Describe the South African music scene 20 years ago?
In 1994, South African music was non-existent, it was a dying breed. We were just playing Chicco, Brenda Fassie, and deep jazz, beyond that, we had nothing else to play. Looking back, it’s amazing how far we have come.
South African music has achieved a lot, and has evolved immensely since the days of Brenda Fassie and Chicco. The late 90s saw the emergence of various artists such as Boom Shaka, Busi Mhlongo, Lebo Mathosa, Trompies, Arthur Mafokate, Mdu Masilela and Joe Nina among others.
At the turn of the century, Makifizolo, Malaika, and dance music emerged. Deep house was solidified and South Africa broke into the international scene.
At that time, Oskido, DJ Fresh, Greg Maloka and I started the Southern African Music Conference, which became a platform for skills development for young people. We groomed young talented and upcoming musicians, including the likes of Black Coffee who has put South African music on the global map.
Five years after Black Coffee was involved with us he became successful. This proved that the skills development programme was a success. In no time, South African deep house and dance music was in demand.
What has been the impact of technology on music over the last 20 years?
When we started in the 90s, we were walking around with vinyl records and cassettes. For a DJ that was a lot of work. It was just not physically possible to carry more than 20 records at a time Carrying all that around was heavy, at any given time you had over 20kgs of luggage to carry around to play at a gig.
Just to get the vinyl pressed to begin with was a mission, because we didn’t have a vinyl plant in South Africa and had to send it to Zimbabwe to get it pressed, and so it was really quite an expensive exercise. Making music was also expensive. To get into studio to record would cost at least R30 000. That’s the equivalent of a couple of hundred thousand rand today.
Technology has made making music a lot cheaper and easier. Today, all you need is a PC and software, and with about R10 000 you can start recording. With a memory stick that weighs less than 500g, you can play an entire gig.
Let’s talk about licensing of music?
Licensing of music has always been a great benefit for musicians in that they get paid for their work. In my opinion SAMRO has done a great job. However, from a venue licensing perspective, SAMRO needs to do a lot of work in educating venue owners and DJs on the need for licensing. It will add value to know why venue owners and DJs must get licensed, and show the value for such as service. I have definitely seen value from SAMRO in the work that the organisation has been doing since I joined in 1990. The organisation’s administration and business conduct is just excellent but we need more education on venue and DJ licensing.
What venues do you feel have stood the test of time in the last 20 years?
I think Club Gemini in Klipgat was the best club ever. It closed down a few years ago, but to date, I think it was the best. They gave the market what they wanted, and went beyond to set the trend in music. They helped launch a lot of artists by allowing DJs to be as creative as they wanted to be.
I also think House 22 and Jack Budha in Pretoria, Club Tilt in Durban and Shaguma which is one of the clubs that I own have stood the test of time. These are at least 10 years old.
What has made these clubs unique is their focus on specific music styles; people go to these places because they know they will get something good from the venues. It’s not about who is playing, it’s about what’s being played, and the fans know they will hear something new, within the same genre of deep house or dance but different.
What trends have you seen over the last 20 years, with particular focus on venues?
The best place to play is in the township. Over the past eight to 10 years, a lot of the clubs that started off in the suburbs have moved to the townships. The townships have become the entertainment hub and have the best venues.
The future of music 20 years from now?
Over the next five to six years we will get to a point where music is given away for free online. Musicians will make money out of performances, events or selling merchandise, and not the actual music sales, given that even the music that’s being sold is already being shared.
How would you describe SA music today?
South African music is flying the flag high, and we are making inroads in the international market.
What’s your current favourite beat and why?
Soul Search by Chimamusique (Collen Ntala Mmotla) from Polokwane. Give him five years he will be one of South Africa’s top producers. He is very talented.