“South African rock music needs help”
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
South African rock music is in a slump and needs more black bands, said front man of the defunct Springbok Nude Girls at a music conference in the city this weekend.
Rock musician Arno Carstens, who plans to release his new solo album next month, was one of four speakers on a panel at the Breathe Sunshine African Music Conference held at Cape Town’s City Hall.
They discussed the “future of rock music in SA”. Panelists said local rock music was currently taking a backseat as other genres, such as electronic dance music, were centre stage.
Carstens said this meant rock musicians “need to constantly up our game”.
“The white thing (bands) has been doing it for a long time now. It would be so cool if we could have more black rock things (bands) happening. There’s a lot of anger in the country to make really good metal music,” said Carstens.
“There are so many African rhythms. If we add some rock to it, we will have something so unique that we can share with the world. Let’s make African beats and see what comes out of it. The rest of the world will listen. It will be amazing.”
His co-panelists were musician Jeremy de Tolly of the Dirty Skirts band; local Rolling Stone magazine editor Miles Keylock; and 5FM radio presenter Jon Savage.
De Tolly said: “Rock music had its peak but it’s still a good time to be making rock music”.
He called for more original music though: “stop copying”.
“People have to make music that pleases them, that is difficult, that challenges and hurts a little because they take so many risks,” said De Tolly.
The media industry has meanwhile played a role in the demise of local rock music, said the panel’s two media players.
Keylock said: “Everything is becoming an advertising blurb”.
“Mainstream media has just become a service industry for record labels to shift their product. Reviews are tragic. Nobody’s writing proper reviews anymore,” he said.
“Arts coverage as a whole has been shredded in newspapers. Advertising comes up a lot of the time (as an excuse for this). It’s easier for newspapers and publications to syndicate content from other publications, rather than generating home grown stories.
“If we’re not writing about our own music, nothing will change at all.”
Keylock focused also on rock musicians, saying they were not angry enough.
“There’s a distinct lack of irritation and passion about the status quo in rock music. What are you angry about? The fact that you couldn’t afford a new pair of skinny jeans? Seriously?” asked Keylock.
Savage said: “On the radio side, it’s fucked”.
“I’m on 5FM and it’s a struggle engaging with people at the top. There are bands that will never see the light of day on radio. Radio stations like 5FM just won’t play some bands,” he said.
“Radio stations are not sure what they’re doing right now. It’s doing a disservice to the whole music industry and that has to change. This current state cannot survive.”
Savage also told the gathering of mostly hopeful musicians and industry insiders to “forget about record labels”.
“Focus on doing things for yourself. Record labels don’t know what’s going to work and what won’t,” he said.
Breathe Sunshine is an annual local music conference launched last year. It started on Friday and closed with a Unity Jam music concert in Langa yesterday. Its focus is on “building and unifying the (music) industry”.
It featured live demonstrations on how to build a home studio, use technology and equipment to make music, workshops and panels on how to build a career in the music business.