Hlengiwe Mnguni

Don't guilt me into liking it

2010-04-29 09:46

Hlengiwe Mnguni

You can’t make someone like you, especially if you are getting paid afterwards. And that is just what any South African artist who has cried foul over the decision by organisers for the FIFA Soccer World Cup concert to include three South African musicians in their line up is doing.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get more ridiculous, the government gave its support to the disgruntled musicians, who had the repetitive poet Mzwakhe Mbuli at the helm.

The Department of Arts and Culture saw nothing wrong in dragging music into the political arena and was satisfied that at the end of talks with the music industry representatives and concert organisers it was agreed not only that the staging would have to meet BEE requirements but more artists would be included in the line-up “so that it should be more representative and reflect gender and demographic concerns”. Really.

Isn't it enough already that there are people who doubt other people’s professional capabilities in offices around the country because of affirmative action? To include music in some kind of transformation category is just overzealous and irresponsible.

The South African government seems oblivious to the fact that it was decided sometime in history, by tacit agreement, that when a country sends artists of any kind to represent it on an international stage, they make sure that no matter how popular with masses, “bad music” never gets to represent it.

By “bad music” I mean those songs that fizzle out and die within months. These are songs that will never become anyone’s favourite song. These songs usually come from those albums whose production takes only a matter of weeks from conceptualising to finished product. The music is usually produced by musicians with little or no training, formal or informal. But the hallmark of bad music is this; it rarely ever crosses over markets. It just stays in one corner, pleasing its original narrow market.

If there is one phrase that irritates me it is this one: Support South African music. It sounds like the right thing to do. Even more right than paying my TV licence. But I refuse. I don’t support South African music. I listen to good music. People should never have to make their choices on music, or any art for that matter, based on a guilty sense of patriotism or a sense of obligation, because the point of art is to take you away from all that.

South African artists need to deal with international competition. They cannot expect some kind of “art protectionism” where the public and concert organisers are forced to “support” their art. And while many understand this, there are a lot more who are content with quilting the public into appreciating their music.

Congratulations should have been extended to BLK JKS, The Parlotones and Vusi Mahlasela all of whom will share the stage with some of the most respected artists in the world, because they have created good music that has crossed divisions and is creative enough to appeal to international audiences for whom this event is meant.

South African artists should come to the realisation that music is not meant to be supported, it’s not a sport. Music is meant to entertain and if people don't like it, whoever they may be, they just don't.

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