Radio Will Kill The Internet Star

By pravda23

Just another of many local bands who play for free.



South African music is shit for a reason. I'm the editor of a music blog (about 1000 hits a day, whoohoo). We've been around for a few months. I love heading to live shows, getting press accredited and meeting the handful of others in this country who do what I do. But today I feel like packing it all in.

Why? Because I realise how insignificant writing on the Internet is, and how little impact my daily, weekly, monthly efforts at creating a live entertainment scene must seem. I realise how ridiculous these words must seem, stuck away in a corner of the world so small that I judge my efforts by an 'Entertainment' subcategory called 'By Posts' on Amatomu.co.za, the supposed weblog index of South Africa. It's not really that we're below a multitude of other sites with less interesting content that gets me. It's that relying on other sites to index me begins to act as a value barometer, and I'm losing faith in posting videos with crap audio that nobody watches.

I have seen it, felt it and believe in it. I think that we're all so terrified of leaving our houses that we're missing out on arts and culture. Not just the stuff that I'm into, but the late-night shebeens, the jazz spots nobody outside of Mitchell's Plain has heard about, and the Afrikaans morning market music shows that happen far awaw from here.

This place is awash with culture! And talent! How far do you have to look to notice something new about South Africa and your region every day? I learned the other day that there's a mosque on Signal Hill in Cape Town. I've seen the diversity, I've seen the talent go unrepresented. I have seen good people who deserve to earn a lot more than they do put their hearts and souls into performance and upward mobility, and they've had no help. So what do I do? I sit here every day and post their Facebook messages. I call them back from my own phone when they send please call me's and invite them to our meetings.

I'm a very talented musician. The kinda guy who creates magic instead of just performing a bunch of songs. Yeah. That's me. And even with a completely unique approach towards performance and production of music, I still refuse to try and make a career out of it in this country. What can we do? I'm tired of asking that. I don't know. Keep going? Have another coffee? Every time I read a blog post or article about Ramfest or Oppikoppi, one side of me celebrates that there is the post-event coverage and thus the demand for it. The other side just bawls at how insignificant our music culture has become, and I guess has always been. But it's not that. It's that I feel disconnected from it. Familiarity has retarded me.

We're consumers of music, no longer listeners. We share MP3s, and that's fine, but we've stopped listening. The average MP3 collection has been dumbed down into such broad categories - rock, hip hop, jazz, etc - that now we just sedately nod and tell our friends, 'I like indie rock.' And this is the goddam reason that South African musicians are copying everyone else instead of cultivating new ideas -- new musical ideas, yes, but also new ways of releasing music, new, inspiring ways of engaging with the people. Ideas specific to this place and time.

Go! Write songs about how much you love or hate tourists. Eye contact! It's live, and you're alive now, listening to it, not processing it through your memories of the over-compressed MP3 you liberated from your buddy. There is no substitute for a live performance. The techno-art of sound engineering is defined as an attempt to reproduce the live sound. Most concerts I go to are like a fucking m3u Windows Media playlist.

I dunno about black people, coloured people and whatever goes on past Athlone, but I'm fucking over my scene. I can't go watch more music without being inspired. I saw a group last night in a small venue in the suburbs playing to 30 people like they were playing to 10,000. They just had this energy about them. It's not a dumb, get-pissed-and-play kinda thing. It's an honest, fun-loving sweat. I couldn't believe it. Lead the way, band.

Maybe I've just seen enough for a while. Maybe the soul has moved on to other places, other pursuits. Maybe I'm too old or experienced to enjoy the bullshit that comes with a night out. I. WANT. TO. SEE. PASSION.Man. Normally I go into intellectual mode when I write about music, but this is just an outburst. Why are we not sourcing and creating more outdoor venues in Cape Town? I suppose we're scared of being robbed. Where are the crazy, free-spirited musicians amongst us? Where are the personalities of the sport? Working jobs so they can afford to practise. Last year I wasted hundreds of rand and time trying to organise weekly jam sessions in my circle. Yeah, everyone's got a different excuse. At one point, I had a myspace up, was telling all my mates, paying for the venue, buying fucking beers for chrissake, and still the ethos is apathetic and the passion dormant. Only because there appears to be no way forward right now.

Oh but there is. Leave the country. It really is the best idea for a musician in South Africa, and I endorse it thoroughly. Yeah, I know being a musician and performing is a job, no matter where you are. It can be a chore - I'm not trying to glamourise it here. I just think that bands are fighting way to goddam hard to get an inch of representation in this town, and I propose to either make all South African music really expensive (and therefore valuable, by some backward method of thought) or give up on it all together. There's a trickle of MP3 sale going on. We're disconnected from our government. The only MBE you'll get for songwriting in this place is a Mr MBEra, who wants half your royalties. It's fucking true. NORM and RISA and SAMRO and AIRCO are organisations with their hearts in the right place, but are actually doing precious little to enforce SA music radio quotas and distribute dues.

