Monday, 22 October 2012

Review: Tailor- The Dark Horse

As the sweet, dainty Melanie Le Roux straps on her guitar and stands behind a towering microphone, she morphs into a fierce and commanding puppet master who skillfully clutches the strings of her voice to display an astounding control of it. She can manipulate it from a whisper to a howl, from a purr to a growl. It can be deep and coy, sly and syrupy, fragile and wild.
This is Le Roux’s stage presence, the enthralling antithesis that is Tailor.
The Pretoria-born, Cape Town-based singer-songwriter also uses her debut album, The Dark Horse, to channel a number of powerful female vocalists. On the bluesy/folk “Love Anthem” she displays the vocal intensity of Florence Welch. On “Where The Boys Are” it’s KT Tunstall’s bashful purr, while on the upbeat but sinister “Indian” it’s PJ Harvey’s powerful, ethereal cries. And then, with the experimental “Alive” it’s Alanis Morissette. Tailor’s dark, heavy tone allows her to change the texture of the notes from shadowy and thick to a more husky sound. Her voice twists in agony to deliver a theatrical masterpiece.

“My faith was your faith and you let me go / You ripped my heart and then you took out my soul,” declares Tailor in “My Faith”, a song with a slow, ominous quality that’s emphasised by the soothing drone of the cello. Tailor’s authoritative voice, coupled with a distressed wailing in the background, chillingly reminds you of damned souls floating around in a mythological underworld.
“Why Don’t You Love Me?” is an exquisitely layered country-esque number that starts off simply, with only Tailor’s stark vocals. Add a spot of acoustic guitar and a drizzle of rhythmic drums and the pace accelerates to express her frustration, while repetitively questioning, “Why don’t you love me?”
You get the sense that every time Tailor sings, she is overcome with the same emotions as when she first wrote the song. While the sincerity is appreciated, and adds a certain kind of depth to many of the songs on The Dark Horse, like the piano-driven “Shaped Like a Gun”, this overdose of emotion comes close to a cheesy Celine Dion-like ballad that will make couples’ lips lock and singletons whip out their lighters, swaying from side to side.
Despite this, it’s interesting that the album is entitled The Dark Horse, especially because it in no way conceals Tailor’s abilities and potential for success. In fact, it launches her straight into it.

  • This review was originally published in Perdeby on 22 October 2012. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Die Antwoord- Fatty Boom Boom (Official Video)

Ah, Die Antwoord. I really have no words. One thing's for sure, they really do know how to make incredible music videos. Also, how creepy is the black version of Yolandi Visser? Those big yellow eyes? My word.

Pencil vs Camera by Ben Heine

"Pencil Vs Camera" mixes drawing and photography, imagination and reality. It’s a new visual concept invented and initiated by Ben Heine in 2010. It's full of magic, illusion, poetry and surrealism. Ben published his first "Pencil Vs Camera" image in April 2010 but the series is the result of a long graphic exploration and a logic consequence of his personal artistic development. Ben usually integrates an inventive hand made drawing in front of a realistic background. There are several methods to achieve the same effect. Ben’s hand is always clearly visible; it represents the close connection between the viewer, the artist and the artwork. The drawing is either in black and white on white paper or in color on black paper, while the photo is often very colorful, this amplifies the contrast between the two mediums. 

Visit Ben Heines website here to see more from his "Pencil Vs Camera" series and some of his other art.  

Monday, 15 October 2012

Review: Zebra & Giraffe- The Wisest Ones

This review was first published in Perdeby on 15 October 2012. 

