On Sunday, September 20th, BMW premiered their latest ad for their brand new limited edition 330is. The ad pays homage to an iconic model in the South African market; the BMW 325is model, known as iGusheshe in the streets. Owed to the depth of our relationship with this 30+ year old veteran, leveraging this endeared legacy and aspirational position the brand holds in this community was always going to connect.
To fully resonate with this market, you need more than just the story, you also have to get the cultural nuances right; music is a central pillar of South African life and culture. Our music has won grammys, our dance moves have set global stages alight, and to truly connect with us, you must get the sonics right.
Three years ago, acclaimed South African rapper Kwesta dropped one of his biggest singles yet, Spirit, featuring American rapper Wale. To re-imagine South African hip-hop, producer Makwa cleverly used an interpolation to sample classic house hit These Tears by Spirit Chasers. Kwesta would’ve had to seek permission and pay a significant fee to clear the sample; the song therefore came at a cost, and it shows the lengths to which our artists are willing to go to move this culture forward.
By extension, the music video accompanying the song was just as big; Directed by Tebogo Malope, the music video had a distinct celebratory tone, proudly representing the hood in a way very few artists do. The Spirit video was even more special in that it brought a global star to the hood; a celebration of the life and culture of the forgotten.
“We spoke about what the song meant to him (Kwesta) and what the song represents and his response was very vast. I spoke to different people on what the song meant to them and I realised that it wasn’t one specific thought. What I came up with was something that covers so much about what it is like growing up in the hood with all sorts of dynamics, whether it is social or political and I did my best to incapsulate all those aspects and thoughts.” Malope told City Press at the time.
The brand leverages the same feel with a re-produced version of the sound; there may be slight distinctions in tempo, arrangement and keys, but to an uneducated ear, it evokes the same emotion Kwesta does with Spirit. Whether the brand is liable to pay Kwesta or the original copyright holders for this version is not yet clear but in the current climate of cultural appropriation, black lives matter and untransformed spaces, it would’ve served the brand well to use this direction as an opportunity to meaningfully collaborate with Kwesta as an artist whose sound and styling they’re tapping into.
Merely shouting out and leveraging black culture without actually investing in the community in tangible ways is not enough anymore. Budgetary constraints shouldn’t cut it either, to leverage and benefit from black culture, brands need to pay up.
This is another lost opportunity for a brand to meaningfully collaborate with culture; A beautiful story, with a bitter after taste.
*Image sourced from Mail & Guardian | Kwanele Sosibo.