Arcade Content’s Lebogang Rasethaba has found his rhythm with two brand films about South African dance culture.
Lebo directed an eight-minute documentary on the Johannesburg leg of Boiler Room and Ballantine’s Stay True tour, which has taken the brands from Chile to Mexico to South Africa so far, with Russia next up.
Intercut with dance footage from the event, Stay True: South Africa features interviews with the South African musicians who performed: Black Coffee, Black Motion, Shimza, Culoe de Song, DJ Vinny Da Vinci, and Okmalumkoolkat, who sums it up succinctly in his interview: “South Africa. It’s a dancing nation.”
As Boiler Room’s Jack Hart says, “Sometimes on the global Stay True Journeys we’re undertaking with Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky, local themes emerge gradually. Not so in South Africa. There, the theme came instantly. Right up front, everyone we spoke to in the SA music world mentioned one thing above all others as important to them: the power and centrality of dancing in their lives.”
“When I make a song, I picture how the people would dance to it,” says Black Coffee in the film. “In South Africa, there’s always a new kind of dance. There’s always a new way of dancing to music.”
“As something that is so central to our identity, dance is still a relatively novel topic here,” says Lebo. “Can you imagine such a big story has almost never been told like this? I got to interview people who have been interviewed a million times, but as we were talking it occurred to me that they had never had this conversation before, not like this.”
Stay True South Africa is beautifully shot by Lebo and DOP Motheo Moeng, who make the most of the distinctive combination of slow motion, smoke, incredible dancers and downtown Jozi at night. “The concept allowed me to tell a story that was so visually expressive I couldn’t believe some of the footage I was getting,” says Lebo.
The brand film has already been featured on international sites like i-D and High Snobiety, with over a quarter of a million views in its first week online.
“We’ve tried to capture just what a vital collective activity dance really is for South African music makers and their fans alike,” says Jack. “It’s a compelling vision of generations of tradition being retooled for the 20th century, and we couldn’t be prouder of it.”
Lebo also directed the first episode of +27: Social Innovators of South Africa, which recently premiered on Red Bull TV. His 22-minute documentary focused on Jarrel Mathebula, the co-founder of Indigenous Dance Academy in Tembisa. Together with his girlfriend, Neo, Jarrel has built an innovative business that gives township dancers the chance to earn money doing what they love.
“In South Africa, people still tend to think of branded content as cool short clips we watch at our desks during work hours, but Red Bull is being far more ambitious than that, building their own channel rather than just buying space on someone else’s,” says Lebo. “The length originally freaked me out a bit, but it was great to be challenged and broaden my idea of what branded content can be.”