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Watch the immersive and multi-faceted new video for Umlilo’s ‘Umzabalazo’

A timely release by Umlilo, the new music video for ‘Umzabalazo’ comes shortly after headlines detailing student-led university shut downs taking place across the country .

A track off of Umlilo’s Aluta EP, ‘Umzabalazo’ is about struggle, revolution and historical protest. The music video, directed by Odendaal Esterhyse, produced by ALV Corp and conceptualised by the three, follows the lives of two characters, connected through online videos, images and hyperlinks. The one character, a seemingly affluent individual, watches the world from behind a screen, lazily engaging with topical issues and protests against colonialism and racism while simultaneously living a desired life via the same screen. The other character is Umlilo, the free and fluid being that moves about the city, drawing eyes and ears to sites of historical struggle.


At its core, the music video for ‘Umzabalazo’ deals with the many faces of colonialism, new-age slacktivism, and the modern day struggle. It’s a complex visual project driven home by a dreamy and forlorn piece of music.

Umzabalazo is not the first successful collaboration between Odendaal and Umlilo, the two having worked together on the music video for ‘Reciprocity’ last year. While in India towards the end of 2015, Odendaal mailed Umlilo for another possible collaboration which ended up being ‘Umzabalazo’. It was also around this time that the nation-wide #FeesMustFall protests were taking place.

“While I was away, I followed the #FeesMustFall movement quite closely. It added a lot to the concept of this video. I felt this weird tension because I wanted to be a part of it but I couldn’t. In retrospect, I don’t know if I would have been a part of it even if I was in SA…maybe that was just a fantasy. That’s where the idea of the two characters in Umzabalazo originated…the one is the reality, the other is a digital projection of the fantasy,” explains Odendaal.


As the narrative in the music video progresses, you begin to notice a voyeuristic undertone, first through the character, then through your own viewing of the video. Odendaal explains how encouraging viewer engagement is an important part of the video. ‘Umzabalazo’ is an interactive video, both in the way it was filmed – with Periscope being used to live stream the production and 360 images of Umlilo being posted to Facebook on the day – and in how it’s storyboarded.

“Conceptually we wanted the viewer to become Umlilo’s other character in the actual music video. So we wanted the viewers to watch the abstract, online character in the same way that the “normal” character experiences it in the film. We didn’t want to make the video interactive in a traditional sense when we started production. That’s why it’s taking us a bit longer to create that (part 2), which we will launch later.”

Watch the music video below or on Umlilo’s interactive website, which also launches today.

Follow Umlilo on Soundcloud and Facebook and keep an eye out for the second, interactive music video later this year. For a behind the scenes look at the video, read about our day with the artist.  


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