A laptop plays YouTube footage of riot police squabbling with student protesters in the opening shot of Umlilo's new music video. The hybrid music video/performance art film takes a creative look at the current academic landscape of South Africa in light of the ongoing #FeesMustFall protest movement. Student-led demonstrations erupted last year in response to a surge in university tuition costs. Thus, "Umzabalazo" follows the movement from the perspective of two characters—an affluent young man who participates with the protests via his laptop from the comfort of his suburban home, and his ‘alter ego,’ who takes the form of a eccentric diva prowling the streets of Johannesburg.
"Umzabalazo" is the fourth single off the South African recording artist’s sophomore album, Aluta. The video considers the notion of decolonization in modern day South Africa, and how the concept has changed in an increasingly digital age. The video explores the ideas of privilege and 'slacktivism,' a term coined to describe an action aimed at inciting political or social change that is regarded as requiring little time or effort, like signing a petition or posting something online. In regards to the video’s narrative, Umlilo says, “We wanted to create a unique South African story that reflects the existential crisis and bewilderment many people feel in this digital era.”
For the video, Umlilo gets back together with previous collaborators Alv Corp and Odendaal Esterhuyse, the multimedia artist who wrote, directed, and produced the singer’s "Reciprocity" music video last year. The actual shoot was recorded and livestreamed on Periscope as Umlilo performed at different historical sites around Johannesburg. A 360-degree image was taken at each location of the shoot as part of an interactive story map feature designed by Seven Spyre to accompany the music video. Check out "Umzabalazo" below: