as it incorporates mainstream culture within the video too.
However, the use of this Capitalist imagery reinforces the juxtaposition of the New York society, and the main character within the video as their lives are obviously very different.
The incorporation of Afrika Bambaataa is also significant in regards to this as he is often viewed as one of the pioneers of hip-hop: "known as 'The Godfather' and 'Amen Ra' of hip-hop culture" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrika_Bambaataa).
Not only does Afrika Bambaataa have ties to hip-hop but also to defining electro music. By Cunningham featuring Bambaataa in the music video, he could be attempting to illustrate Leftfield's roots and influences.
There are many interpretations of who or what the main character in the music video is portraying. One interpretation is that the black protagonist represents slavery.
By placing a possible representative of slavery within New York it not only highlights the massive lifestyle gap between the main character and the typical inhabitant of New York but it also draws attention to a society that benefited from slavery. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863 which technically freed all slaves in America, there were and still are many social constraints regarding attitudes that could prevent African Americans from feeling truly 'free'. Setting the video in a modern society emphasises the fact that this is a modern issue too that shouldn't be dismissed. Many film makers continue to explore slavery in their texts to keep the issue in society's eye, with recent films such as '
12 Years A Slave
' and '
Django Unchained
'.
The opening low-angle shot of the Twin Towers in New York immediately creates a sense of insignificance for the audience, as the towers dominate the view. Furthermore, it creates a sense of alienation as we, as the audience, and the character in the video, are dominated by this environment. This sense of alienation could create a dystopia feel to the text - adding to the sense of realism and surrealism blended throughout the video - what is real and what isn't?
The first appearances of dystopia in film came from Fritz Lang's '
Metropolis
' (1927). In this, the city is used to represent the corrupt and selfish consumerist society that is still present today and that the character in the video experiences.
This low angle shot of the protagonist peering into the light could symbolise the emancipation of the slaves, stepping into freedom. It strongly links to a poem by Edward Kamau Brathwaite called '
Limbo
'. The use of chiaroscuro lighting in this shot is an example of the binary opposition used throughout the video but also creates almost religious connotations regarding this bright, hopeful light. This directly links with the religious theme to Braithwaite's poem. The poem also highlights the importance of music in relation to this freedom.
Limbo

out of the dark
and the dumb god are raising me
up
up
up
and the music is saving me
Hot
slow
step
on the burning ground.
"burning ground" - links to the idea that the protagonist is in an alien environment that he perhaps doesn't belong in

Narrative Structure
Cunningham combines the use of a linear narrative with montage confuses the audience which mirrors how the protagonist is feeling, which perhaps places the audience with this character, urging us to empathise with his predicament. This also blurs the lines between the real and surreal which replicates the dystopic representation of New York.
In regards to Roland Barthes' narrative codes, Afrika Shox appears an open text because of the interpretations that I have explored here, and many more. The audience is allowed to decide for themselves what the music video represents which makes the video a more fluid tool in conveying a message as it is able to convey many.
Voyeurism
Another point to Goodwin's theory surrounding music videos is that there is frequent references to the notion of looking. In this shot of the middle-aged white man, we see him looking at the black protagonist physically disintegrating in front of him. His blank expression suggests his lack of interest in the man's situation - which could be a racial issue. However, he looks almost as if he's looking straight through him as if he isn't there: dehumanising him.
The composition of the shot is also interesting with the inclusion of the newspaper. Firstly, this could possible show that he is intellectual, something that the other character doesn't perhaps have. Furthermore, the newspaper seems a barrier between the two - this could be interpreted as a social barrier (wealth, status, race etc.) or as the society that the man pictured belongs to hiding from the issues within their society, as he hides behind the newspaper.
Because the audience are placed with the main character, this is where we empathise. As a result of this, we take a negative view of the man pictured, who is possibly a representative of the society that he lives in. This could be a presentation of the more modern and liberal rejection and criticism of the dominant Capitalist society which possibly highlights the audience of this music video, who share those views.
Within the music video,
the main character is wearing dog tags - a specific reference to war. This may be in relation to the Vietnam war in the mid-1900's where there was an especially large number of African-American fatalities - 28% of all casualties.
Within this, minority ethnic groups suffered far more heavily from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than white veterans due to more exposure to war stresses. One study suggests that in 1990, the rate of Vietnam veterans that had PTSD was 21% among African-Americans yet only 14% among whites (1). Another study goes even further to state that currently 1/3 of African-American Vietnam veterans are suffering from PTSD.
In relation to the music video, the main character's behaviour suggests some sort of mental distress, and the destruction of his body could be a reference to the destruction of war, especially to black soldiers.
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