There is a masterpiece of art drawn on a canvas made out of an understanding of patriotism, respect for history and the impact of culture. It is a magnum opus created through intense intellect and interpretative analysis. This masterpiece is “Remember the Future”, a conscious rap ensemble of Black Vulcanite. Black Vulcanite is the talented trio that is composed of Nikolai Tjongarero, Mark Mushiva and Allain Villet. These different characters complement each other by embracing their individual skills. Even when they diverge on certain issues one can see the deep respect and fraternal bond that exists between them. Not to take away anything from them individually, I see Mark as the mind, whom most of us would have to meet with a dictionary to be able to keep up a conversation. Allain appears to be the soul of the group, the character one instantly feels drawn to because of his genuine humanity. Niko is undoubtedly the voice of reason that often bubbles over with a heart full of laughter.
These three young Namibian men start off their newly-released EP with a speech of Eugene Terre’Blanche, the slain leader of the right-wing separatist and neo-fascist Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging of South Africa. This intro essentially directs you into knowing what to expect from their music. It is fearless and frank in addressing socio-political topics that may not be as popular as rapping about hoes and cars. Even Nikolai’s favorite song on the EP titled “Beware of cars” is contradictory as it is not about cars. The line “Ask Moses Garoeb what he thought before he died. Probably wasn’t concerned with trivial things like what he drives,” is an indicator of what not to expect from this work of art. Extreme lyrical skills by Mark, coupled with the fascinating flow of Allain who goes by the name of Ali That Dude together with Nikolai’s (known as Okin) self-entitled chaotic elegance, which is a form of spoken word poetry inspired by a diversity ranging from Tupac Shakur to William Shakespeare, makes these guys stand out from the rest of young aspiring rappers. Their track titles like Black Narcissism, Cosmic Symphony and Semper Fidelis are a giveaway that this is not your popular capitalistic cannibalism (a term I borrow from Mark) Hip Hop music but a higher level of thought that would be better described as a reflective and progressive movement. The movement starts right there on the cover of “Remember the Future.” It depicts among a collage of different images the Namibian colonial resistance fighter Hendrik Witbooi, a black man pouring water for his white master sitting in a bathtub and the popular words “Slegs Blankes. Europeans only” along the Windhoek Municipality of that time.
However, to not let their talent purely rest on intellectual ability. I point out that these guys are sincere foot soldiers whose aim is to reach the youth not necessarily through popularity but through conviction in the respective ideologies that guide them on their pursuit to happiness. You can believe their strong messaged expressions because through analysis and criticism of their worlds they generate faith that there is hope if the right instruments such as education are used in a beneficiary manner. They provoke you into thinking about sensitive issues like apartheid and black integrity. Some of the tracks will aggravate people which is the desired outcome as neither one of them can see themselves doing music purely for the sake of entertainment. Besides the black youth that are encouraged to engage in discovering their identity through re-educating themselves from colonial mindsets and reaching far back to their roots to re-identify themselves, the group would also like to see a thought response from ideological groups such as right wing white supremacists or Pan-Africans who have more or less already found their niche in their respective societies.
Mark states that “We sought to pronounce the dichotomy of racism and the antithesis which is a realization born out of self-love so that people could see the remedy”. This is the core of Black Vulcanite. This is something that they feel is still relevant today. Something that was never really addressed even after the end of apartheid in an independent Namibia. So among all this civilization of globalization that we enjoy, Black Vulcanite suggests that we look back at where we came from before we became intellectual “half-breeds” of our colonizing masters. Too many Africans do not have enough of their maternal culture to identify themselves with but also too little of their European masters heritage to acclaim themselves, the guys say. Hence, the group’s strong desire for us as Africans to define for ourselves what we take along or leave behind on our path to the reclamation of our beings. Always bearing in mind to put “black” in the forefront like the black in Black Vulcanite.
Nikolai has great admiration of Namibian political figures like Andimba ya Toivo and Theo-Ben Gurirab who have impressed him with their deep intelligence and their belief in democracy for all Namibian peoples even if they knew that they may have had to pay with their lives for it. Ali That Dude tries to be taught from the flaws of politics rather than aligning himself with the idea that a handful of people should be in charge of a million people. Mark sees himself in between the two as Ali represents the proletariat and Niko the traditional politics. So, although he perceives the Nkrumahs’, Lumumbas’ and Sankaras’ as great sons of the soil, he is also careful with the romanticism of personalities. According to him, people are put on pedestals and eventually become corruptible as that is the nature of mankind.
Essentially, the members of Black Vulcanite do not want to be viewed upon as traditional role models. Accolades of fame would be well received and welcomed, but it is not the determining factor of why they do what they do. I see the point of their music is to through sincere self-expression start a movement of thought that should eventually spill over into our realities. These are educators, griots, our young African men sharing their knowledge and experiences in order to show others, albeit without dictating, that there is another way, not just for music but also as a way of life. Allain described it best when he said that they are just normal people trying to what is right. And this is why there is that one line that stands out for me on their newly-released EP: “I hope they write that I was righteous.”
For people in Namibia, hard copies can be bought at Garlic&Flower. For listening in, the Black Vulcanite Soundcloud is available. Digital tunes should soon be available on iTunes. If you are on Twitter you can follow the guys as @Okin_17, @MarkMushiva, @AliThatDude or @BlackVulcanite.