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Passionate About The Write Things

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.

Through the decades Rolling Stone magazine has mapped the progression of pop culture- music, film and even politics. Transcending racial and economic boundaries, Rolling Stone has always been famous for its journalistic integrity. But in an era where digital is the new black and online publications are fast becoming the norm, why would Rolling Stone launch a South African version of the publication?

On the 15th of November 2011, the first issue of Rolling Stone, South Africa was released. With an American gangster look, Bra Hugh (Masekela) was the first icon to grace the cover of the new publication. Visionary and full-time music journalist Miles Keylock heads up the endeavor as editor-in-chief. With massive pressure from the public to achieve the international standard of the parent publication, Rolling Stone, South Africa has a large pair of shoes to fill.

Now seven issues in, the publication has stuck to its classic old-school layout, letting the words and poignant photography speak for itself.

Since the dawn of the online era one significant question has arisen.  Why should we bother paying money for a magazine when we can simply find what we want with a few words, a Google search tab and an enter button?

For starters the typical online publication robs fans of the experience of owning a freshly pressed magazine packed with information waiting to be discovered.  Any Tom, Dick or Susan is one click away from being a writer online. Print publications give a sense of professionalism and credibility that cannot be established online. Rolling Stone, South Africa fills its pages with articles, news and reviews written by plausible journalists who hold a name for themselves in the South African media industry. People know that what they are reading is as real as it gets.

Although the magazine has an online sector, the meaty bits remain to be hidden in the pages within the plastic seal of the monthly issue. Music lovers around South Africa will wait in anticipation to discover the latest songs and musicians they should be listening to.  Rolling Stone strives to encapsulate great journalism with substantial opinions, criticism and recommendations that will shape and form the local idea of what’s in and what’s out. This niche publication becomes the all inclusive go-to guide that fans can keep in their homes and refer back to at any time.

Online is instant. You click and scroll, straining your eyes to find the important information- it’s all about immediate gratification. Most articles that you find online you will find yourself skim reading. In truth, no one wants to curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and an online article to get stuck into. Rolling Stone and other equally superior print publications provide the reader with an experience.

It is just the same in the way that live music will always supersede its recorded counterpart. Why? It is a far more authentic and all-inclusive sensory experience.  Print magazines are somewhat the live performance of their online rivals. They offer something you can see, feel and smell- the opportunity to own something genuine.

Rolling Stone, South Africa sets the bar for all music and non-music publications alike. It sets itself apart from the rest. It will always attract the real music lover, the person who is drawn to the old-school style that is permeated through the publication. It provides satisfaction to those looking to read words worth their time.  It is what many people really want and will continue to want even through the current digital revolution.

So why South Africa? Why Now? Over the years the South African music industry has slowly started to infiltrate the international scene. With a growing sense of local individuality, great music has begun to emerge from a country that has long been seen as the underdog of the talent world. The rising original and authentic styles and talents deserved a publication to match. The royal family of Zef, DIE ANTWOORD is the pinnacle of both local and international success. GOLD FISH have played there tribute in Europe along with other local artists who have begun to expand their scope to international audiences.  In a way it became necessary to have a substantial compendium of international and local artistic trends.

So the question remains. Will print publications become redundant in the current mass interweb hysteria? How could it be when fans will continue to flock each month to engage in the Rolling Stone authentic experience? Despite the rise of online publications, the desire for dependable journalism and an influencing read will not come to an end.  Rolling Stone South Africa is the proof in the pudding. 

When we don’t know which latest trend suits us best, we always return to the trusty LBD forming the backdrop of our closet. We are indeed creatures of habit. When clicking around on the internet has us confused on who to listen to and what to watch we will always have the classic Rolling Stone, South Africa to turn to. In a recent press conference editor-in-chief Miles Keylock assured us- Print is not dead…and we don’t think it will be any time soon.

 

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.

And the Stone Keeps on Rolling

By: Tendani Mulaudzi

When I heard that Rolling Stone was launching a South African version, a few things immediately sprang to mind: So You Think You Can Dance South Africa, Survivor South Africa and Who Wants to be a Millionaire South Africa. These South African copies of international shows are of amateur quality compared to their originals. If I had to choose between a copy of the British Elle and South African Elle, I would grab the British version without hesitation (regardless of the fact that I wouldn’t be able to get hold of any of the clothes, much less afford them). “Obviously Rolling Stone SA is going to be a failure,” said the silly, naïve me. “I mean, there are like hardly any famous South African musicians. They’ll probably have to recycle cover stars like twice a year.”

Interacting with Miles Keylock in a press conference made me feel ashamed of the words that I had said about the magazine. Not only is Rolling Stone SA an enriching magazine that’s definitely worth the read, I think that the American Rolling Stone could learn a few things from our version.

