The South African music industry, as many people know, hasn’t provided as many new memorable artists in the last couple of years as we would have expected it to. One can’t help questioning why it is so hard to break into this industry in our country when there are so many extremely talented people nationwide.
Then I thought about it; we’ve seen the same people on our television screens for a really long time and most of the already popular musicians broke into the industry when it was still considered an asset to be different. Sadly, times seem to have changed. We now see the same faces that we’ve been seeing, we find ourselves listening to the same rhymes over and over again – with similar beats – and yet musicians still expect us to be wowed by their work. In theory everyone sounds the same, with the odd few like AKA, Ill Skillz, Zahara, Moneoa and Toya Delazy.
I can’t help but wonder how hard it is to break into the SA music industry as a producer… In essence it seems the industry is very tightly-knit, and those who break into the industry do so through someone who’s already established. Has our industry become a ‘who knows who’ transaction over talent and new cutting edge ideas? Why is it that a young producer who has the skills and potential to produce new beats will be bypassed and the same producers keep being recycled? Is it a case of ‘sticking’ to the formula our beloved musicians have grown accustomed to over trying to explore fresh minds?
Why is it that a young rapper who has better punch lines than half the industry will be overlooked simply because he doesn’t have the right connections to make the break he so desperately seeks? Musicianship should be about talent and skill, but sadly our industry has become a monopoly in the hands of friends who deduce what we, the loyal paying supporters, should hear. It’s also a case of how many people in the industry are willing to give someone else a chance and help them break into the music scene. Our musicians love the pedestal they’re put on by adoring fans, to the point that they huddle in little cliques and ensure there is no competition or challenge for them to be dethroned by any of the new kids on the block. Simply put, our musicians also love their comfort zones.
A sordid cycle it seems, we fail to allow new fresh minds that could potentially change something for the better and stick to what we know because ‘why break a winning formula’, or is it a catch 22 that ‘fresh’ and different isn’t always what’s best? Keep in mind that today’s legends were once known as fresh and different, so why not reciprocate for the next batch of talent? Granted, breaking into any industry is tough, but is it tougher to break into our local music industry because our already established musicians all seem to be ‘one big happy family’?
I’m patiently waiting for the day some young unknown rapper from the middle of nowhere drops a fresh track – from production and lyrics, to flow and style – that will challenge our views of the ‘old school rappers’ in the industry. Agreed, the said rapper will need to prove their mettle, the question is how is he/she going to do that when our media gives preference based on legacy than talent? The music scene needs someone that will say: “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with change”. Look at AKA for example; his sound may not be for everybody because he sounds different from the rest, but his formula to experiment switch up his sound on the regular has kept him fresh and interesting. You may not be a fan of him or his body of work, but his music is easily recognisable; he’s built his brand that way.
In the past, our media has focused their spotlight on an older artist who has lost their spark or became irrelevant somewhere along the line. I wonder, will there ever be a platform big enough for up and coming creatives to bless us with their music, or will we be stuck listening to the same monotonous sounds for years to come. Sometimes, the industry needs a challenge. We live in a diverse country, and experimenting with different sounds isn’t always a bad thing. Truth is, there is so much untapped talent on the verge of giving up on their dreams and throwing away their talents just because the door is only open for known artists, acquaintances and do-it-for-ratings views.
Till a day when the sound produced in our country shows signs of progression, miss me with your ‘old sounding-new’ singles.