Dashiki Dialogues: Marikana murders, and all that dodgy jazz

2013-08-19 10:00

Morose memories of last year’s murders of Marikana miners hung over the nation as we headed into the weekend. But in other quarters, much chatter was roused in anticipation of Joburg’s annual jazz jamboree.

The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz will convene blingmongers and “culturatees” over booze and banter this coming weekend.

Before I proceed, I must note that, as I wrote this, it surfaced that the Marikana commission was postponed yet again on account of continuing lack of funding for the legal team representing the injured and arrested miners.

It is fast starting to look like the commission is proving to be another ritualistic charade convened by the president to do nothing for the victims of his administration. But that’s another debate.

I believe, for various reasons, these two events speak with a similar tone about the state of the nation’s sense of itself and our social priorities.

They are both prescient displays of our propensity for pretentious pandering to trivial pomp and circumstance. Let’s start with the festival.

A one-day pass to attend the Joy of Jazz will cost you R750 to see performances on the Dinaledi, Mbira and Conga stages. A weekend pass for the same stages is billed at R950 per person. This excludes Bassline and the Market Theatre on both days.

If you find the package passes sold out and you buy the day passes separately, you’ll part with R1?500.

Comparatively, earlier this year, the Cape Town International jazz festival was selling day passes for R440 and weekend passes for R645. This gave people access to all four stages except the Rosies Stage, where jazz nerds were paying R30 per performance.

Now we must remember we’ve already contributed some tax rands through our national and provincial departments of arts and culture. Surely this is money that should open the doors of culture to all citizens?

Where does it all go? And costly tickets do not guarantee commensurately good performances either.

A people-centred spirit might inspire it, though. Just as it might rehabilitate Zuma’s “speak-left, walk-right” approach. These festivals shouldn’t be private celebrations of pseudobourgeois tender-money men and their pals.

They are a collective opportunity for us all to raise a torch in honour of our national cultural condition as a modern state with aspirations

to co-shape the destiny of global civilisation.

The festival ought to be where we contextualise ourselves culturally, with a specific focus on our grand jazz tradition.

This music comes out of a working class dialogue with meanings that impact on our sense of self-worth, unlike Zuma’s dashiki of dodgy commissions.

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