Picnicking in Elysiumby Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi / 02.12.2013
Throw together a group comprising South African musicians, events organisers and record executives and the conversation they have will turn to the size of the South African music industry and how that pie is shared.
If you happen to be part of one such conversation, you may be excused for thinking that you have been given VIP access to a pity party. It is by no means without justification that those involved in SA music bemoan the size of our industry compared to the European, US and Asian markets. Combined, these three areas represent the Elysian fields for many hard working, talented South African musicians who find themselves finding little career progress locally.
There is enough at fault with the South African music industry to provide fuel for this topic of conversation for a handful of eternal afterlives. There are enough war stories about the woes and scars which the industry has inflicted to fill entire libraries. What there is not enough of though is purpose driven, sincere and creative discussion about how to go about fixing the problems or alternatively accelerating the process of implosion which could lead to a reconstruction.
One of the many problems our tormented music industry faces is how to get bums on seats at concerts. The Old Mutual Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert series is forging a possible solution to this challenge by taking the long term investment approach its patron is famous for.
The musical curatorship of the series is unabashedly middlebrow, the list of artists to be featured in this summer’s series reads like a middle aged long-term investment banker’s favourite iPod playlist. The 2013/2014 series will feature the likes of Mango Groove, Johnny Clegg, and at some point Arno Carstens. But the series’ contribution is instilling the culture of supporting South African music by putting bums of all sizes and ages on seats, or in this case picnic blankets.
The sometimes nostalgic performance by Prime Circle on the series’ opening weekend showed this perfectly. The concert could not have been better attended. The Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts are an attractive family excursion for parents and grandparents dragging children along by the hand and teenagers by the ears. For the youngest members of the audience, a memory is established of the occasion made out of going to see a concert. The youngest members of the audience are immediately familiarised with the idea of going to watch a musician on stage.
This is an area which needs more attention to be channelled towards it, especially in a music industry facing the challenges of audience apathy to the efforts of local musicians. The people who will be attending concerts and supporting South African musicians in the future are the children who were happy to throw a ball around, or the ones chasing each other between picnic blankets, or the teenagers embarrassed to be watching dad sing along too loud after a few beers. The Old Mutual Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts are not maverick, but they are investing in the South African music industry’s golden years to come.
* Images © Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi