Lebogang Rasethaba and Spoek Mathambo’s documentary, Future Sound of Mzansi, provides a vivid and personal look into the world of South African electronic dance music. Numerous artist interviews reveal different regional experiences of the music scene, while recorded performances are thoughtfully woven throughout with an aesthetic reminiscent of a music video. Despite any geographic or individual differences in South African dance music, at the heart of this account is the reminder of music’s sense of community.
Director Lebogang Rasethaba shares his experience with the documentary and working with artist Spoek Mathambo.
How did you initially get involved with this documentary? Did you have any relation or involvement with African electronic/house music?
While I was living overseas, Spoek called me up and asked if I wanted to collaborate on this idea he had been working on for some time. We had worked together on a bunch of stuff over a period of 10 years: music videos, co-authoring a book, and a documentary about his collaboration with Sauti Sol, etc. So the project was a natural extension of years of collaboration.
What type of audience did you hope to reach with this documentary? Was it intended for an international audience?
Anyone who has an interest in music and in South Africa really. Right now that seems to be a global audience.
Can you tell us a little about your experience working with Spoek Mathambo? What was it like working on a documentary with a music producer, especially one so invested in the film’s subject?
Spoek isn’t just a music producer; he is a complete artist, a supremely creative being. So when we were working on the film, he ceased to just be a music producer; he was a storyteller just like me. But his knowledge of the scene really helped shaped the film. I’m talking about the nuances; being intimate with your subject makes you care and that’s special.
Were there any specific aesthetic choices you made, knowing that this was a music documentary?
The point was always to shoot South Africa like we see it and experience it. We had both been living out of the country for some time before we made the film, so when we started shooting we were overwhelmed with the cinematic treasures that South Africa boasted. On another level, it was about capturing the vibrant, raw creative energy that permeates throughout the local musical landscape. So to describe it simply: unapologetically beautiful and vibrant.
There seems to be a running theme throughout the film about how music connects people and communities, but the featured artists also expressed mixed opinions about how an easy access to music on the internet affects a music scene. What is your opinion on this subject, given that film is also a widely streamed media?
We share the same opinions that the musicians express in the film. The more people have access to internet, the more music will proliferate. More music will be made; more be will consumed. Some of it will be terrible; some of it will be great. The point is that in some way the internet levels the playing field in terms of access and exposure. It’s a complex topic with lots of layers. For some people it has served them really well and for some people it has been negative. Therein lies the power of the film: it’s an insightful perspective into the diverse electronic music landscape in South Africa.
Are you working on any new projects right now?
A few documentaries. One is a follow up to The People Versus the Rainbow Nation. Me and Spoek are also back at it, making another music-themed documentary. In-between I make a few commercials, brand films and music videos.