Local artists are upset at being sidelined at an international event designed to promote South African heritage.In a Facebook post, promoter Beryl Crosher-Segers expressed her frustration that an Australian event on October 14 designed to showcase local culture to an Australian audience.
"I am a show producer and my show coincided with this SA Tourism event targeted at expats to encourage them to visit SA with their family and Aussie friends," Crosher-Segers told News24.
She explained that the event required that 10 African songs were to be prepared and the client, SA Tourism, asked for music in black African languages only.
The decision which was not shared with Crosher-Segers prior to the event, sidelined artists such as Alistair Izobell, Loukmaan Adams and Devanish Hendricks.
"The lady who was the event organiser and the event co-ordinator literally kept walking on stage and kept talking to Devanish [Hendricks], the keyboard player, and said she's not happy with the songs that are not South African," Izobell told News24.
"Meanwhile, we were playing Abdullah Ebrahim and those kind of cats for instrumentals. Clearly, she did not know what South African songs were."
"The artists were outraged and very upset about the way they were treated," said Crosher-Segers, who has 17 years of experience promoting music by mainly Cape Town artists.
"Two hours of black language music only for an event with the sole purpose of encouraging the diaspora to 'Come Home Bru' for a visit. This event was not fully representative of the South African culture. Also, I could not believe the blatant disregard and disrespect for these artists at a public event. The marginalisation of some previously disadvantaged South Africans must stop. We have a history too. Recognise it," she wrote in her Facebook post, which was shared 164 times as of Monday afternoon.
Based in Australia, Crosher-Segers told News24 that after the band played an opening set of African jazz that included Manenberg by Abdullah Ebrahim, the event organiser ordered that only "black language" music should be played.
"I was immediately approached by the event organiser to bring on the singers to sing the songs that they selected. They did, but also included some of the District Six music and some covers, like Hope Johanna and reggae arrangements, where they inserted Afrikaans words.
"They told me they did not want that - only African. When I explained that the instrumentals are Cape Jazz they said that was not what they wanted.
"I approached the SA Tourism staffer and explained that the band was mixing up songs because they didn't have two hours of black language music; they are singing District Six songs as well. She told me that the band can repeat the songs they know. It was a stressful hostile situation. The worst I've seen," said Crosher-Segers.
She added that when the artists performed a cover to get the crowd dancing at the event, held at The Pavilion restaurant in Sydney, an official under instruction from SA Tourism, walked onto the stage and ordered that the music be stopped.
"The High Commissioner was present at the event. However, I do not know if she would have been aware of the situation. I explained that these artists are Laurence Olivier award winners and are among the top SA entertainers. They know how to entertain.
"At no time were they presented as a band that can sing all-black music for two hours. The artists are extremely upset at the way they were treated," said Crosher-Segers.
Izobell said that the way that he and other artists were treated brought back hurtful memories.
"My challenge is, to be at a South African event being co-ordinated and run by Australians and then [they] disrespect South African artists at a South African event, is unacceptable.
"I was very hurt and I felt like it was pre-1994."
She insisted that the South African artists deserved an apology for the way in which they treated.
"It was humiliating. They deserve at the very least an apology."
Multiple efforts to contact SA Tourism failed. News24 understands that the leadership is conducting a roadshow through Australia and New Zealand.
The Department of Tourism's spokesperson Blessing Manale was also unavailable for comment.
Izobell has been doing trips to Australia to promote local South African music for more than a decade and expressed his frustration at the what he called disrespect shown to the artists and the High Commissioner during her speech.
"What they tend to think is that the discography of South African music is Pata Pata and Vulindlela, and it's not representative of the diverse culture that we have.
"It was just a badly organised event."