Category: Feature Articles


When I heard that Rolling Stone magazine was coming to South Africa   I wondered, is this going to be like watching a made-for South Africa American TV show? Would I cringe at the language being used or feel disappointed when I did not see anyone who looked like me or someone talking about the things I like to talk about? Those were my expectations but fortunately for young,black,female me  and  for all of us, Rolling Stone is more South African than it is American-made -for -South Africa.

The magazine appeals to the mind and soul by engaging critically with music and the musician, and with the history that has ultimately shaped both. Much like its editor, Miles Key lock, Rolling Stone South Africa embodies what it means to be rock n roll-unapologetically ruckus, real and outspoken.

In a country where creatives are not just censored but censor themselves, policing their own political correctness, it is refreshing to see a publication that speaks so openly on current and past cultural, social and political affairs. Discussing the musicians he has interviewed and the music he appreciates, Miles Key lock describes how this art form (music) is “rooted in decade’s worth of history” and how “we engage with history every day”. The magazine and the writers, the likes of which include Rian Malan, have a real appreciation for the fact that in South Africa “the past is the present”. It is not all rainbow nations and musical butterflies at every turn of the page, and for any South African writer to make a difference it should not be. There are many words left unsaid, looming in every conversation, encounter and interaction and someone ought to say them before they turn into something far more perverse. It is after all, truth before reconciliation and not reconciliation before truth.

Keylocks‘s slogan seems to be: “write something real!”  It is a challenge all young South Africans should take up not only to better their work but to better themselves for their work. When we are writers we are in the particularly privileged position of sharing with thousands what we know or think reality to be, we are purveyors of truth and so we should be honest and show integrity in our work. Now being honest doesn’t mean we are always right and it can sometimes offend or even hurt others, but that is our responsibility. This is the sort of sincerity absent in our conversations as intellectuals and individuals. This is the honesty which as journalists we so often decry our leaders as not having. But even we are capable of talking rubbish and if we do not write something we know about or are passionate about then in Key lock’s own words “it’s going to sound like BS”.

Telling real stories is what can make a difference. That is all Keylock is asking for -“a good story”. These are the real stories that so often go unmentioned or become fictitious adaptations on the cover of tabloids. I would like to believe that Rolling Stone  South Africa and its readers are  counter this consumer-friendly claptrap, and want entertainment, yes, but lust for insight. South African and African magazine’s can still take up a genuine space in the culture of our country while many others are too far gone in the haze of American or “western” sensationalism.  “We don’t want to colonize (your) minds” says Keylock. If we are going to be more specific here we do not, and should not, let our minds be wantonly attacked by ideals and stories that are so irrelevant to us. Yes they may have worth to South Africans too, we may enjoy them, but they do not have any credibility in this context. A line between the two ideas needs to be drawn, or at least written.

Rolling Stone South Africa may be a “music” or “entertainment” magazine but it is also a publication that takes its privilege seriously. It is not about exposing the country to good music, good artists and good writers. It is about highlighting those maverick, controversial and enlightened human beings who happen to make good music and write good pieces.

Young writers and artists need not separate their thoughts or even emotions from their work; this probably pleases everyone else except the readers. This kind of writing is not Rolling Stone material, nor is it very rock n’ roll. Interviewing “edgy “ bands and “exciting” people is  a waste of time if we do not allow ourselves to be “edgy” and “exciting’’ not only in the way we write or who we are, but what we choose to write about and who we choose to be. This generation needs people to pioneer, to be critical and challenge the status quo in whatever they do. Being a writer, like being a rock star is not a job -it is a calling!

