To do things properly – this is the impetus of Black Affluence, the bi-annual hip hop event in Maseru.
Turning two this past December, Black Affluence was birthed out of a financial and social frustration. When co-founding member Litlatse “Katz” Phooko found himself in his dorm room, having spent his last few coins, the thought of coming home for the holidays penniless, loomed. So he devised a plan. He sent his friend and co-founder, Phoka “Dot” Lithebe, a few designs he had been working on to see what they could do with them to make some pocket change.
The first event, The Urban Rebirth, was a marketing ploy for the T-shirts which came from Katz’s designs. Several people attended the event accidentally. Many, like myself, stumbled upon the event because they were looking for something to do; and in the true spirit of December shenanigans, chose to go to the one spot they were sure to meet like-minded festive people. We entered Times Café, not knowing we were attending a Black Affluence event – we did not even know Black Affluence existed. However the sight of familiar faces and T-shirts on display indicated that the alcohol was not the only thing brewing at Times.
They met their objective – of selling the T-shirts – and there was a sense of belonging to those who had made the purchase. The limited edition shirts gave a sense of exclusivity to those who owned one, and envy for those who did not. As people enquired where they could go and purchase the shirts, stories from the party became part of the direction. To not be left out the next time, accompanied by a better marketing push, their second event, The Winter Warm Up, was well attended – exceeding the expectations of the organizers.
The difference in attendance between their first and second event is worth grass root campaigning case studies. The Black Affluence boys* did not coerce people to like their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter – in fact a look at their social media numbers may induce scepticism, however, they punch well above their weight.
The event is a welcome change from the big open field events which dominate Maseru’s entertainment sphere. Because hosting events is not a very lucrative endeavour, most promoters vie to get the biggest bang for their buck. So they invite as many artists and DJs as they can afford, hire a large venue, and market to as many people as they can across the spectrum. Thus, you get events which “cater” to the whole family – unintentionally.
Black Affluence found a niche and unapologetically satisfies the needs of young adults who grew up on Hip-Hop and craved a gig to fill the void. In some ways Black Affluence became out of selfish desires. Black Affluence boys wanted to have all the night life privileges Maseru has to offer, but under their own terms. And they correctly thought that there are other people in the city who would enjoy it too.
The boys have not been without their share of difficulties though. Receiving financial support is an expected struggle which they have circumvented by staffing their own parties, right down to having their selection of in-house DJs. They partnered with a sponsor for an event, which did not prove to be as beneficial, but besides that instance, they ride solo.
The secluded nature of the event organizers has landed them in trouble from time to time. To some the group appear stand-offish and uncollaborative. The height of their tension with other groups in the country was when there was an alleged beef with some local rappers. The miscommunication came about when they had refused to allow the rappers to perform at their next gig. The tension grew when their squabble made it into a prominent local newspaper. When I asked them about this dispute, it became apparent that it stemmed from a slight arrogance on their part coupled with their desire to do things well. Arrogance was they did not feel that the artist were at the performance level they desired (which is not all together false). Moreover, they did not feel that they were at the point where they could stage suitably sounding live performances (which they are not opposed to doing in the future).
On the flip-side, their exclusivity also provides a sense of intimacy and familiarity to those who attend the event. Black Affluence events are an opportunity to reunite over a few drinks, great music, and unabashed dancing. Each event a shared experience, one that is not truly explainable to those who did not attend – I have twice been on the receiving end of the inexplicable reminisce felt by attendees, sometimes having to be satisfied with an extended “yo” as a descriptor . The Black Affluence gigs are well-rounded experiences from their social media pushes, the actual events, and the pictures and videos which follow; there is a sense of being not only as an attendee, but a part of Black Affluence.
Having celebrated their second anniversary, and four events later, I had to ask what “Black Affluence” means to them. The simple answer is, it can mean whatever you wish it too. The mission, however, is to raise standards – of events, how people view themselves, and are treated – and one way to do so is to provide quality entertainment. Personally, each member of Black Affluence is working towards achieving some milestone; and each use their respective skills to oil the machine. As they continue to take things to “The Next Level” with dreams of being the event in Lesotho which brings people from across the border, they continue to provide solid entertainment with the little that they have. That, is Black Affluence.
*Black Affluence members include: Katz, Dot, Bolae Machai, Neo Phasumane, Sekhoane Kolane, Seboka Phasumane, Hlompang Leduka, Bahlakoana Mosola, Lehlohonolo Khaebana, and Mpho Monoko.