Make life your art

2010-04-23 14:31

IT WAS a random Saturday morning. I trekked out to a part of Gauteng I had never been to – Reiger Park on the East Rand.

I was there to watch a small band play: four young men originally from the Eastern Cape who have come to the mad city to chase their dreams.

They don’t have much but they do have immense talent that they used to play for the church which, in turn, provides them with a place to stay and food on the table.

One of them has a couple of ­contacts – hustling, knocking on doors and getting them gigs wherever he can.

Recently I got an email from ­someone living in Lesotho (the place where I grew up) who is a producer and rapper.

The email had a link to an album this producer had put together with a couple of his friends.

He came across my site and asked if I could possibly feature his music on it.

I am no one when it comes to the music industry but, because there are no major or minor record labels in Lesotho, he is ­pursuing every ­avenue available to him to get his work out there and build a ­career.

In Ghana, artists do not have the liberty of being able to knock on the door of a major record label, drop off a demo and hope for the best, so they do everything themselves.

I sometimes think that because all the major music labels are firmly ­entrenched in the South African economy, our artists see the only route available to them as getting a record deal.

This becomes the overriding dream, the primary objective and if it does not happen, the dream is over. There seems to be this attitude that it is big or bust.

Either you are making lots of ­money and are famous or it isn’t worth it.

Yet, out of millions, ­only a few get a record deal and it still doesn’t ­guarantee wealth or success.

South Africa has greater ­resources and more access to the ­industry than the rest of the ­continent, yet there seems to be a lack of ability to truly take ­advantage.

­Empowerment is helping ­someone understand that they have the ­power to create their reality through their actions and choices.

Artists like DBanj, Samini and Nameless have built global careers from the ground up in the tradition of early hip-hop artists who started selling from the boots of their cars in their neighbourhoods.

With both the internet and ­industry ­access, there is ­opportunity for ­artists to create for themselves if they are willing to do the work.

Soweto is said to have a ­population of 1.3 million people. If one were to create something and sell it to 5% of Soweto and earn R5 off each sale, they could make R325?000.

This may be a simplistic view but it is an ­alternative. Creativity goes beyond being able to create artistic endeavours. It is imperative that artists today also learn how to apply their ­creativity to the business of being artists.

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