Name: Dominique Rollino

Publication: Mail and Guardian

We have all hummed the familiar tune, or imagined a lion, a meerkat and a warthog dancing through the jungle singing the song, and we’ve all watched the movie countless times but what we don’t know is that every time ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ some make millions and others, namely Solomon Linda and his family, receive nothing. Who is Solomon Linda I hear you ask. He is the man behind the creation of this iconic song. He is a man who died penniless and unrecognized in 1962; a mere year after the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” became number one hit worldwide. So, how did a song that originally consisted of just the word ‘Mbube’ evolve into ‘Wimowhe’ and then into the ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and cause so much anger and controversy? This story must begin with the idea of where the song came from and the results of its popularity will become clearer. Who owns a folk song? That is the age-old question that has surrounded many songs but it was the “The Lion Sings Tonight” that received international acclaim and caused a court case that has continued for years. Aside from this court case, the idea of a complete disregard for Zulu tradition must also be recognized. According to Zulu tradition ‘fasi pathi,’ as the high falsetto that the Zulu women trill in is known as is not allowed to be used by men, and yet Linda made the one word of ‘Mbube’ famous because of the haunting pitch at which he sang it. He made it so famous that men across the world were taking potions in order to achieve the pitch as they copied the song numerous times. It is an accolade to the amazing sound that even though the actual lyrics of the song were altered over the years the pitch at which is was sung was not altered but rather the voices of the singers were. Similarly, the changing of the word ‘Mbube’ occurred because the actual meaning was misinterpreted. When Solomon sang that word the story attached linked to the hunting of the lion and it had happy connotations. However through the joking of international stars that covered the song the meaning evolved from this to ideas about the lion eating humans and eventually the lion sleeping. It changed from ‘Mbube’ to the ever-popular ‘Wimowhe’ and then to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight. As is evident from the number plate of Pete Seeger, one of the first artists to cover the song, ‘Wimowhe’ made him famous. Famous and rich enough to show it on his car. Aside from the disregard of the above-mentioned Zulu traditions the actual issue of the ownership of the song has caused the most controversy and made the ideas of who actually owns songs come to light. It was famously believed that because nobody actually owns a folk song anybody could cover it. However, the artists who first copied the original did not believe that the song was anything but a folk song. They did not know that the song was, in fact, a Solomon Linda original. The song that they were covering had been ‘stolen’ from him through an agreement on a signed piece of paper by a record company that did not care for the artist but rather the royalties they would be receiving from a song that was already incredibly popular in the local communities. After many years of arguing and finger pointing from the international artists as to who was in fact to blame about the theft of the song, it came to light that the one person was benefitting hugely from the song and that was George Weiss. Because he added the lyrics that are used in the modern version he gains all royalties and recognition whenever the song is used. He does not claim to be using the melody written by Seeger when he covered it or the music that was written by Linda for the original, according to him it is an original song by him because nobody owned the folk song he used to make it. Solomon Linda never realised the controversy his song would cause on the day he became exasperated in the studio and wailed out the word ‘Mbube’ just so the song could be done. He died without realising the he was owed millions and that he did not have to live and certainly not die in abject poverty. For him the biggest payment was to know that his music was recognized and enjoyed by his peers and for the traditions of his culture to be sung about and enjoyed. His traditions were not honoured, they ere changed and his family is still living relatively poor. All because of a lion, a warthog and a meerkat dancing through the jungle humming that famous

The exploitation of a black Zulu man in Apartheid South Africa is not an unbelievable story or a new one. What makes Solomon Linda’s story so different? He could have been rich. His family could have been rich, and he improvised, probably, the most famous and well-known melody in the whole world.

“Mbube”, sung by Solomon Linda and his a cappella group The Evening Birds, was recorded in 1939, in the first recording studio in South Africa, owned by Eric Gallo who formed Gallo Records. Better known as the “Lion Sleeps Tonight”, nobody in that room could have imagined that this melody would go on to be recorded around 160 times, of three different versions, be featured in 13 movies and musicals, 6 commercials and 60 years of airplay. How much of that money did the Linda family see? A measly, $12, 000. What an outrage! What an injustice! Right?

Technically, that is $12 000 that the Linda family, by law, were not entitled to. Solomon Linda sold his song, “Mbube”, and all the rights to the song, to Gallo Records for 10 shillings. When “Mbube” became The Weavers’ “Wimoweh”, Gallo traded the copyright in return for administering the song in places such as South Africa and Rhodesia. Even though legally Solomon Linda was not cheated in any way, it becomes a question of morality. All that happened, because Solomon Linda was black. He died in poverty because he was black. He was exploited and forgotten, because he was black. In hindsight, the Linda family deserve to benefit from the creation of their father, which white American men have been benefitting from since 1950.

Journalist, Rian Malan, made it his business to pursue this issue, to help those white American men remember to whom they owed their careers. In his article, In the Jungle, published in the late 90’s, Malan tells us of his journey into the entanglement of copyrights, covers and publishing organisations, in order to figure out how and why this injustice occurred.

Malan traced the history of the song and discovered how the song got to America, and became “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. He felt strongly that the Linda family should benefit from their fathers genius, based on the context of the situation, which enabled the stealing of his creativity and the rights to his creation. Malan wrote letters to both George David Weiss, the man who co-mutated “Mbube” into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and to Larry Richmond, president of The Richmond Organisation, that published The Weavers’ version of “Mbube”, “Wimoweh”. In a lengthy letter describing the little, that Linda gained from his artistry and how he was a victim of injustice, Malan sat back hoping that their moral conscience would propel them forward to do something about it.

