ALL THE WRONG PLACES: The Taxi Hit Squads of South Africa
Shopping carts packed to the brim with freshly skinned goat hooves ready for lunch? Yummy. The clash of golf-ball sized hailstones hitting our MINI Coupé? Holy windshield! We were in Soweto, Johannesburg's biggest township, for ALL THE WRONG PLACES: TAXI HIT SQUAD to find out why the local taxi drivers are such pivotal players in the local Kwaito and house music scene.
When Kwaito music first hit the Johannesburg streets in the early 90s, it was the sound of post-apartheid — an uplifting celebration of boundaries breaking and a bright new chapter in South Africa’s long dark history. But the Kwaito artists couldn’t get airplay on the commercial radio stations, so they took their music to the people by using the hundreds of township taxis to promote their music. Taxis, or Kombis, are the main source of public transportation in South African townships, since many residents can’t afford to own cars. And between five and 10 million South Africans use taxis every day, so that’s a lot of captive ears — and one huge taxi hit squad out on the road.
Riding in a taxi here is a totally different experience — it’s more like a party than a chore. And the taxis here that are pimped-out with the best speakers and latest tunes are famous in their own right. People queue to ride and be seen in these top-ranked taxis. And the fresher the music a driver provides his passengers the more people want to ride in his taxi, and the more money he makes. So music here is both an important part of the local culture and the economy. These influential DJs on wheels who pump out the latest Kwaito and SA house tracks can make or break the careers of the local stars. Want to get ahead in music in Soweto? Get the drivers in your corner.
Kwaito was the music that defined this new generation, but in recent years house music has taken over again. And much like they did with Kwaito, taxi drivers throughout South Africa are now playing the sounds of SA house. We drove the MINI Coupé to meet one of the scene’s biggest artists, DJ QNess, and he summed it up for us, “ Even with the internet and radio these days…if a Soweto taxi driver is playing your song, then you know your song is big.”
Scroll through our ALL THE WRONG PLACES: TAXI HIT SQUAD gallery and get a rare inside glimpse into Soweto township life and the important role the taxi drivers play in shaping the musical backbone of this tumultuous country. Oh yeah and you might see a fresh goat hoof or two as well. Delicious.
Ride with us in the MINI Coupé to where few foreigners have been before and fill your ears with the sounds of the Johannesburg music scene. Check out the full ALL THE WRONG PLACES: TAXI HIT SQUAD episode right here.
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Episode 2: The Taxi Hit Squads of South Africa
Episode 3: The Scissor Dancers of Peru
Episode 4: Swedish Micronations Roadtrip
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