I must admit, I was not the biggest fan of the international Rolling Stone to begin with. But in order to compare the two magazines to each other, I had to do some research. When I googled “Rolling Stone covers”, I found several pages of different covers. Sadly, I could recognize every face. The artists on the covers had all made it to the ‘big time’. They were as commercial as a musician can get, regardless of their genre. Making the cover of Rolling Stone is HUGE for artists; it could be considered the peak of their career. That’s all good and well, but what about those not-so-well-known artists that have a story that’s worth telling?

This is what sets Rolling Stone SA apart and what makes Miles Keylock such a great editor. Hugh Masekela, Zahara, Miriam Makeba, Paul McCartney, Spoek Mathambo and Die Antwoord have rightfully been on the cover artists of Rolling Stone SA. Not all of them are of commercial status and have made the big time. An artist doesn’t need to be super famous to be on the cover, just extraordinary: musically and personally.

Don’t agree? Well, think about it. Hugh Masekela is simply a living legend, or as Keylock explained, “This is the biggest rockstar we have.” Zahara, as Keylock puts it, has music with a message. “Her songs are rooted in decades full of history and she sings songs of hope,” he said. Spoek Mathambo; now that’s a name many average people haven’t heard of. And average they will remain, until they hear what this artist can do. I first came to hear about Spoek Mathambo collaborating on a song with one of my latest obsessions, PH Fat. Spoek got my attention immediately. Miles Keylock’s attention was also stolen by this up-and-coming artist, “Spoek has given his art so much time in terms of thinking… He has found his voice and is going global.”

All these artists have interesting stories to tell but the writer is the one who has to fully articulate the musician’s story. As readers, reading the same old thing with a change of names can a get a little boring. As an editor, Keylock doesn’t want to have bored readers. It works out perfectly. Rolling Stone SA is all about writers who write from their heart. Keylock says, rather factually, that if a writer does not write from their heart, “it will eventually tear away at their soul.” A writer needs to have passion to write for Rolling Stone SA and if they have none, this will prove to be a problem.

An example of a brilliant piece of writing that has featured in the magazine is the article in the form of a love letter to Miriam Makeba by Bongani Madondo. This piece defines writing from the heart. It is personal but not boastful; it is poetic; it is a tribute to an incredible artist. If there is one Rolling Stone SA article you should read, I highly recommend this beautifully written one.

Rolling Stone SA is a magazine that informs, entertains and intellectually stimulates. It has proven my initial assumptions wrong in many ways. There are so many talented South African artists that haven’t been given the recognition they deserve yet. Rolling Stone SA does this for them. It also tells the stories of musicians that are famous already but still have so many interesting aspects to them we are not yet aware of. It is a magazine by South Africans for South Africans; it doesn’t try to put as many internationally-related things as it can into the magazine to get more sales. It doesn’t care if a musician is white or black, coloured or indian; if the artist unique and talented, skin colour doesn’t make them any more worthy of being featured in the magazine. Rolling Stone SA wants to tell the stories that haven’t been told, and believe it or not, there are so many we have yet to hear.

Name: Dominique Rollino

Publication: Cosmopolitan South Africa

 

Rolling Stone South Africa: does it live up to its international parents?

 

With sixteen other publications world-wide, from Brazil to Japan there was always going to be huge pressure on the launch of Rolling Stone South Africa and each and every person involved in it’s publication. However, none more so then its new editor-in-chief, Miles Keylock.

 

From receiving the ‘go ahead’ from the American head office to publication just eight weeks later, there was immediately a sense of urgency to produce a first issue that would live up to the hyped attitude that is associated with the Rolling Stone brand all over the world, it needed to be a space of contradictions. A space where artists could represent themselves.

 

However, even with the blessing from the American publication, Rolling Stone South Africa does not merely want to replicate their international counterpart. Rather they want the magazine to represent the voice and the variety of demographics that the South African culture has to offer. A prime example of this idea comes from the stars that have graced the first six issues. Aside from Paul McCartney, and this can be said purely because he’s a Beatle; all of the cover stars have been South African. In the words of Miles Keylock, “we don’t take the easy way out and just slap a bootylicious babe on the cover.” Each person has a story.

 

Music journalist Lester Banks said that “rock ‘n roll isn’t a music genre, it’s an attitude” and that is exactly what Rolling Stone South Africa is striving to achieve. People expect rock ‘n roll from the magazine because of its famous international links and that’s what they will get in every issue. Regardless of whether the featured artist is famous, if they have a story that represents the rock ‘n roll attitude Rolling Stone will publish it.

