I heart Jozi: House DJs miss the beauty of live music

2011-04-04 13:09

I’m convinced that local house music DJs and producers are lazy and settle for the easiest route to making people dance.

At the recent Cape Town International Jazz Festival there was a live house music band and a house vocalist in the line-up. I would imagine this made many a jazz purist cringe – that is, until they saw them on stage.

Live house band Tortured Soul’s performance was electrifying – true to form – while Monique Bingham, house vocalist, came fully kitted out with a nine-piece band. Both acts showed a level of musicianship, sheer talent and a performance worthy to be included in the bill for one of the biggest festivals in South Africa.

“You don’t have to think of us as a house band. Just think of us as people who make good funky music,” said a Tortured Soul band member at a press conference when asked how they felt about being included in a jazz festival line-up.

The live element in their music is where the magic lies. I stood in a sea of people in awe of the multitasking skill in Tortured Soul’s drummer and lead vocalist, amazed by how Monique Bingham’s presence and voice commanded the stage and I got to see how the music I jam to on my earphones each day is made.

It was real music and it was alive.

Sadly, I was quite disappointed by Liquideep’s performance. The seven-piece band got me excited but it turns out that it was more for show than anything else.

The most prominent sound came from the DJ and every now and again I’d hear a note from the keys. There were times when the vocalist could barely be heard over the DJ’s beats.

This weekend, I watched Vodacom’s Unlimited Festival from the comfort of my black couch. And again I was disappointed – not by the music, but by the entertainment value.

Seeing DJs spin vinyls and plenty crowd shots was really not at all that entertaining. Needless to say, I didn’t watch the whole show so maybe I missed a phenomenal musical performance – but I doubt it.

As one of the largest consumers of house music in the world, I would expect the local house music landscape to be more dynamic, for our producers to experiment and play around with sounds and for them to be able to translate the beats the DJs play into a musical score for actual drums, keys, horns, strings, the works.

I think it’s time we had a local house band. I’d love to see amazing vocalists backed by an entire orchestra playing house music. I want to experience real music being produced before my very eyes.

That moment is fleeting, yes, but it is as magical as it is ephemeral.

And that’s the beauty of live music.

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