It did not. However, Pete Seeger, from the Weavers (who was always aware of Solomon Linda’s involvement in the writing of the song) attempted back in 1950, to ensure that the Linda sisters would receive songwriter royalties. While Seeger believed the Linda sisters were receiving these royalties, they say that they did not receive anything other than a few breadcrumbs over the space of a decade. After Seeger received a $12, 000 check for the use of “Wimoweh” in a US commercial, he realised that he had been receiving royalties from the song all along, when he thought his share of “Wimoweh” royalties were diverted into a charitable trust. In realising this, he demanded TRO send the money to the Linda sisters. This sparked a series of events that now ensure the Linda sisters are receiving songwriter royalties for all their fathers creation of the most popular melody to come out of Africa and make its’ way around the world.

CEO of Johnnic Entertainment (parent of Gallo Records) Paul Jenkins announced they would handle the affairs of the Linda sisters, and organised one of the best copyright lawyers, Dr. Owen Dean, to handle their case. What was the outcome?

In February 2006, the parties involved reached a settlement. The Linda sisters would receive royalties for past use of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as well as for future uses of the song. Legally, Solomon Linda is now co-composer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, and the song is recognised as derived from “Mbube”. The Linda sisters are now able to sustain themselves economically, and will most likely be able to do so into the future.

It is safe to say that without the investigations of Rian Malan, none of this would have happened. It most certainly is tragic that it even took that long for someone to recognise and make a noise about the fact that the songwriter credits belonged to Solomon Linda. How many other black men were exploited and had their creative efforts stolen from them? Plenty, probably. This is just one case in many. At least it is happy conclusion for the Linda sisters, and the legendary melody is credited to its’ rightful owner, Solomon Linda.

Rolling Stone is iconic for its covers. As a musician or band gracing the cover of Rolling Stone would probably signify the ultimate success in their music career. The general perception is that appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone is your one way ticket to the Hall of Fame in the music world, it means you’re a brilliant musician and probably destined for greater things. So with the recent addition of Rolling Stone South Africa to the franchise, one cannot help but wonder whether the magazine will live up to this perception and advocate the parent magazine, yet still be credited as an independent magazine with an opinion of its own or whether it will just jump the on the band wagon (excuse the pun) instead of making its own claim to fame independently and become “just another Rolling Stone publication”.

Miles Keylock, ex-English language, literature and drama lecturer at the University of Cape Town turned full time music journalist and more recently editor of Rolling Stone SA smashes all doubt that the magazine is just a spin-off hoping to feed off the success of the Rolling Stone brand. Miles says that Rolling Stone SA aims to be the voice of South African pop culture by telling the “untold stories” of our local musicians. When asked about how the magazine goes about choosing who will feature on the cover Miles challenged the general perception that one has to be a musical genius to land a cover by stating that Rolling Stone doesn’t necessarily look for the most amazing artists.

“We’re interested in artists who have something to say. Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you have a story to tell […] You’ve got to have attitude […] It’s about navigating where we live in. SA is full of contradictions and paradoxes […] The stories centre on answering and trying to figure out how to live in this strange world.”

While Rolling Stone is indeed a magazine that focuses on music, we need to realise that South Africa is drenched in rich culture and therefore our art, in this particular case music, is a representation of that culture. This is something that Rolling Stone SA stresses with each story and each cover.

However, this idea of the right “attitude” and finding ones way in this “strange world” we call home sparks a little bit of hope for all the artist struggling to “make it” in the music scene. Knowing that it is indeed possible for an indie band from the southern suburbs of Cape Town to one day claim a Rolling Stone cover says a lot for the way in which the industry is growing. Heck, South Africa landing its own Rolling Stone alone proves that internationally our music industry is being recognised and acknowledged, that said if they pull it off well.

While Rolling Stone intends to give local music a platform through which their stories can be told we cannot ignore the fact that it is a business and that they actually have to meet a sales quota and all those other boring things that come with running a magazine that has such a great legacy. Miles mentions some of the battles the magazine has to face when it comes to choosing who goes on the cover or which stories will be published. Investors naturally have their investments best interests in mind and tend to try and influence the magazine’s choices in a way that will benefit that said investment. There is often the situation when they have to choose between a “safe” cover like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, that could possibly sell more easily than a riskier cover featuring an unknown local artist like Spoek Mathambo (May) with an interesting story. However, Rolling Stone has thus far remained true to the “underdogs”  and hav dedicated six of the seven covers to local artists and pointing us in the direction of talent that is right under our noses.

On that note, not only does Miles seem to be a professed supporter of local music but also seems to back the young journalist. When asked what made a piece worth publishing he simply said that it was passion and heart. He went on to saying that lack of passion would prove to be a problem if one wanted to be a sucessful writer. These wise words reverberated throughout the room filled with second year media students who all had one thing in common, they were all interested in entertainment journalism and passion and heart was something they all claimed to have.

Rolling Stone SA’s ethos represents an overwhelming support to all that is African culture and all those artists who were never given the opportunity to tell South Africa and the world their stories. Thus far Rolling Stone has proved that it can carry on the legacy of its father publication yet at the same time stay loyal to South Africa’s roots.

There is no fear expressed by the editor of rolling stones South Africa in a press conference held about the magazine being taken over by the digital wave. The water is encroaching but fails to touch the world renowned publication and it sparks interest as to how. There is a simple answer to a question that opens the door to many complexities: Integrity. Remaining true to the original intention of the brand and the heart of it has allowed Miles Keylock the privilege of establishing and continuing to successfully run the magazine.

The internet is for browsing and spending hours surfing the web; getting superficial knowledge about everything on offer. You walk away with strained eyes a sore hide and equipped with a range of facts to start or contribute to a conversation that you would otherwise avoid. Other online media provide much the same satisfaction. It allows for snippets of stories filling you in between the spaces of lived reality. It is only inevitable that the craving for a steaming steak with gravy and roasted potatoes kicks in. That is how Rolling Stone South Africa serves this hungry population.

Like a good restaurant Rolling stone is known for its brand. It has a reputation that exceeds name. There is a high caliber associated with the magazine that is acknowledged on an international foreground yet the idiosyncratic South African brand differs significantly. It chooses not to “colonize” its consumers with American content; Keylock elaborates stating that the brand needs a “South African voice in the pop culture landscape”. The South African brand has a responsibility to represent the respective demographics of the population. It has managed to stand its ground and not fall prey to the convention of other brands to splash international celebrities on the front cover and mass coverage of them in the content (the exception rises when a star does something of global resonance). The focus is rather at what we have on our doorstep. The magazine acknowledges and acts on the fact that there is a varied selection of artists in the indigenous context. In this a revelatory experience is realized that our country in its diversity of artists serves a diverse audience. The focus of the local magazine is to cover artists that simply have a real and in-depth story to tell. Taking a look at Zahara; she is perhaps considered a commercial and big artist that if it were anyone else may have lost herself in the music but she stands apart as her songs translate a greater message of hope.

Another way Rolling Stone South Africa transcends this digital takeover is through serving true musical coverage to different generations while not swaying from the brand. They use timeless legends like Hugh Masekela, deemed by Keylock as “embody[ing] the rock and roll spirit”. Suggesting that the use of musical god’s is to illustrate that one needs to exceed the artistic form and embrace music as an attitude, a lifestyle. The purpose of this serves the old generation as well as etches the pathway for the rising artists that are changing the face of music; special mention was made to Spoek Mathambo. The requirement, however, is not to be an acclaimed artist but rather an artist that has an interesting story to tell paired with a brilliant attitude in navigating where they, as an individual, and we, as a country,  are living.

 

 

Content is chosen being mindful of their audience. They address a range of “high end” material that perhaps has aspirational value for its readership as well as “low end” content which introduces the element of reality that may be easier to relate to. It is ultimately all in an attempt to answer the introspective question quoted by Keylock as “How do I live in this strange place?” Because of the paradoxes rooted in South African soil it creates grounds to answer this question through the juxtaposition of coverage. The answers will involve an exploration of history to map out the future; this is made manifest through conversation of which Rolling Stone has many. Set with conversation and a focused purpose, a meal of a magazine is bound to be chosen over snacking.

Besides being fundamentally different from other forms of online media, Rolling Stone South Africa is differs slightly within the category of traditional print media. Both serve make the public aware of the environment around them, but the distinction comes in the method. Whereas the latter creates a space for news based articles, Rolling Stone South Africa, maintaining its integrity since the 1960s, uses music to reflect its surrounding. This, according to the editor of the South African publication, is “about expression in the most sincere way” that enables a magazine to be formed from more than just words and pictures. The content, he adds, is fortunately limited to that which strikes a chord with him and his audience. Writing, where passion ecstasy and heart can be seen, is believed. Remaining true to these ideals one can be assured that an authentic message is transmitted differing significantly from the replication of simply mind written pieces available on online media platforms.

Online media has its place in the world. It serves its purpose to a generation that needs convenience and information on the go. With regard to music it also allows for snippets of creative flow but is not suited to deal with pieces that allow for the imagination to travel and find its way to your core. Rolling Stone South Africa, as an independent entity, is held accountable for every word expressed in representing the interests of an entire diverse population. Because of their success thus far it is evident that even in a generation so obsessed with the online world and consuming less, they will go for a second helping of the printed Rolling Stone South Africa.

 

Erryn Gracey

Its 8 am and not one of us have any idea what we are about to get ourselves into, or the musical genius that is about to step into our presence. Now sitting in front of us is Miles Keylock South Africa’s only full time music journalist and now editor of Rolling Stone South Africa.

For about 40 years Rolling Stone has dominated the music journalistic world, being recognised for its heavy opinions, and world famous covers. This magazine has the power to make or break an artist and has a huge influence on what people listen to. So taking on a project such as Rolling Stone South Africa is a huge risk that only the best of the best would be willing to take on- one of those people is Miles Keylock.

I always thought that Rolling Stone International was a very commercialised magazine. So when I heard that it was coming to South Africa, I must admit, I wasn’t too thrilled. But now, cards on the table, I can eat my words. I have been pleasantly surprised by the great minds that have put together such an amazing magazine. I anxiously await every issue wondering what I can read next.  I can proudly say that I think Rolling Stone South Africa is definitely at an international standard.

He is not a simple guy; he is not a complex guy. He is a fan.  It’s the word that defines him and his life. This is what makes his best for the job, “I can’t unplug myself I am a fan” he honestly says. But being a fan doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his Job very seriously, Keylock is willing to bring all his energy and efforts to the foreground “I bring a 360 commitment to what this is”, because to him the future of Rolling Stone South Africa depends on Integrity. This is why he has put together the best team possible for the job that brings together some of South Africa’s best entertainment journalists, editors and design team who all bring their best abilities to make the magazine the crème de la crème

An often-commercialised rule is: when South Africa takes on an International Project it leads to disappointment and failure. But every rule has an exception. Rolling Stone South Africa is the exception. Each article is a new and interesting voice to listen to and try and comprehend. Each writer is unique and extremely talented- they’re ‘real’ as Keylock puts it. There is a real and very unique story behind each article published in the magazine, specifically the covers, which have often surprised South African readers.  The 4 South African artists (Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Die Andwoord and Zahara) , who have appeared as covers, have not been your typical commercialised Musician but artists who have a story to tell that is unique and their own.  Writing a piece of journalism or any form of expression is almost like writing a song; the audience can tell if it’s real or not. And this team is real, which allows the audience appreciate their art even more. Rolling Stone is the perfect place for these writers and editors to be ‘real’ as Keylock says, “It’s about being able to express themselves in the freest of ways.” For Keylock Writing is  all about what is real, about telling the truth and ‘getting out of the way’, its all about writing from your heart and ‘bleeding onto the page’.

The tribute to Miriam Makeba in the form of a praise poem is the perfect example of ‘bleeding onto the page’. Bongani Madondo is vulnerable in his writing, which is what gives him strength and allows him to capture the hearts of the readers. But his writing is a needle amoungst a million other needles- all perfectly polished, sharp and unique. There is no middle ground, the viewership will either ‘love it or hate it’ and according to Keylock that is when you know your article is worth reading.

Rolling Stone has always had a huge influence on what and who people chose to listen to, and this is how we can increase the viewership of South African artists out there, Its what we need as a nation because as we all know local is lekker. The artists that have appeared on the cover are ‘huge’ in terms of their icon status. Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela are 2 of South Africa’s most loved artists, as Keylock says Masekela is, “South Africa’s Rock Star”. But we can definitely expect a diverse range of artists to appear on the cover, and yes 90% of them are going to be South African, which is a huge deal and will get our artists a lot of air time.

The possibilities are endless for this Magazine and the future looks extremely bright. South Africans will find themselves listening to a wide range of talented South African artists who deserve the recognition. Their integrity has been established and they can be extremely proud of the work they have done. Keylock’s visions for the magazine is coming to play, and we can safely say he is a fantastic editor in chief that deserves the recognition he is getting, if not more.

By: Iman Adams

With anything new that has a lot of hype around it, people immediately dismiss or criticise it. It was no different when news of Rolling Stone coming to South Africa swept the country. South Africans are naysayers, we like to reject, comment and stick our noses up in the air; especially when it comes to international influence in our music industry. Now obviously, this is impossible to escape, but what I mean is, there is a general annoyance when there is not a South African flavour in our music. With our local music scene struggling already, in terms of press coverage, Rolling Stone just seemed like something else to take the spotlight away from our local artists and turn the South African public to the international.

However, with six issues out already and a sit down with the editor, Miles Keylock, the possibility of Rolling Stone taking South African artists as well as music journalism to new heights, seems all the more likely. Rolling Stone is ultimately about having a passion for music and journalists having a passion for whom or what they are writing about. If this is the crux of the magazine, then I personally, cannot see how they could go wrong.

Miles Keylock as editor means that Rolling Stone SA will be real, raw and South African.Yes, issues of representation are still afloat; wafting about in the air, but Keylock says that representing South Africa, reflecting the demographics of the country is something that Rolling Stone SA deems incredibly important. Ultimately it cannot be about the bourgeois, South Africa is like the man in the street, it must cater for him too. However, whether this is accessible to those in the townships is unclear, but I think right now, Rolling Stone SA should have a chance to find their bearing.

