By Martin Myers
Watching the 57th Annual Grammy Awards a few Sunday nights ago and seeing artists pay tribute to the #blacklivesmatter movement that’s swept the US following the August 2014 shooting, by police, of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island last July, also at the hands of the police, got my mind racing.
The awards show had already taken a turn for the political after a presidential video highlighting domestic violence was shown to the audience. Presenting the award for Best Album, Prince said of albums “like books, and black lives, they still matter,” and this is the question we need to ask here at home.
Are bands in South Africa speaking up about issues at hand and highlighting the messaging in song? Are bands too afraid to speak out for fear of not getting work from the ruling party, or airplay from the SABC?
The song by Ray Phiri and Stimela, ‘Whispers In The Deep’, was an anthem in the late 1980s, but I haven’t seen anything of such lyrical power written since. Correct me if I am wrong.
Why is this? We have enough issues, that’s why. The Eskom power crisis, xenophobia, government corruption, racism and Marikana…all of these talking points have come to demand and exhaust almost all of our free attention capacity.
We had an outstanding documentary by Rehad Desai called ‘Miners Shot Down’, and a theatre piece done brilliantly by Aubrey Sekhabi called ‘Marikana – The Musical’, but we had no song highlighting the issue’s at hand… or did we? Did radio just neglect to play it for fear of Big Brother coming down on them? As far as radio neglect is concerned, a South African won a Grammy on Sunday night and all I seemed to hear on commercial radio was the obsession with what Madonna did, or did not do.
The one night on the music calendar that South Africa proudly represents and radio, for the most part, didn’t take the time to acknowledge the colossal feat realized by one Wouter Kellerman. He won a Grammy in the Best New Age Album category for his album ‘Winds Of Samsara’, a collaboration with composer and music producer Ricky Kej. Kellerman has proved to be one of South Africa’s foremost musicians since launching his debut album ‘Colour’, back in 2008.
Surely his music should be celebrated and radio should play the album and introduce it to listeners? It should be played on the chart show and packaged along with an interview around the artist, to give listeners insight into our proud export. Or should we wait until one of the EDM players like Culoe De Song gets a hold of the music and makes magic for the dance floor? Will everyone sit up and pay attention then?
Who remembers Roger Sanchez’s ‘Another Chance’? He sampled Toto’s ‘I Won’t Hold You Back’ and what a smash that became! Half the dance floor fans have never even heard of Toto. (Speaking of Toto, they are still going strong and will release a new album come March 20 – their first new music in ten years. The album’s simply titled, ‘XIV’. That’s for all the classic pop/rock fans out there.)