If not for the age of social media, Afrikaans singer Kurt Darren may have just got away with this one. Unfortunately for him, he lives in the “viral age”. His shoddy performance of the National Anthem became a major talking point on Tuesday, and it was compounded by a car-crash interview.
Tongues have been wagging across the country after Darren forgot the words to the Sesotho and Xhosa parts of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. The debate has been raging, with the performer facing allegations of racism for his faux-pas. However, there’s a myriad of factors that have to be considered before that term can be bandied about…
Four questions raised by Kurt Darren’s performance:
Should Kurt Darren have been picked for the gig?
It’s the rugby Varsity Cup Final in Stellenbosch. On paper, Kurt Darren fits the bill perfectly. He is adept at live performances and this was not his first rodeo with Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. But, for one reason or another, the occasion got the better of him – and his attempts to save face only served to trivialise a matter many of us take very seriously.
Intention vs execution?
A section of society – as in, those with Twitter accounts – believe that the entire performance was disrespectful. Darren has defended himself by saying he also forgot parts of the Afrikaans stanza. But when your
The debate has shifted towards whether his forgetfulness is the product of something less innocent. Yes, the r-word has been used. But others believe that misremembering the lines to a song does not constitute a hate crime. If he’s facing “trial by social media”, then perhaps the crowd should too…
What’s more telling about the Kurt Darren situation is how he was basically singing on his own until Die Stem began — then suddenly the crowd joined in (loudly).
Were spectators quietly reflecting during Nkosi Sikelela/Morena Boloka?
— ✨ Hloni Mtimkulu ✨ (@HloniMtimkulu) April 15, 2019
What about ignoring Die Stem?
As mentioned above, the problem we’ve got here is with context: If Kurt Darren isn’t performing the African-language verses properly, it’s an action that can be perceived as willful ignorance. However, the shoe can also fit of the other foot – we’ve seen many South Africans ignore the “Die Stem” part of the National Anthem, too.
All the people attacking Kurt Darren over the national anthem while they sing "gebergegetesss en die crayons antwoord gee" when we get to Die Stem
Sithule nje…. pic.twitter.com/PqRPH2nao1
— Thato Immaculate Mokoena (@callherthato) April 16, 2019
Many South Africans will admit to sitting down or refusing to partake in this part of the song. But this is less about ignorance and more about subtext. The lyrics have been conflated with the rule of apartheid: The “language of the oppressor”, as it is known in some circles.
The truth is, our National Anthem tries to do the right thing as an all-inclusive representative of the rainbow nation. But it is also deeply problematic if someone of a certain race doesn’t perform a certain stanza. Ignoring – or “failing to remember” – the lines Darren did carries a lot more historical weight, unfortunately.
Is the backlash received by Kurt Darren fair?
Yes… and no. Kurt didn’t half make a rod for his own back on Tuesday morning when he initially refused to apologise and slammed the phone down mid-interview on Radio 702. His defiance certainly made it a lot harder for people to forgive and forget: Especially when he had been well and truly bollocked online:
Kurt Darren proudly & confidently belting out made-up lyrics to the national anthem in a packed stadium is the best example of the kind of peak mediocrity nurtured by a corrupt racist state (& its continued legacy) ✌🏾️
— Ottilia Anna MaSibanda (@MaS1banda) April 16, 2019
Kurt Darren and every white South African who cannot sing our anthem correctly: You are embarrassing and the reason we can't have nice things. School yourself. It's 2019.
— Grethe Kemp (@the_rantingpony) April 16, 2019
There is, however – in there somewhere – an innocence to what he did. It’s not totally far-fetched to believe he did screw-up due to the size of the crowd being bigger than what he’s used to. That’s about as good of a defence as he can give and it’s hardly a ringing endorsement.
If they’d plucked someone out of the crowd to give the National Anthem