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Culture, Music, Sport

Expensive Shit

by Dave Durbach / 30.03.2010

One can only imagine the brains trust at Control Room, FIFA’s official events coordinator, in their boardroom in Beverly Hills…
“Right, FIFA wants us to throw a big music concert to open the soccer World Cup. Who’s gonna be there?”
“Well, what music do people like down there?”
“Who cares? Let’s just take three of most bankable, ubiquitous stars in the world: the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, and Beyonce.”
“No, no, Beyonce’s busy.”
“OK then we’ll take Alicia Keys. She can’t dance but at least she’s kind of black.”
“Nice work. That’s the headline acts out of the way.”
“Book them, and they will come.”
“Jesus, don’t you ever get tired of saying that?”
“Nope…”
“This is the World Cup though. What other languages are there?”
“Umm… Spanish?”
“Perfect! Why don’t we get that Colombian skank Shakira in the mix, she’ll do anything for a quick buck.”
“And what about the ladies?”
“She’ll do ladies too.”
“No, I mean for the ladies.”
“Oh… Why don’t we get someone who no one in South Africa has ever heard of, singing in a language that no one there understands?”
“It’s so crazy, it just might work… Does that mean we can charge prices that no locals can afford!”
“Doesn’t it always?”
“Now we’re on the right track!”
“So, who we gonna get?”
“How should I know? Ask the cleaning lady.”
“Que? Me gusta Juanes!”
“Juanes it is then!”
“But Africa’s a big country… They must have a few of their own musicians.”
“I’m not sure, but I think I saw some in Europe…”
“Everyone loves Amadou and Mariam. They’re married, blind and very cute.”
“Are they from South Africa?”
“They’re from Mali, it’s right next door”
“And there’s that Touareg band. I can’t pronounce their name so I’ll just write it on this napkin….”
“I used to drive a Touareg!”
“Sweet! So that’s two… Who else is from Africa?”
“What about that woman who mimed so well at the opening draw?”
“Johnny Clegg?”
“No, the other one.”
“Sure, we’ll get her!”
“And that other guy from Mali with the famous father?”
“Why the hell not?”
“Thing is though, I’m not really sure if any of these people are from anywhere near Johannesburg…”
“Why don’t we just ask some real South Africans what music they like?”
“Why bother? That’s what Google is for!”
“…OK, it says here there’s a band that sold out at the Coca Cola Dome and endorses KFC. I love Coke and KFC!”
“Hmm… the Parlotones. Look at this video of theirs on Youtube – aren’t they incredibly shit?”
“I know, right!? But they’ll make everybody else look good!”
“Good thinking!”
“What about that guy from the Dave Matthews Band?”
“Dave Matthews? He’s a bit out of our price range.”
“No, that Vusi guy with the high voice.”
“Whoa, careful now – I heard he’s actually pretty good..”
“It’s OK, we’ll put him alongside that band from Secretly Canadian.”
“The BLK JKS? But how will their music sound in a half-empty stadium?”
“Terrible!”
“It’s a deal! Let’s eat!”

And that was that. A few phonecalls, some greasy handshakes and cash advances later, and the line-up for the FIFA World Cup™ Kick-Off™ Celebration™ Concert™ was done and dusted. Roll the presses.

Meanwhile, in a country far, far away, people have been left scratching their heads in confusion, convinced that they were the ones who were supposed to be hosting the thing.

Fair enough, this is meant to be an African World Cup, not only a South African one, but wouldn’t it have been a good idea to get artists from the countries who are actually competing in the tournament – legends like Manu Dibango (Cameroon), Femi Kuti (Nigeria) and Alpha Blondy (Ivory Coast), for example?

And when it comes to the SA acts, surely the powers that be could’ve done better than camp Brit-pop posers and shoegazing, wall-of-sound experimentalists?

If Germany could showcase scheisse like Upper Bavarian drummers and tenor Herbert Grönemeyer in 2006, then surely our humble nation, with one of the richest musical cultures of any country in the world, should be allowed to do something similar?

After ongoing stories of FIFA strong-arm tactics, internet-only ticket sales (in a country where only a few have internet access or credit cards), Chinese made Zakumis (when the textile industry is being mothballed), gags on critical reportage, no accreditation for Mahala journalists and many others, stab-proof fan vests and sky-rocketing domestic travel costs; South Africans are starting to wonder if the Cup is really all that it’s cut out to be. On Sunday The Observer in the UK called this debacle, “the latest blow to South African pride”. One thing’s for sure, the honeymoon is over – the business end of the WC is in full swing.

This time around, it’s local musos who’ve been left smarting. Guitarist Condry Ziqubu, formerly of bands like the Flaming Souls and Harari, and a big-selling solo star since the late 80s, was bleak. “Here is the World Cup coming to Africa. This is our chance to showcase South African music, because this thing is going to be shown all over the world. The world should see us. We thought this was going to be an opportunity; unfortunately we were taken by surprise. I’m not saying that no musician should be invited, but the majority should be South African. You cannot have only three (local) artists. 80% should be South African musicians.”

Actor Mabutho “Kid” Sithole, a spokesman for the Creative Workers’ Union rightfully asked in the Observer piece: “If we cannot use our World Cup as a showcase for our artists, what can we use? “

The union is planning a march on the offices of the Local Organising Committee at Soccer City on April 15th. Who knows what good this will do, however, as the LOC once again finds itself between a rock and a hard place, effectively powerless but to enforce FIFA’s holy mandate.

Ziqubu says he will support the march. “Obviously, I must be there. Every musician should really support it. We are being undermined. I don’t remember musicians leaving South Africa to go and play in Germany. For me, it’s not on. I think this march is going to be huge.”

At the Music Exchange conference in Cape Town last week, the idea of a “rebel” gig was mooted by industry heavyweights like Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and others. One reportedly suggested calling it the “Fuck FIFA” concert. Mabuse told the Mail & Guardian that a rival concert would be about creating “opportunities for South Africans. Why should South African musicians be denied the opportunity to be exposed to the rest of the world, when those that already have been privileged enough to have opportunities get to come here and make money and then go?” he asked. “Are we going to be silent about this? Hell no!” In response to the exorbitant prices for the official gig, which range from R450 to over a thousand bucks, Mabuse said local musicians “must do concerts for free. We must go out and find our own venues on that day and perform.”

The South African Department of Arts and Culture recently issued a statement that it “supports the outcry from artists about the dearth of South African artists at the 10 June concert’”, adding that the line-up was “not fair’”.

Money talks and bullshit walks, straight onto a stage at Orlando Stadium. No wonder so many South Africans have got such a complex about playing indigenous music and feel the need to look abroad for inspiration and/or validation.

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