BY GRAY KOTZE

Recent times have dictated that our collective use of the suffix ‘ation’ has increased to terrifying proportions: globalisation, Americanisation, industrialisation, urbanisation. The only ‘ation’ which is largely maligned in the rhetoric of today is that of the ‘nation’, a nation which acknowledges real aspects of its own culture. Although in South African society we are bombarded with shells of ‘nation-building’, the acknowledgment of our local culture – particularly musical – has been greatly ignored; and, instead infiltrated by a more international, predominantly American-based, culture. Miles Keylock, the first editor-in-chief of South Africa’s very own Rolling Stone, hopes to divert the county’s musical attention back to where it belongs: itself.

“We are trying to create a voice which is representative of the entire South African landscape, and represents the country’s demographics.” This is Keylock’s vision of the magazine, which has survived half an annum since its inception. He hopes to build the magazine in its own right, rather than merely produce a copy of its American counter-part – with a hint of The Parlotones thrown in for good measure. So far the periodical publication has inhabited this expectation very well, by casting a critical eye over a large range of South Africa’s cultural and political environment.

The magazine’s renowned cover has also reflected this local focus. Keylock chuckled that the only people who could knock a national artist off the cover of their indigenous Rolling Stone were members of the Beatles; a joke, but also a reality, as Paul McCartney is still the only international artist to be emblazoned upon the cover. Keylock feels that the placement of local performers on the publication’s outer layer was better than submitting to advertisers’ calls to “slap Beyoncé on the cover because she is top of the charts.” Rather than bow down to the musical colonisation by America, he wants to truthfully “represent the musical talent and untold South African stories.”

An archetypal cover-example of the publication’s attempt to display real, in-depth stories about the nation’s tonal talent is that of young songstress Zahara. Zahara, although not being an overly technical musician, perfectly illustrates the musical attitude which Keylock feels is important. “Zahara shows that you don’t have to be a brilliant musician, but you have to have an attitude.”

Jazzy stalwart Hugh Masekela’s embodiment of that same attitude earned him the converted spot on the magazine’s first cover. Keylock describes how, after seeing the 73-year-old’s “vibrant and sexed” performance at a recent Johannesburg jazz festival, he was the only real candidate for the debut cover. “This is our rock star; the biggest rock star that we have. He is a guy who embodies the rock ‘n’ roll spirit.”

“Hugh Masekela’s connectivity with the youth embodies the ethos that Rolling Stone South Africa wants to embody. He is an icon, with knowledge to share.” That knowledge, in whatever temporal space it is located, should help provide some answers to the many questions that South Africans face. Masekela, in the Rolling Stone article which was also written by Keylock, provides a critique of issues ranging from the socio-economic effect of alcohol on black South Africans, to his current musical views. In this manner, Keylock feels that Rolling Stone addresses questions of the past, present and future, which many South African’s should be asking. “South African’s don’t ask enough of these questions.” He said, “[These questions] are not academic, but popular culture questions, for the man in the street.”

Keylock cites the question “How do I live in this strange place?” – posed by Bernoldus Niemand from his culturally and politically challenging Wie is Bernoldus Niemand? album – as being a prominent concern for his magazine’s articles. This is a question which has long circulated the South African landscape, and one that Rolling Stone aims to find the elusive answer for, through honest and sincere stories that try to enkindle a personal response within the reader.

Within the multifarious musical terrain of our country, these stories, about local artists with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude, are in no danger of running out. So far Rolling Stones’ articles – which have dealt with musicians ranging from new-age, Afro-beat rapper Spoek Mathambo to vastrap, sokkie-groovers Klipwerf – have only skimmed the surface of South African musical culture. “Rolling Stone presents the possibility to start something new and see what happens”, says Keylock. A drive to delve into the roots, as well as the present, of the local music scene, and uncover their untold stories is what this musical magazine represents. With the decreasing mainstream focus on South African music, the infant Rolling Stone presents a new avenue which addresses this concern. “We’re only scraping the surface,” announces Keylock, “We’ve planted the seed of what is possible.” Now only time will tell whether that seed will spread amongst the South African cultural consciousness.

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