The local focus is fantastic, but with reference to the Paul McCartney issue, international artists are not excluded from the front cover of Rolling Stone SA. Keylock says that they had to give it a try to see how an international would do on the front cover. Apparently, this made no difference in terms of the sales.

Everyday Keylock is hassled by advertisers to put an international band, or a white person on the front cover, as advertisers believe sales increase. Clearly, they are wrong. It’s decisions like these that can affect the integrity of the magazine, but in these situations, Keylock reinforces and ensures the integrity he so intensely believes in, by telling advertisers that Rolling Stone SA needs to represent South Africa.

With Rolling Stone being an international brand, we were all weary of who was making the decisions regarding content. As it turns out, Rolling Stone SA is independent, at least in terms of content. All they have to do is maintain the international standard that is the Rolling Stone brand. We now have an opportunity really to explore artists. Their long-form features provide a space for journalists that are only available in print, only really available in the Rolling Stone SA.

Rolling Stone has always been well-known for their journalistic integrity, independence and of course, the front covers, and these are aspects Keylock seems adamant to uphold. This is not because he is supposed to, but because it is something he truly believes in. He wants honest, heartfelt and passionate writing, he wants the local artists represented, he wants South Africans to know about their musicians, and get excited about them. This is something about Keylock that really sticks out, and when he talks about the magazine, there is an assurance that it will not be industry-controlled bullshit.

So what does an artist have to do in order to be covered in Rolling Stone SA? Keylock says they don’t have to be brilliant; they just need to have an attitude and a way of navigating the way we live. Rolling Stone SA wants to cover the icons with the knowledge and stories that comes from a life of a musician, such as Hugh Masekela and Paul McCartney. They also want to cover the new artists who are coming out and changing the game, such as Die Antwoord and Spoek Mathambo. As long as there is truth, passion and imagination, Keylock is interested.

Ultimately, it is all brand new, there is a lot to be learnt and experimented with, but the main thing is that there is opportunity, there is hope, and there is excitement. We can attempt to drop the cynicism just a little bit, and show a bit of support. From the past six issues, it is apparent that this operation is not a measly attempt at being more like America, or more international, but instead is an attempt to give our artists the recognition they deserve in their own country.

When Miles Keylock told the class with a wry smile that he didn’t believe in weekends off, the traditional hours of a 9-5 workday, or silly things called “holidays”, his long hair and dark aviators seemed a lot less cool.  I couldn’t help but picture Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”–the epitome of the boss from hell.  With his blazer undone, his iPhone aglow in his hand, and his long locks tucked behind his ears, he exuded a rock star personae.  I could picture him standing beside Jimmy Paige at a Led Zeppelin concert, cigarette in hand.

Our professor and music journalist, Evan Milton, had called him in to our class to conduct a mock press conference.  As I prepared my questions in advance, I hadn’t felt intimidated, but as soon as Miles began to speak, I felt the air grow tense.  He spoke quietly, succinctly, but with a conviction that could split steel.  His title as editor of Rolling Stone South Africa began to fully register.  His hands sliced through the air, demonstrating his points and commanding our attention.  I could feel my throat tighten up as I prepared to ask my first question, and felt his somber gaze turn in my direction.  He answered in the same frenzied manner, tossing his hair off his face, before addressing the next question.  As the press conference continued it became clear that there weren’t any horns hidden beneath that long hair.  Instead, I began to see a determined man, bent on the pursuit of genuine and heartfelt journalism.

As students began to ask Miles more questions, ranging from the challenges of being an editor, to the process of choosing the image for the cover of Rolling Stone South Africa, Miles’ commitment to music journalism became clear.  Clearly his assertion about giving “360 degrees of dedication” to his job was not an exaggeration or a publicity stunt.  Although his work ethic goes unquestioned, Miles sets himself apart by staying true to his earliest conviction of using journalism to document genuinely interesting stories.  For him, this comes in the form of local South African music.  Miles talked at length about navigating the complicated terrain of the relationship between USA’s Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone South Africa.  Surely, his magazine has many ties to its father publication, but Miles made it clear that he was more interested in discovering the stories that have never been told.  Rather then just appealing to popular demand and reprinting the headlines of USA’s Rolling Stone, Miles tries to capture the essence of South African music.

Several times Miles made the distinction between successful bands and bands with interesting stories.  International success and sell out venues does not guarantee a profound story.  Miles looks for artists that, “are after the present”, rather then artists who coast off their economic success.  For Miles, these artists appear in unlikely places, such as rural villages and townships scattered across South Africa.  This realization has led Miles to attempt make his publication “a voice that is representative of an entire cultural landscape.”  It’s a lofty goal.  Yet, one would find it difficult to find a man more devoted to representing music in its truest form.  When business executives encouraged him to put international celebrities on the cover page to increase sales, Miles resisted, pasting South African artists on 6 out of the last 7 covers.  Even when advised to place Caucasian men on the cover more frequently, Miles resisted again, saying, “We have a moral responsibility to portray South African music.”

