South Africa: Tune Me What - the Golden Show

10 July 2014
ThinkAfricaPress
opinion

Well, we've done it! We've reached 50 episodes of Tune Me What? - it's the Golden Episode!

When we started out on our mission to bring South African music to a wider audience in May last year we thought it would be fun reliving our old university radio show days and yakking about the music we both love. Obviously we hoped other people would feel the same and would get a kick out if it.

But it surpassed our expectations.

We have made new friends and even reconnected with some old ones through this show. We've expanded our own musical horizon by discovering so much more South African music than we imagined was out there, particularly by coming across new and emerging artists but also by mining the rich legacy of music our home country has produced over the decades.

Besides the personal satisfaction, Tune Me What? has three main purposes: to celebrate the musical legacy of our home country; to discover new music; and, most importantly, to spread the word about this rich musical gold mine to the world. It's a pleasant task, but not an easy one.

One the one hand, British and American popular culture has always dominated the world stage making it hard for artists from other counties to be heard, particularly when their art reflects their local experience rather than a generalised global one.

That said, the local South African music industry has sometimes been its own worst enemy. Not enough local resources have been given historically to developing talent and not enough resources are now given to preserving legacy. Even today, in the age of the Internet, it is difficult to find information about many recording artists and albums.

Meanwhile, even when South African artists do mange to get their records and CDs into stores in London or New York, they tend to be lumped together as a single homogenous 'world music' label. So-called 'world music' might once have had its place in marketing the unfamiliar sounds of non-UK/US music in the West, but it has passed its sell-by date. It is time to have a more mature view now: not all music from Africa and Asia is a single 'ethnic' music but lazy marketeers still label it as such.

Lucky Dube, Hugh Masekela and National Wake will all be found in the 'World Music' section of London's HMV stores, but they are reggae, jazz and punk respectively. We've often joked how funny it would be if you went to Musica in Johannesburg and found Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Miles Davis and Metallica all in the same section simply labelled 'American Music'.

It's almost as if any name a Western shelf-packer can't pronounce easily is simply dismissed as 'world music'. We just know that if a great emerging talent like Nakhane Toure were to find a UK or US distributer he'd be dumped straight into that 'world' bin, even though his music is as universal and exciting as a Jake Buggs or a Lana Del Rey.

So there's still a lot of work to do to spread the word and to sensitise the world about South African music. But it's a task we undertake with great pleasure because the secret is getting out: there is so much South African music and so much of it is simply great music! The proof? Fifty shows! That's more than two days of continual listening to some really awesome and undervalued music. We're so pleased that you've joined us for some part of the journey.

Of course, all the episodes are archived here, so you can always dip back in. But most importantly, stick around for more adventures in South African sound - and tell your friends to join us. The ride continues!

Tune Me What? is a podcast and blog by Brett Lock and Leon Lazarus that highlights South African music and artists at home and around the world. For more information, visit tunemewhat.com or facebook.com/TuneMeWhat.

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