For those of you that did not know, Rolling Stone Magazine launched in South Africa a week ago. This is great news for South African music fans. There is no doubt in my mind that this most critically acclaimed music publication in the world. Yesterday, 5FM Radio DJ and Cassette frontman Jon Savage published an article on the Rolling Stone website. In this article he made some comments about SA Music. This sparked a lot of buzz on Twitter and got a lot of people debating SA Music in the article’s comment section and on Facebook. In the last bit of the of the article he made the following statement:
“Local is NOT! FUCKING! LEKKER! This whole campaign to say that SA music is the best is total and utter shit. I understand where the campaign came from – an attempt to make us proud of our local music. But in my opinion it has been BAD for the industry. Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, it made some sort of sense. But by 2011 our industry has come a long way, and we really do have loads of potentially international-breaking artists. It’s about time that everyone should be told that LOCAL IS NOT LEKKER. LEKKER IS LEKKER! Good music is good music.
Personally I find it offensive to have a separate chart for SA music, a separate section for local music in music stores. Why? Because it informs the consumer that we are NOT in the same category as Coldplay, Drake or Wolfmother. Some of our SA bands are either ready to compete (Zebra and Giraffe or HHP), or building up to compete (Shadow Club or AKA).
But lots of our SA bands are still kak (I think I’ll leave this bracket blank if that’s ok), stuck in the mindset of local is lekker, and trying very hard to sound like B and C-grade versions of established bands. I blame that campaign for this! So let’s act like we’ve grown up! Let’s break down the walls! Let’s revolt! Lets hoist our fists mightily in the air and announce together “LOCAL IS NOT LEKKER!””
I am not agreeing fully with this statement, but before I start ranting let me state my credentials as a huge supporter of South African music first. I attended my first Oppikoppi festival in 1998 and have to 12 other Oppikoppi festivals since then. I’ve been to 2 STRAB Festivals, 1 FORR Festival, 1 RAMFest in the Western Cape, 2 RAMFest JHB one day festivals, Where BLUES Meets ROCK and Mieliepop. I’ve also been to plenty of Vredefest and Park Acoustics gigs and I regularly attend gigs at Arcade Empire. Tings ‘n Times and other venues in Gauteng. I actively blog about upcoming events and write reviews of festivals that I’ve been to. Lately I’ve been getting into photography at gigs and festivals as well. In short: I live, breathe, eat and shit South African music, its one of my greatest passions.
First of all, I think it’s important to label SA artists that get exposure on radio and TV in the country as “South African” because a lot of times the general public are not aware that the artists they are seeing or hearing is from our country. Being an avid supported of SA Music I feel that the general public in this country are quite in the dark about the potential the music industry has in South Africa. And No! I don’t want every band with a slight ability to rock out to suddenly get airplay on radio or facetime on TV. There are some really crap artists and bands out there, but there are also some really good ones out there as well. In a sense I feel that a lot of the “good bands / artists” don’t get the exposure they deserve and that the network to promote bands as musical exports from SA is very limited (compared to systems in other countries). People like Dan Patlansky and Albert Frost don’t get enough exposure in the media, but they pull some of the largest crowds at the festivals and they’re critically acclaimed as 2 of the best guitarists in the country (if not the world). South Africa only has 1 rock radio station, Pretoria based Tuks FM. Main stream stations like 5FM, Highveld, Jacaranda, East Coast Radio and KFM simply don’t pay enough attention to upcoming artists in their broadcast regions. The record labels perception of what is “good” is also a little distorted in my opinion (but I also think it’s an international issue). There is also a lack of live music venues in some cities (especially Johannesburg).
The industry has come a long way, and it has grown a lot since the SA Music Revolution of the mid 1990s. Oppikoppi has sold out for 2 years in a row. Some might say that could be attributed to the presence of International acts, but I tend to disagree with that opinion. At Oppikoppi Sexy. Crooked. Teeth. in 2010 almost every second camp site was pumping the first Jack Parow album on their car radios and the general perception I got from people who attended this year’s festival was that “The Used sucked live”. There were even folks at RAMFest who claimed that Van Coke Kartel were much better live than Alkaline Trio. In other words, perceptions are changing about the SA Music scene in general if you ask me. If you don’t have separate charts and sections for SA Music local acts will simply not get the exposure they deserve and they will get lost in a sea of international CDs in stores. Doing that will remove any sense of pride that SA music fans have for their country’s music.
In conclusion, all the buzz going on in the industry just proves one thing: “LOCAL IS LEKKER!” Not experiencing an almost overwhelming sense of pride for your country’s music should be considered a crime, in my humble opinion.