Directed by Jake Sumner, Magic Hats is a short film showing South African pantsula dancers, JR and Jabu, doing a synchronised, body-contorting routine in an ode to kwaito and panstula. Wearing the classic pantsula sporty (or bucket hat), JR and Jabu move their bodies in ways that seem impossible.
When pantsula was birthed in the townships of South Africa during the Apartheid era, it originally referred to a style of dress but it soon evolved into a form of cultural expression and later into a highly energetic dance form.
In the 1990s, a particular type of music to accompany the pantsula dance and lifestyle emerged – kwaito. The music blends the cultures and languages of South Africa. Kwaito music, like pantsula, is strong and sharp, projecting a cool and streetwise façade.
Artist such as Mandla “Spikiri” Mofokeng, a member of kwaito group Trompies and Mdu Masilela pioneered the modern pantsula dance era. Both Spikiri and Masilela were honoured with lifetime achievement awards at this year’s South African Music Awards for their contributions to local music and popular culture.
The dance genre was thrust into the spotlight when Beyoncé famously featured Mozambican pantsula-adopters Mario Buce and Xavier Campione in her “Run the World (Girls)” video. Most recently, DJ duo, Major League released a song called “Slyza tsotsi” featuring Cassper Nyovest , Riky Rick , Okmalumkoolkat and Carpo. The song is a throwback to the 90s, the height of the kwaito and pantsula era.
Jabu and JR are both Soweto natives who’ve been dancing since they were children and in this short, they exhibit their acrobatic interpretation of pantsula dancing. Magic Hats has been included in Dismaland, a temporary art theme park by Banksy.