Thursday, October 9, 2008

Unappreciated talent

South Africa has a lot of talented artists. We didn't used to think we did. Pre-1994 when we suddenly got legitimacy in the eyes of the world, thanks to our newfound democracy and the amazing Nelson Mandela, most of us thought anything local was inferior. In fact many of us used to try to avoid anything local. It couldn't be cool if it was local, we thought. I put this largely down to the apartheid hangover and the fact that shame was so embedded in so many of our psyche's that we just didn't have any national pride.

Things have changed in the intervening years though. Now we are partly ashamed of our political environment (it's not the same without Madiba!) but we're far more proud of our local artists. In SA terms, local truly is becoming 'lekker'. ('Lekker' - if you're not South African, means 'really nice/ cool'!)

I haven't known a lot about the South African music world, apart from what I hear on the radio. But I have come to realise in the last few months that our artists are truly under-appreciated and taken for granted. Very few of them have made it internationally. And, it's not because of a lack of talent. International appeal, in the Western world at least, seems to boil down to who you know and what you look like. And whether you've appeared on a U.S talent show or not.

The South African broadcasting regulatory body used to specify that SA radio stations play a certain percentage of local music. 10 years ago, it was a tough ask. Nowadays it's not though. So why have our artists not been given any airplay overseas (UK and US). It's certainly not that we are lacking in talent.

I love a number of our talented artists (and former artists), such as Just Jinger, Jennifer Ferguson, Juluka, Louise Carver, Tree63, Miriam Makeba, Watershed and the Melanie Lowe. I can only claim to have met and got to know one of the above: Melanie Lowe, and she is as lovely and good at what she does as she appears.

Melanie is a very determined, very talented, very driven artist who has literally been pursuing this dream since she was a young girl (when her dad bought her a guitar). She has had to fight for every opportunity she has been given and has earned her place on the SA music scene. Have a listen and see why I am a fan (this is one of her latest singles. Verrry nice!):

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