‘The majority of our people don’t eat Western’

2010-09-06 13:32

A decline in South African music sales can be linked to “people’s interest in preserving their culture and identity”, says guitarist and composer Selaelo Selota.
Selota was part of a panel discussion at this year’s Moshito Music Conference and Exhibition, held in Johannesburg last week.

The panel was asked to reflect on the theme: Story Telling: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. It also included Ray Phiri and Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.

The question framing Selota’s argument was simple: Why should the majority of our people buy music that doesn’t carry their identity?, arguing that there is a disjuncture between our popular music and the majority of South Africans’ identity.

Our popular “culture has gone Western, but the majority of our people don’t eat Western. They are not urbanised,” Selota said.

He constructed three phases in the history of music buying in South Africa:
» The apartheid years, when people were creating and consuming music that unified them against oppression.

» The years that followed the 1994 moment which were defined by people searching for a new collective identity for themselves and looking for it in the music too.

» The post-millennium years. In the post 2000 era, Selota said, people developed a more exclusive sense of cultural identity.

“Now people started seeing themselves as uniquely Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans and so on,” Selota said.

Added to this, “radio programmers started playing to populist youth sounds”.

So, most local musicians go unnoticed by the majority because “the mainstream and mediums of propaganda are youth-dominated”.

Going forward, Selota said we “as a people” should take our identity seriously.

Selota endeared himself to audiences through his hit song, Trrrr Pha, which was released in 2003. Sung in Sepedi – his mother tongue – it became a required anthem of his stage appearances.

The sixth Moshito took place over three days at Museum Africa in the Newtown cultural precinct. The presentations offered this year included topics as varied as the impact of technology on the music business, copyright laws and the role of DJs in the music industry.

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