Don't guilt me into liking it

2010-05-03 00:00

YOU can’t make someone like you, especially if you are getting paid. This is just what South African artists, who have cried foul over the decision by World Cup concert organisers to include three South African musicians in their line-up, are doing.

And just when I thought that it couldn’t get more ridiculous, the government has given its support to the disgruntled musicians, who have the poet Mzwakhe Mbuli at the helm.

The Department of Arts and Culture saw nothing wrong in dragging music into the political arena and it 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 black economic empowerment (BEE) requirements, but that 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 that there are people who doubt the professional capabilities of others in 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 some time in history, by tacit agreement, that when a country sends artists of any genre to represent it on an international stage, it makes sure that no matter how popular that artist is with the masses ,“bad music” never gets to represent it.

By bad music I mean songs that fizzle out and die within months. These are songs that will never become anyone’s favourite. These songs usually feature on CDs whose production has taken only a matter of weeks, from conceptualising to the 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: “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 choice of 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 many more who are content with guilting 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 World Cup concert stage with some of the most respected artists in the world, because they have created good music that has crossed divisions because they are 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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