“Why don’t I know the answers? / Why don’t I know the truth? / Why do I feel like this is all I do?” asks an incensed Greg Carlin on “I’ll Blame You”, the first single off Zebra & Giraffe’s third album. He’s perplexed, resentful and slightly menacing, and he’s letting everyone know it with the beautifully crafted, if slightly disturbing, lyrics he pens on The Wisest Ones
On “All I Gave”, an eerie lament, Carlin slyly declares, “I wrote the book on how to give a fuck and fuck you too” while “Little Black Book” sees him calmly stating, “I’ve been waiting for your teeth/ To sink into my gut/ And make me bleed.” 
This is Carlin as we’ve never seen him before. On The Wisest Ones, he explores the dark side of love: when you love the wrong person or, even worse, when you love the right person imperfectly. 
And then there’s songs like “Sons”, which is like a letter to Carlin’s brother after their parents got divorced many years ago. “Look at our father/ He’s lying in the corner/ At home/ Please give him water/ And watch his as he drowns/ Alone,” he sings candidly. 
You get the sense that, with The Wisest Ones, Carlin is letting it all out. It’s the equivalent of him sitting on a bulky red couch in a shrink’s office, relaying his woes, and you can’t help but be grateful that he is brave enough to share it with you. 
But, this is not the only noticeable change on the SAMA-winning electronic indie rockers’ latest record. Without someone solely devoted to the keyboards this time round, Zebra & Giraffe have used The Wisest Ones to experiment with a rawer, dirtier guitar-driven sound. 
“Yesterday” starts off with a bristly riff and culminates in a mass of pent up guitar anger that the band has been hiding all this time; while a wailing guitar stands out on “Denied” and “You’re Nothing To Me”.  
The jagged synth/guitar-created opening of “Sick” sounds like a rabid disease spreading rapidly, with Carlin warning, “I’ll make you sick/ Try not be fooled/ I’m damaged goods/ I’ll eat the good inside you”. 
They’re good at this new sound. So good. A far cry from The Inside, and an even further one from their debut album, Collected Memories, Zebra & Giraffe have finally come into their own. While many fans won’t take to the band’s dark metamorphosis and might feel uncomfortable because of the stark lyrics, The Wisest Ones speaks of a willingness to try something new and refreshing, and Zebra & Giraffe should be applauded for doing just that. 

The Wisest Ones: Zebra & Giraffe's dark metamorphosis

This is an interview I did with Zebra & Giraffe a while back when they were touring in Pretoria on the back of their recently released third album, The Wisest Ones. Because we had a break in between then and now, it was only published in this week's issue of Perdeby.


With the release of their third album, The Wisest Ones, SAMA-winning electro indie rockers Zebra & Giraffe have undergone a complete metamorphosis. It started at the end of last year when drummer Darren Leader and bassist Andrew Maskell decided to leave the band. Mike Wright, who previously played the keyboards, happily picked up his abandoned drum sticks (he’s actually a drummer), and Stef Henrico later joined the line up on the bass.

But what about the keys that give Zebra & Giraffe their distinctive dance-pop sensibility? “It’s been quite hard with the keyboards. That’s been our biggest challenge,” admits front man Greg Carlin. “Obviously we can’t play everything because we’re down to a four-piece now, so it’s about trying to figure out the key parts that we need to play and what looks cool visually,” he says. He and Henrico now juggle playing their own instruments as well as the keyboard for live performances. 

This isn’t the first time Zebra & Giraffe have been left without a keyboardist, though. When Carlin recorded and released the band’s debut album, Collected Memories, they had to find someone to join them on tour. The band then went into studio to record their second album, The Inside, and the keyboardist left during the process. Wright hopped on board, which meant that they had to teach someone to play keys yet again. “I think we are all up to the limit,” says guitarist Alan Shenton, clearly frustrated. “I’ll do the album again, that’s no problem, but to do that again, to restructure live shows and think about the sounds again? It’s a serious process. Very time consuming as well,” he says. 

With the absence of someone permanently behind the keyboards, Zebra & Giraffe reveal a more guitar-driven sound on The Wisest Ones, even though this shift was unintentional. “We had it [the keyboards] in the studio the whole time. We said when we got to the end we would do some keys but then we filled it up so much with the guitars, that we thought it just didn’t need it. And we aren’t going to be able to play it live, so what’s the point of overlaying all this stuff if we aren’t going to be able to pull it off?” explains Shenton. 

