Spoek Mathambo

Remember that name. Spoek is a musician and designer in South Africa.
His cover of Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” came into my world last night via the ever perverse homolandia (NSFW).

It’s a beautiful take on an old anthem; both are dismal yet somehow joy inducing. They both make use of minor chords to get their message across. Spoek changes the lyrics to “he’s lost control…” and I haven’t attempted to parse why.

On vimeo I found an interview with him and perhaps some clues lie there; I’ll leave that up to you to decide. The changes are atmospherically delightful. The sound of steel drums. The downward pitch-shifting of the vocals.

The video brings nods to initiation ceremonies. The chanter in his white suit. The white dust blown into the faces of the young petitioners. These children being ridden by loas, spirit horses.

Skygazer over at Metafilter has an interesting reading on it that dovetails nicely into my own. He sees the movements of the young bodies as tributes to the epilepsy of Ian Curtis, the author of the song and it’s first vocalist. Actually, the chances that the director was looking at making connections between the epileptic’s movements during a seizure and the actions of the ridden/possessed are probably close to 100%.

It’s been written that epilepsy was viewed as both the hand of the devil and the pose of the shaman. Both versions of the song function as trance music; if only Spoek’s cover were longer. If there’s anything I can summon quickly to resonate with the imagery of the video it’s the popular take on Voodoo in Louisiana’s New Orleans. Every image I can imagine of the male practitioners involves white suits and top hats. The voice being the central power of this religion, and perhaps of all human endeavor, it is only fitting that our protagonist carries a megaphone instead of a magic wand or a whiskey bottle.

a little more info from blackdownsoundboy; be sure to snatch the ok zharp mix at the end of the interview.

Review: Losing Control in Soweto | 2011 | Music, Video, Writing