As the press conference began to wind down, I started to detect a central theme in Miles’ answers.  Rather than focusing on the business aspects of being the editor of Rolling Stone South Africa, Miles repeatedly emphasized the crucial characteristics of good writing.  In his eyes, good writing was directly connected to the truth: “Are you writing from the heart?  If not it will eventually tear away from your soul.”  Being inauthentic does not produce good writing because readers can feel when an author’s article lacks depth and feeling.  Miles’ most important role as editor is not to point out run on sentences, direct the course of the piece, or even to select the story.  His main goal is to encourage writers to find their voices, and to write stories that explore unseen topics with compassion and curiosity.

Now the dark aviators, the shoulder length hair, and the unbuttoned blazer seemed more like the clothes of a hopeless romantic and less like the uniform of a crazed boss.  At the core of this man is a teacher.  In his electric eyes I could detect a quiet look of content.  I saw a man who has combined his two passions in the world, music and writing.  I could also feel his desire to spread these passions to anyone who is willing to listen.  After this press conference, I’m sure he’s gained a few more listeners.

By Duncan Lowe

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Passionate About the Write Things

Inez Patel

 

Starting off with ‘Bra Hugh’ as the take-off cover, this has been a magazine that represents the diversity and talents of the South African music industry. This is the kind of media that our country will benefit from: passionate and interesting pieces of work that encourage the consumption of South African products. Editor, Miles Keylock, gives some insight into the magazine and how they manage to live up to the reputation of the Rolling Stone name and yet still maintain a local focus.

Considering that there are sixteen Rolling Stone magazines produced globally, such as Rolling Stone Brazil or Rolling Stone Japan, Rolling Stone South Africa has quite a substantial status to live up to. Especially with the success of the American Rolling Stone, that according to Miles employs some of the world’s best writers and photographers, this magazine has a large name to follow. When asked how he gets the magazine to fulfil its international parent’s legacy, Miles emphasized the need to create a voice that is representative of the diversity and wonders of our own country. He articulates that it is not about being parallel to the American magazine but rather about being a production in its own right, using South African content and stories. As Miles says, there are “very few global artists that are striking for South African sales” and so that is why the magazine places such a large emphasis on local content.

Rolling Stone has always been known for its legendary covers. With the first being a “pure coincidence”, according to Miles, in getting the talented trumpeter Hugh Masekela to be on the initial cover page. Miles smiles as he remembers the moment that he knew Hugh would be the perfect first cover. Apart from being an iconic South African musician that “embodies the Rock ‘n Roll spirit” of the magazine, Miles says, it was Hugh’s vibrancy and powerful performance which immediately told him that “this is our rock star”. It is inspiring to know that the magazine really does take into deep thought what embodies their magazine and how to show this well. Since that day, Rolling Stone South Africa has always embraced that wild and free ‘rock ‘n roll’ spirit. That is what it takes to be on the cover, “you don’t have to be a brilliant artist to get into Rolling Stone”, says Miles, you only “need to have an attitude”.

The most recent issue had Spoek Mathambo on the cover. As Miles speaks about this young artist, his enthusiasm is obviously visible. Although why wouldn’t it be? Miles describes Spoek Mathambo as a “young artist who has given his art so much time in terms of thinking about what he’s doing”. As someone who has a fascinating story to tell; who has created a space where he has found his voice, it is clear why Miles agreed to putting Spoek Mathambo on the latest cover. He, like Hugh Masekela, is an image of what Rolling Stone is about. A magazine that puts a large emphasis on local artists that have interesting stories and an attitude that is bold and creative. Miles mentions how a lot of advertisers put pressure on the magazine to put sexy women and white people on the cover because those typically are better for sales. “Integrity can very easily go out the window”, says Miles, but once again he always tries to stick to his morals and put genuine people on the cover and not stoop to lower levels of commercialized advertising. Miles states very firmly that “Rolling Stone is about integrity”.

Listening to Miles, the Editor of Rolling Stone, really makes it seem as if the South African media industry is something to be proud of. Not only does Miles expect a lot from the artists that he features, he also expects a high quality of work to come from his writers. He mentions what an honour it is to be able to work with great writers such as Rian Malan and Evan Milton. Writers that have a “360 degree commitment” in that they are able to express themselves in a personal and honest way. The stories in Rolling Stone are about getting to know the artist and hearing what they have to say. Being able to answer “pop cultural questions that the man on the street asks” and thus being a magazine that is easy to relate to by a broad audience. It is not difficult to see that Miles is very much a believer in passionate writing and writing with story to share. As clichéd as it may sound, Miles affirms multiple times how important it is to “write from the heart”. He mentions how it is very easy to know whether you believe what a writer is saying or not, and Rolling Stone is a magazine in which he genuinely works hard to create a layout of sincerely written and engaging stories.