But that’s not the only noticeable change on Zebra & Giraffe’s third offering. Their new bouquet  of songs seem more mature and have a darker, more menacing sound, courtesy of Carlin’s lyrics. He attributes this change to getting older and questioning whether or not he should still be in the music industry. He had a big party and got over his doubt, but says that the song-writing process is quite cathartic for him. “I think that’s why I do it. It’s how I deal with things, like a little therapy session. I get stuff out that you wouldn’t normally say in general conversation, and put it in a song,” he says. 

One thing that certainly has remained constant is Zebra & Giraffe’s ongoing relationship with producer Darryl Torr, choosing to work with him for the third time now. The band recorded their first two albums at the SABC, which made it a very rushed process as they had a limited time to get everything done. With The Wisest Ones, they opted for recording at Torr’s studio, Openroom Productions, in Greenside.  “I think he just works really well with us and we work really well with him. We understand him. You don’t have to worry about stepping on each other’s toes. He’s deadly honest with us and we’re completely honest with him and it just makes the process very smooth,” says Wright. “We also had a lot of fun in studio. We do a lot of work but a lot of it is picking on each other and banter and stuff like that, which we’ve always enjoyed with Darryl,” adds Shenton. Shenton explains that there is also a downside to continually working with the same producer. “We’re probably very comfortable with him, so maybe now or one day, it’s time to move on from that, not for any other reason than that the point of a producer is to make you feel uncomfortable sometimes and push you in directions you don’t want to go,” he says. 

With band members continually changing since their inception, and with their music being steered in a different direction, is Zebra & Giraffe older and wiser this time round?
“I think we definitely have learned to relax a bit more. We used to stress a lot about unnecessary stuff. Not it’s a lot more relaxed and the writing process, recording [and] playing live is a lot better,” says Carlin. Shenton says that they have also learned how things work in the music industry.  “It took a while to get that right, to figure out how the South African music industry works professionally, when you are doing it full time. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve learned from those mistakes. We’ve just learned to deal with those sorts of things and that has definitely matured us,” he says. 

With “I’ll Blame You”, the first single off The Wisest Ones, already enjoying extensive airplay by radio stations across the country and with an impressive music video for the song to boot, where to next for Zebra & Giraffe? “Our next plan is to go to Europe in February/ March. We have someone working on that at the moment. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing, to find someone to be the pull factor there. That’s very difficult. It’s a slow process but it’s also an inevitable process for us. We have to do it,” says Shenton. 

All photos were taken by Christelle Duvenage.  

New release: Matthew Mole- It's Simple, Child

Matthew Mole, winner of the Converse Get Out Of The Garage Competition, released a new song today called "It's Simple, Child."

Cover Girl

Solange Knowles on the cover of the November issue of Elle.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Content package #UPdigital

For those of you that read Are You Charlie? regularly, you are probably wondering what this post is doing in between photos of sweaty musicians, songs about catching lifts and videos of rock stars in  epic battles between their good and bad sides. This, my friends, is what I study. I have to gloat when I think that while some people crunch numbers and mull over legal cases, I get to make documentaries, read beautiful literature and poetry and publish my assignments on my blog. 

This assignment is for my digital journalism class. We had to take a current news event and put together a plan for a content package. The point isn't to actually put the package together, it's to come with the strategy to do so. This might interest some of you, and others not so much. Either way, if you have any suggestions of things to add, let me know. You can share the credit, I promise.


Current news event: Nkandlagate

Summary of the story 
It was reported last week that President Jacob Zuma's homestead in Nkandla was being upgraded at a cost of between R203 million and R238 million, with taxpayers having to foot a large portion of the bill. Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, whose department is responsible for the upgrade, defended it, arguing that the ministerial handbook on spending of public funds does not apply to the president. This week, The Mercury revealed that Nkandla has also benefited from a road construction worth R582 million, which taxpayers will also be paying for.

