SA needs to face the music

2010-12-17 08:31

In the past couple of weeks, there has been much discussion about singer, songwriter and producer RJ Benjamin’s decision to quit performing and to focus on producing full time for others.

On the online portal Moral Fibre, he states: “Right now, as the SA music industry stands, DJs are taking over to such a degree that the mind-set of the average person on the street is that live music is boring.”

He laments the lack of ­respect and acknowledgement for musicians who work to develop and perfect their craft.

I have had the opportunity to see RJ and his band live, and I am always in awe at people who have mastered their ­instruments and are able to create such beauty with sound.

For those who have followed this column over the past year, you will know that, as a consumer and lover of music, I do feel that not enough is being done to truly ­develop and celebrate creativity and innovation in music in this country and on the continent.

It is sad when someone in the industry, with so much to offer, ­reaches the point where they feel they cannot share their art with us any longer.

I know a lovely violinist who made the decision to study air-traffic control because she did not see a future in music.

I know a funky bass guitarist – one of my favourite instruments and sounds – who works for a ­digital company and only plays in her spare time.

I know a man who plays piano and trumpet, and taught music to high school ­children, who focuses more on brand activation and events than he does on music.

The artist as society’s martyr is a concept that needs to die a quick death.

The artist is not merely there to house the ­suffering of society and serve as the voice for the voiceless.

The musician, as a human being, seeks a life of comfort like us all. Only a few reach “superstar” heights, but it is the musicians ­behind them who ensure they can reach those ­spaces.

Watch RJ, Lira, Zubz, Tumi (from the Volume), Loyiso Bala and countless others perform with bands and experience how each person adds to the sound.

We do not create environments that are conducive to the pursuit of excellence in music.

We do not create the space for young artists whose immense talent is great ­fodder for innovation and ­creativity in sound and harmony.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how to fix it, but something needs to be done.

In RJ Benjamin’s words: “Let me use this as an appeal to the ­minister of arts and culture, and to the minister of education to ­begin addressing the issue of a country under threat of becoming ­culturally bankrupt.”

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