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BCG EMPOWERS INDIGENOUS MUSICIANS (article first published : 2003-11-12)

The Kwazulu Natal Music Project, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Fund and managed by Bees Consulting Group (BCG) was initiated by Dr Bheki Langa, then the KZN department of Economic Development and Tourism, and now with the National Institute of Economic Policy.

The motivation for this project lies in the belief that the indigenous music from Kwazulu Natal has great poverty alleviation, plus massive economic and development potential. The project has since been a great success in developing an awareness of the value and unique heritage of traditional music, as well as economically empowering those involved by earning a sustainable income from their craft.

Dr Romanus Monji, BCG Director of Operations says, “What’s exciting is the possibility in the minds of those involved that they can actually make a living out of what they love doing. It is hard work, but it’s amazing upliftment. They play and opportunities open up.”

Two enriching projects are currently underway, with others in the pipeline. The SMME Technicians Development has focused on training young sound, lighting and recording staff by identifying and boosting skills vital to their success. They are then assisted in finding jobs within the industry. The private sector has already employed more than 15 sound, light, engineering and recording managers, all of whom were trained under Izan Greyling, a lecturer at the Durban Institute of Technology, and Malcolm Nhleko, a DIT graduate.

The second project surveys, archives, digitally records and upgrades the performing skills and income generation possibilities of traditional music performers. Over 60 groups from various communities in the Clermont, Empangeni, and Port Shepstone areas have been surveyed, digitally filmed and recorded. There is a wealth of talented musicians in the region and they are being taught how to market and promote themselves. Kevin Kane, BCG Director says, “This has made a massive difference in peoples lives. Their skills and talents have become more broadly recognised and they’re able to get into the limelight of entertainment, which is a very affirming experience.”

The musicians involved have the opportunity to generate an income from their music. For the very first time their music has been recorded and the CDs are distributed to the musicians free of charge, which can then be used as promotional material and to sell to the public. Some of these bands are now also getting airtime on local Durban radio, Durban Youth Radio.

Maskandi, traditional Zulu music with a modern twist, has been identified as an indigenous music genre with incredible commercial potential. Since March 2003, monthly Maskanda sundowner concerts have been organised at the BAT centre in Durban, hosted by Trans Africa Express Restaurant. Other regular concerts are now held at Wilson’s Wharf and the Rainbow Restaurant. Recently, one of the Maskandi groups, called Savela, brought the house down at a show held at the Rainbow Restaurant, featuring music icon Dolly Rathebe, and the American-based group the Peacetrain.

“These performances are the ideal opportunity for the bands to showcase their music on a professional stage in front of an audience,” says Malcolm, who is the current organiser. Musical equipment has been made available so that the sound is of top quality at the venues. The exposure has led to people booking them for events. Also, a commercial performance upgrading “school” was held in Claremont with similar training exercises later to be extended to Port Shepstone and Richards Bay, Empangeni.The project is successfully managing to take traditional music to a new level by making it commercially accessible, while uplifting the lives of many local technicians and musicians.

An international Internet radio program is also in the works and should be up and running by mid-November.

Visit www.zulumusic.co.za for more information, performance snippets and promotional material or contact Malcolm Nhleko on 084 455 6608.




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