The future of Rolling Stone seems very bright and full of possibilities for even greater success. In such a technological society, the fear that traditional print media is being replaced by online content is a significant issue. However Miles is adamant that this is not where Rolling Stone South Africa is headed. It is a magazine that tries to “keep it as real as we can” and this would not entail having readers scanning over online articles in a superficial manner. The most important part about the magazine is for readers to feel a part of it, which cannot happen online because articles are “designed for print”. It is a comfort to know that there is still hope for actual print media, as it is hard to compare reading something online to holding a tangible book and actually engaging thoughtfully in the process.

Miles Keylock was a surprising speaker. It was somewhat unexpected to hear such honest and energetic responses. In turn, it felt as if one was really able to get to know Miles on an everyday level and as a result really believing the things he has said. His passion for writing, music and the magazine is moving. Having such a passion for the ‘write things’ might just be what this country needs to become even further immersed within and supportive of its diverse bowl of talents to show and stories to tell.

Rolling Stone has come to South Africa, and hey presto, we now have our own cool music magazine to represent our own cool music scene. But will it? I mean, come on, this is South Africa; a land that is a boiling culture cauldron, bubbling away, with all the numerous and diverse cultures swirling together as a big pot of tasty soup.

Rolling Stone is such a ‘cool’ magazine. It just can’t stop oozing sex appeal and glamour as well as being so full of the hard-core, honest rock n’ roll that the international reader loves. This magazine is drenched in legacy to the point that it’s practically running of the sides.  And now it has come to South Africa, it is sitting at the airport waiting to be picked up, and here is the driver; Miles Keylock.

Keylock seems to be the best man for the job, his suave ‘come at me attitude’ and concrete portfolio make him the person to marry South Africa and the Rolling Stone brand, making a match seemingly made in music magazine heaven. All eyes are on Keylock, we want something just as sexy and rock n’ roll as the original Rolling Stone, but with all the tenacity that South Africa has to offer. The only thing is South Africa has a whole lot more to represent than just tenacity.

Can Rolling Stone South Africa really keep each vegetable, each piece of meat and each salt grain in the tasty soup happy and represented? Or are we just going to have a magazine which ignores the diversity part, instead edging to stay politically correct, or economically afloat?

No one can answer this question. It’s not easy, considering how difficult South Africa is to represent culturally, since, as I said before, we are tasty in our diversity. With such a wide range of people, from varying backgrounds with different stories, loves and interests, people who listen to fundamentally different music, and then having to represent all of that, I must say, no one can really envy Keylock’s job.

He has to manoeuvre the difficult mine field that is political South Africa, driving his magazine through all of the South African social and political tensions, without falling to a flat tire. It is not as if the American brand of Rolling Stone doesn’t have this problem, but it is a whole lot different they didn’t have something to look up to, or the diversity of this country to represent.

Sitting down with Keylock, you could feel the weight of expectancy on him, and physically see it. We stared at the man who would either be the saviour of our expectations, or who would steer Rolling Stone into obscurity, and we all knew what everyone wanted to ask; what are we to expect Miles?

we got this,

‘sometimes I get these guys saying ‘please put a white person on the cover’. No, I’m just kidding. But it feels like it really can get like that… we need to just understand that it is about the integrity of the music – that rock n’ roll spirit’

We are so easily lampooned into worrying whether the magazine would represent South Africa or not, that we forgot that it is not here to do that – it is here to represent South African music. Whatever this means in terms of demographics or political/economic interests, Rolling Stone is a music magazine and it will follow the integrity of music, and the integrity of writing about music.

Rolling Stone SA will represent the icons, the new interesting sounds that are coming out of South Africa and communicate that to its readers. Yes, as a magazine and business venture it must keep afloat and we know about the political tensions, we know about the economic hardships and social injustices of our everyday life, but we need to allow Rolling Stone the place to just show music – all music. Music that is free of politics, money or society. After all Rolling Stone is about the spirit of Rock n’ Roll, which Keylock through Lester Banks thankfully reminded us off,

“Rock ‘n’ roll is an attitude, it’s not a musical form of a strict sort. It’s a way of doing things, of approaching things. Writing can be rock ‘n’ roll, or a movie can be rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a way of living your life

I don’t know if Rolling Stone SA will be successful, and I don’t know if Rolling Stone SA will be able to hear all the music. But I do know that as a music magazine, Rolling Stone South Africa will represent the music made here, not the politics. And after hearing Keylock reassure me, I can rest easy knowing that he is stirring the pot, with a big wooden spoon.