Johannesburg versus Cape Town. New York versus Los Angeles. Sao Paulo versus Rio de Janeiro. Tokyo versus Osaka. Cities often come in pairs, and more often than not they are connected by air. But there is also often a rivalry between them, which may often manifest in a musical way.
This is particularly acute between New York and Los Angeles, the two largest cities in the United States. Although Tupac and Biggie Smalls both originated on the East Coast, Tupac eventually became strongly associated with the West Coast, and thus ensued a rivalry between the two, with mud-slanging matches about who made better music.
The rivalry between the City of Gold and the Mother City is also quite evident, even though it may not be as obvious musically. By 1896, Johannesburg, then barely 10 years old, had already outgrown Cape Town as the largest city in the country. I once saw it defined as follows: the city fathers of Cape Town, no doubt stung by the prodigious growth of Johannesburg, labelled it a university of crime, with its penchant for brothels, bars and brawls. It must have been hard knowing that a city established in 1652 was going to be taking its cues from one established in 1886. And even though today Cape Town is a much preferred destination for lifestyle, there is no denying Jozi’s economic prowess.
Musically, the differences between the two are possibly less pronounced than between NY and LA. There is no Alicia Keys and Jay-Z singing about the Empire State of mind (or the Mamas & the Papas singing about California dreaming), but particularly in House music, the styles are quite different: Jozi focuses on deep and commercial sounds, while the Mother City has more of an electro vibe. Jozi is more embracing of its Afro-centrism, being closer to the African heartland, while Cape Town, located on a major global sea route, harks back to Europe – and this has no doubt influenced the music.