In Southern Africa, and globally, musically niche events and sub-scenes are growing and becoming increasingly able to exist independently, while – with some exceptions – generalist (or ‘diverse’) events are suffering losses. In a similar way, but with the opposite effect, most pro-local-music blogs stick to their knitting, and still only cover Euro-centric or Amero-centric music and cultural happenings in the (predominantly) privileged spaces of our cities. Only one of these hyper-specialisations is likely to be good for the multifaceted future of music in a place like Southern Africa.
Aside from larger events designed for genre discovery and musical exploration, such as Cape Town Electronic Music Festival, people will tolerate only the music or experience they came for, without much variation, and these kinds of musically focused events are winning the hearts and wallets of audiences. iPotsoyi, We Love Summer, Head Honcho and Ikasi Experience, for example, are all large events with specific points of focus and have shown huge popularity. Zone 6, LoveAll, AndClub, Broaden a New Sound, WeHeartBeat, We House Sundays, The Bang Bar and so many more are all smaller events or club spaces with intentional focus on a relatively small subset of musical expression.
Even CTEMF, or Churn in Jozi, are boutique in that they focus on left-field-leaning diversity, which appeals to a specific audience type, to much success. Niche wins, and SA is full of extremely varied niches.
On the other hand, coverage has fallen behind that shift and at the same time perpetuated the worst of it, with very few platforms covering the myriad of emerging or growing subcultures in a way that doesn’t exotify the artists and their audiences – especially where those artists and audiences look or sound different to the writer’s immediate circle of friends (that’s a whole conversation for another day).
Frustratingly, the liberating variety of interesting and important events, albums, singles and videos available to music-lovers isn’t adequately (or individually) being decoded. This – importantly combined with HUGE inherited structural imbalances of privilege and access, in SA especially – has resulted in musical and spatial fractures along lines of identity, race, gender politics, class and sexuality – in varying intersections – within the overall music landscape, which is sad.
While it’s worth celebrating that musically contrasting artists and their respective audiences no longer need to share the same stages and spaces as often, it’s important that it all gets discussed in the same spaces so that us music-lovers are able to view them on an even footing and choose what we want more fluidly.
That’s not to say music media should be a free-for-all where anybody with the ability to make a noise vaguely resembling music is deserving of coverage; without regard for quality and intention of the music, but our conversations and coverage of music must ensure visibility of all nuanced forms of humanity, so that we don’t end up reinforcing societal fractures through sticking our head in the sand.
While this musical fracturing of the overall ‘scene’ seems like a reinforcement of societal fractures at surface level, it might be better viewed as an uncommon opportunity to celebrate the individualism of various modes and formats of music and offer a safe space for the fractured social fabric of the region to be better understood and dissected and for us all to open up and regroup around shared musical interests.
With that said, I am proud and fired up to announce the relaunch of Platform – a space to document and discuss Southern African music and subculture.
The initial mission is to disrupt the currently fractured, problematic and lacklustre coverage of regional music subcultures and then solve the problem by giving coverage more depth and social relevance and contribute to transforming our society and communities through the love and exploration of music.
Over the next few days, we’ll be getting into the swing of our daily content, such as New Music and News, and over the next few weeks, we’ll be relaunching some of the old favourite longer format content series and unveiling new ones.
I sincerely hope that you will join us on the journey of discovery and rediscovery of music in Southern Africa and beyond, and that you share in our passion for regionally-relevant, globally-important music.
Let us know in the comments below what you want to see covered on Platform and we’ll do our best to make it happen…