 

A prime example of such attitude is displayed on the first cover of the South African issue. A cliché icon to use some may think but Hugh Masekela, or Bra Hugh as he is fondly called throughout the feature, is the epitome of this attitude. He has lived, and he most certainly has a story to tell. He is an icon but he is also a game-changer and he is ensuring that young people through his stories are making new histories.

 

It’s been said that ‘behind every great man, is an even greater woman,’ and it can certainly be said that behind a great magazine there is an even greater man. Miles Keylock has been in the industry for over two decades and yet he still knows that “he is in a position of great privilege.” There are no vacations or any form of downtime for him as a writer, firstly, and as the editor of the South African publication.

 

If there is a story with even a shred of integrity, the rock ‘n roll attitude that helps him to decide what stories are featured in every issue will appear. According to him “the story will always show itself” no matter who the writer is as long as they have ‘heart.’

 

The brand that is Rolling Stone has been run by the same man for the past 45 years. The same man who started the first issue in his campus dorm room because he not only saw the huge change that music was going through, but also how this change was aiding and affecting the human race. This idea is still how the magazine is run today. Same format, same ideas, same integrity. To show the change in music, not just the negatives and positives aspects.

 

Even though Rolling Stone is a hulking giant of intimidation South Africa has done the brand, as a whole, incredibly proud. They have stuck to what works, the format and ideas, but they have given it the ‘local is lekker’ twist. They have not only given South African artists a platform to represent themselves, their voices and stories but they have also give the audience of South Africa something that is intelligent, alluring and rock ‘n roll all in one monthly issue. With only six issues published there is much space for growth, progress and even more spectacular stories from the heart.

“It has to be a Beatle,” Miles Keylock says, completely straight faced. When hit with the question about the Paul McCartney controversy over the cover of Rolling Stone South Africa, his answer comes immediately. He breaks into a smile though and jokes that it really does take a lot to have an international artist bump a local one off the cover. However, according to him, it ended up not mattering in the long run, as McCartney on the cover “made absolutely no difference” in sales.

For a man in such a high position, and for one who has worked quite hard to get there, Miles Keylock is quite down to earth. Keylock has had a great deal of experience writing for magazines, having previously written for GQ before getting the OK from America to produce a South African Rolling Stone. Before that, he taught English and Drama, and credits his own education to getting him where he is today. Although he jokes “I slept my way into a magazine,” after getting one of his first magazine jobs through a woman he had been seeing, he does acknowledge the importance of his university degree and the courses he took. “They give you the tools…angles,” he claims, citing them as important in developing his own writing style.

For Keylock, the decision to stick to local, national artists over international superstars, like Paul McCartney is usually how he runs Rolling Stone. To him it’s not about what’s ‘hot’ but rather what story the artist has to tell. “We’re interested in artists who have something to say,” he says. “Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you have a story to tell.” As far as choosing beyond that, Keylock’s advice for making the cover of the magazine is merely that artists “have to have an attitude.” He doesn’t mean an attitude problem, or a bad attitude, rather he says he looks for an artist about whom he can say, “here’s a guy who actually embodies the rock and roll spirit.” When deciding on which musicians to cover for the magazine, it’s about personality and spirit even more than what or who is popular at the time. While Keylock does claim that they look for “artists that speak to the present,” it goes beyond that. He doesn’t like the idea of covering musicians just because they are all the rage at the time. If they don’t have a story or they don’t have something new to tell, he doesn’t see the point in bothering. “We want those stories that haven’t been told,” he says to that point. “For me… it’s about sharing a story, a story that strikes a chord with me.”

More important to Keylock than just choosing a cover is keeping Rolling Stone South Africa true to South Africa. With sixteen other international versions of Rolling Stone being published across the world, it is important to him to keep the South African edition true to South Africa. “Rather than replicate Rolling Stone America… we need to represent the demographics of this country,” Keylock states. “We have our own chart toppers.” He goes on to explain how it is vital to keep the magazine embodying the South African spirit. With so many other versions of Rolling Stone already being published, keeping the magazine true to it’s South African roots, covering South African artists and South African stories, is what keeps it different from the other editions and what keeps the readers interested. “Is that international story going to strike a big enough chord in South Africa?” he says he must ask about what to run. Because just as Rolling Stone’s American readers aren’t likely to be interested in the music scene in South Africa, readers in South Africa care more about their own music scene. “It’s about representing the country we live in,” Keylock notes. He says he often gets people who ask him if he thinks he’ll run out of local South African artists to put in Rolling Stone. To which he responds with “What country do you live in?” It’s a question he can hardly contemplate and, judging by his expression relating the story, one he can hardly tolerate as well. He gets visibly frustrated by people who don’t realize how many talented musicians and groups there are in South Africa. Clearly that is not one of his major concerns for the magazine.