Content package strategy:

Publish the story on the publication's website
This would serve as the anchor text from which the rest of the strategy will unfold. The in-depth article, which is not limited by space, will include links to other articles or media on the subject. This is so that the reader can conveniently refer to additional information that is related to the news item, thereby generating more traffic onto the website. The article, however, should not be text-laden, as this puts readers off reading the entire piece. It should make use of lists, subheadings, graphics and videos in order to command the reader's attention. Readers have the option of forwarding the article to their friends, or to share a link to it on Twitter or Facebook.This, again, increases traffic to the site. They can also comment on a news story, which sparks debate and gets people talking about the news item. By doing this, readers become more interactive with the news, and are able to exercise control over what they consume. In this way, readers have gone from being passive receivers of news to active consumers, which makes it all the more important to build a reliable brand that they will come back to.


The Mercury broke the story of Nkandla also benefiting from road construction development at the taxpayer's cost [Source].

City Press breaking the news of the cost of President Jacob Zuma's homestead. Readers can tweet about the article, recommend it on Facebook, share it on their site, or email it.   [Source].

The Guardian's article on Angela Merkel's visit to Greece. It includes a video of the protests against her visit right at the beginning of the article [Source].

Comment and analysis
This is done by experts or thought leaders concerning the news item. Articles such as this will generate a lot of traffic for the website as the person's opinion is valued and respected. This helps strengthen the brand and will also increase traffic to the website. It provides an in-depth understanding of an issue, whereas a hard news article merely provides the facts. Articles such as this also spark debate, which is vital in building a relationship with readers. It can also include links to the anchor article and other media on the subject.


A column by Pierre de Vos on the issue in City Press. Next to it is a cartoon, which makes use of different types of graphics [Source].

One of many pieces that comment on Angela Merkel's visit to Greece on The Guardian's website [Source].

Times column by Justice Malala. There is the option for readers to view a small gallery of pictures [Source].

Links to articles on the subject should be tweeted from the publication's Twitter account. This should be done in a brief, yet enticing way so that readers will click on it. A hashtag should be created for the story. This could be, for example, #nkandlagate or #zumaville. This categorizes tweets, and so will make them easier to find and follow by people who are interested in the subject. Using a hashtag is also beneficial in that you can see what other publications, as well as other Twitter users, are tweeting about the story. Twitter users can also retweet the link to the story, thus increasing traffic to the website. It can also be used to build anticipation for a story that will be released the following day. Twitter is an extraordinary tool that can be used to build a social brand that is accessible and well-connected as it allows you to interact with consumers of news in real-time. They can comment right there and then, which sparks debate between different people from all over the world and can also be used as a way to test public opinion on the upgrade of Nkandla. Connecting with the audience on this level also makes you more aware of what people want and what they don't want in terms of news content, based on their reactions to the story and how many times the story gets retweeted.

Tweet illustrating the use of Twitter to build anticipation for a forthcoming story, and the response to it.
Tweet illustrating the use of a hashtag.
Tweet illustrating how Twitter can be used to interact with the audience.
Tweet illustrating the link to an article.

Facebook is another social media platform that can be used to illicit a large response from an audience. A link to the anchor article should be provided on the publication's Facebook page. Readers can comment on the link, or share it with their friends if they like. A group which discussed the issue of Nkandla's upgrade can be created so that people who feel strongly about the topic can engage with one another in discussion and debate. Facebook also provides the opportunity to upload photo albums which can provide more of a visual aspect, as well as more context for a story.


City Press's Facebook page, where links to articles are posted.
News24's Facebook page, illustrating how readers can share their opinions and interact with one another, also sometimes what they have to say can be a bit worrying.


A number of multimedia strategies can be put in place. The use of multimedia is vital as it provides the audience with a multi-sensorial experience of the news. It is user-friendly and can also be interactive should the audience choose to comment on it. People are more likely to engage in multimedia than text-laden articles as it provides a different, more interesting way of understanding information. It also a better way of the audience to retaining whatever information is being conveyed and, most of all, it is enjoyable. Multimedia has broken the barriers of storytelling as it broadens the scope of what can be available in print.