There is no demand because there is no exposure. But people are going offline. I think. I reckon there's only so much information you can reap about someone from the Internet, and even then it's still a quality of information that is often intimidatingly presented: paying online for an MP3 is a scary process, lemme tell you. Seeing the same band's colours and logos and pics repeat themselves over Myspace, Facebook, Reverbnation, LoadtheShow, Amie Street, iTunes, Beatport, etc, is scary. It's like the part in your shopping trip where you're judging the cheeses by price, not by quality. It's simple.

How impressed you are by a show is purely a matter of how often you've heard the music. Nobody at the back of MyCokeFest could actually see Matthew Bellamy's face. On the screen, yeah, but that's just another digital copy. It's not live music. So it's hearing the songs you've come to know over the years that impresses you, not the power and might of the songs or even the lighting rig. Without the familiarity, it may as well be an Andalucian village flamenco. You only get to know songs by hearing them, but nobody streams web radio while cooking dinner. NO. We listen to the radio. Or, more accurately, we don't listen to radio. I don't listen to radio.

Because there's no place for me in this country. No place for a guy who doesn't feel like he's African, but doesn't feel like he's fucking American, British or even some quasi-'global' world child. So now what do we do? I don't know. Yet. But sooner or later we're gonna have to start creating things on our own terms. Our own, outsourced-office-day-job, R100-a-week-is-too-much-for-live-music terms. We're gonna have to figure out a way to a: get our own, underground stuff played on the radio, b: get more gigs sponsored by top-end brands and drop the price altogether and c: create a demand for music with soul, not the sausage-factory shit-pop that gets forced on us. Did you know they have formulas for radio play? Stuff like the opening lyrics to a song must be in the first 30 seconds, the chorus in the first minute, the song no longer than 4.45, etc.

Would you even know the soul of music when you heard it? Do you listen or consume? Either one's fine, there's no right or wrong. But I guarantee you that in the back streets of this city's suburbs, there is a force of musicians and creatives struggling to find their outlet. And that's fine. If that's the way it is, so be it. It's just that I can't give up on this because a: I am a musician when I'm not bitching, and b: I sense that there's a hunger for it that is simply outweighed by apathy. If some madman were to go running down Long Street campaigning for change in South African radio, he'd be alone.

So turn on the radio and hear why the local scene is, for the most part, nothing worth writing home about. Or on your home page about. The shit that gets played. I'm not suggesting we reverse the cultural imperialism, thank you 'media degree' for that bullshit phrase. What I mean is thank God for American and European music, because the majority of it is well produced, marketed more strongly and through listening to it, you're silently making friends and building conversation fodder with people thousands of kilometres away (which is weird, when you think about it.) I'm just suggesting that in the shadow of the beast, those of us with something real and passionate to offer have SOME fucking outlet for our creative efforts! Where am I supposed to get exposure in this place? The Internet is cluttered, and you notice that so few people actually use it when you open your eyes. I hand out CDs of my music to everyone, not because I'm trying to get noticed, but because I need to get this shit off my chest! Man. I got played in a Israeli podcast a year ago, and it made me wanna keep making music forever. Just the idea that what I have is of creative value to someone is enough, and you can shove the royalties back up SABC's ass, or better yet, give them to me so I can afford to sit in this office chair and keep saying this kinda shit. I dunno about you, but I have a soul.
 

2 comments so far.

  1. Daniel April 03, 2008
    WOW nice rant...why does no one care.. could it be a lack of spiritual tension in a materially obsessed world

    corporate conservatism...when musical shows start getting named after jeans and soft drinks companies then the soul of the bands involved cheapens instantly-hey we all need the bucks but i think it fucks with the creative process and subconciously the musos have this in the back of their mind whilst they compose their next song.Then again i suppose the alternative is eating more baked beans -maybe a koo baked beans festival for starving muso's?

    too much confusion,not enough fusion ?- we live under genre apartheid - the internet makes us feel connected to faraway places but as you say ...this is a fantasy....the sound must reverberate to some degree with the earth we walk on -then mix it up with something from the other side of the world..i mean there is even an indie kwassa kwassa band from the u.s. who have most likely never been to afrika and are probably all white cats-i think in the next few years that american /european ears will start turning to places like ours for inspiration and what do we do...try and sound like them -as you say! at the end of the day we are at the turning point where for the first time in human history business has superceded drugs and /or altered states as the biggest driving force behind music.The shaman has finally been slain and we all feeling a little packaged and processed.will your leaving help you or the scene you leave behind....nooit man start that internet/radio show and give those songs a platform to fuse!
  2. Flores Online April 18, 2008
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