Excellent example of a story that uses different forms of multimedia by the Globe and Mail.

This section will be broken down into a number of smaller ones.
  • Videos
Because Nkandlagate isn't a story where action is unfolding in real-time, videos cannot be used in the traditional sense of showing the audience what is happening on the ground. Videos can be used, however, to create a way of telling the story in the form of a short TV bulletin. A video could also be used to document vox pops.
Mail & Guardian have a TV bulletin-like analysis of current events [Source].

  •  Interactive diagrams
Interactive diagrams are an excellent way of trying to make sense of a story that has many layers to it. They  have that visual aspect to them that attracts the audience but also make use of text in order to provide context.



  •  Cartoons
Cartoons are a tongue-in-cheek look at current events. They are able to capture what is happening in the news with just a few words. Depending on the nature of the cartoon, it might be difficult to establish context if you are not aware of the full story. For this reason, it is essential to embed the cartoon between text, or make it part of a content package so that that context can be established. The presence of something visual immediately attract the reader's attention in amongst a lot of text. Cartoons are often controversial, which allows for discussion and debate on the topic. Cartoonists such as Zapiro have great following, automatically directing a large audience to a website.
Cartoon by Peter Brooks of The Times [Source].

Cartoon by Zapiro in The Times [Source].
  • Soundcloud
Souncloud is a social audio-sharing service that allows for radio-style journalism and commentary with a twist. It allows print publications to make use of traditional radio content and can be used to increase traffic to a website as it grabs the listener's attention.  In the case of Nkandlagate, it can be used to broadcast interviews with key figures involved in the story, like Minister of Public Works Thulas Nxesi. It can also be used to gather vox pops on the topic, which would be a way of including the audience in the storytelling process once again.
Columbia University's Chief Digital Officer, Sree Sreenivasan, uses Soundcloud to publish interviews. 

  • Instagram 
Instagram is tricky as it doesn't encode URLs dropped in common threads. The photo-sharing service, however, can be used to build a publication's brand and engage with the audience on yet another platform. This can be done by Instagramming screen shots that pose questions that users can answer, or to promote an event. It is yet another tool to communicate with your audience.

Source: whatmyboyfriendwore

Google + Hangout is a group video chat feature. It can be used in the case of Nkandlagate to create a forum of discussion which would include reporters, experts and the audience engaging in discussion about the story. It is an innovative way of combining the benefits of broadcast with the social web and, most importantly, it allows for viewer participation.

Example: editor Adam Vaughan hosted a Google Hangout with followers of the Guardian on Google+ to discuss fracking in the UK and its impact on the environment.

Storify allows journalists to curate content from various social media platforms in a clear, logical way, while connecting it all with reporting in between that provides context and perspective. It also allows for the audience to get involved in the storytelling process and is especially unique as it allows for an abundance of opinion. The service also lets people know when their tweets are being used. This helps people feel rewarded for contributing to the news, and it also helps spread the story. With the Nkandlagate story, Storify can be used to ask the audience questions about the story and then to capture the best reactions. Another way that Storify could be used, would be to capture a debate between two prominent individuals on the topic. 


Live Blogging
Ideally, live blogging would be used to chronicle live events for a specific period, providing the audience with real-time content. Information can be shared and distributed through a variety of tools and resources like photo sharing, social media, video blogs etc. In the case of Nkandlagate, where live events are not occuring, live blogging can be used to discuss the story and still make use of all the above-mentioned tools in order to share information. This allows for the ever-important audience participation once again. 


  • The Guardian's  live blog documenting the US vice-presidential debate:   

That's all, folks. If, by some slight chance, you made your way to the end of this (and your name is not Chris Roper) and you have anything you would like to add, let me know. 
Otherwise, happy weekend!