So there you have it. From one of our top editors, a how-to on how to make it in Rolling Stone. To make it on a cover, you have to be a whole lot of different things. A good musician, to start, but more importantly, you have to have attitude. You have to exemplify the rock and roll spirit that Rolling Stone is known for. How to really make it as a feature in the magazine though is simple. You have to have a story to tell, a story that hasn’t already been told, a story that will captivate and engage readers. How to become an editor at Rolling Stone is another story. For that, you need to get the right education and the right writing experience. Or possibly you just need to sleep with the right people.

‘Oh, that’s fine. I will just quickly download it’ is what I heard from a friend yesterday. We were talking about the new pop sensation Lana Del Rey, and how great her new album ‘Born to Die’ was. When I told her to go out and buy it as soon as possible, she gave me that response.My first reaction was to slap my hand over her mouth, scared that the FBI was hiding in the bushes behind us, ready to pounce on her. Instead I was caught with an anxious expression on my face, and she mocking me. I just couldn’t believe how casual she was at the idea of ‘just’ quickly downloading it.

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The Pirate Bay Welcome Image

I have never been one for music collections, like some of my older friends. They take a pride in collecting these vast amounts of CD’s and albums, labelling and sorting them to perfection and displaying them in some monstrous teak and glass thing in their rooms. I could never afford that. Instead I buy my

favourite classics, like some of the best blues artists or oldies from my child hood like Pink or, yes, even Britney Spears. I do digitize these, and share them with my friends via Ipods and mix CDs.But it seems some people are taking ‘digitizing’ to a whole new level, a level I have yet to really begin playing in. Everyone has become music Pirates.

This ‘Pirate Generation’, is increasingly resorting to ‘I will just quickly download it’ as a way to get hold of not only music, but films, software, games and even books! It is as if going to the story and actually buying the product is a ‘waste of money’. I can’t see why showing your appreciation for something, buy spending money on it, is a waste. I don’t know if this generation understands that they are destroying the money legs that the music industry stands on.

There is an incredible irony in Piracy. By illegally downloading your favourite artist for free, you are causing your favourite artist to starve. Ok, maybe not ‘starve’ but you are probably not helping them make any money, allowing them to carry on doing what they, and you, love.

What causes people to download illegally? I understand that there is a level of convenience in downloading, where you don’t have to go out and buy something, and that it is for free, so you are not spending money, but what I don’t understand is why this Pirate Generation has not realised the implications, and great irony, of their downloading; they are ruining the integrity of the music they love.

In 2000, the internationally recognised South African journalist Rian Malan wrote an article titled ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ for the May edition of American Rolling Stone. The article detailed the beginning of one of the most recognised tunes of the 20th century, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. The article began tracking it through from its first recording by Solomon Linda, a Zulu singer, to its adaption by 60s ‘Doo-wop’ bands, like The Weavers and The Tokens. And what’s the crux of the article? Malan reveals that Linda never received any royalties for the song, not a single penny.

The creator of the iconic song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, died without nothing but a roof over his head, 4 daughters to feed and a destitute life to leave as a legacy. This is the great and unjust crime in the music industry, which to some extent every Pirate perpetuates. By illegally downloading music, the Pirate is perpetuating a situation where the artist is left without any thing from his art and he, like Linda, is left in a situation of destitute rejection.

This sad story, however, does have a happy ending. His song became wildly popular after it was adopted by The Weavers and The Tokens, making it a household name and international anthem. Ultimately it seems like the ‘piracy’ of Linda’s song, meant it was able to be heard on a mucher larger scale.

Many artists are choosing to have their work available for free download on the massively popular illegal downloading website, ThePiratebay. After putting their debut album on the site, Monster Cat justified this move by stating,

‘Music is meant to be shared, and heard, by the people. Artists should let go of their work, and make it available for everyone.’

Many other musicians and bands are similar to Monster Cat; by uploading their tracks on Youtube and Myspace there music becomes just as easily accessible, and illegally obtainable. This could be, alternative to Monster Cat’s justification, a marketing ploy instead of a bid for the open sharing of music. Where the band receives, in many cases much needed, publicity and recording deals – thus being a life saver for all the little Indie bands out there.

Maybe this downloading thing is not altogether bad, since the music industry would still keep on making money with advertising or stage performances and it is not as if any of the artists my friend downloads are starving. But we just cannot ignore the injustice against Linda, or the fact that these artists receive nothing real from their fans.

It seems Linda’s terrible example dupes the bid for piracy, since no one should go unrewarded for genius, no matter how ‘famous’ their song gets it.

While we finished our lunch after the profession of my friend’s illegal ways, I couldn’t help but tell her what happened to Linda. She seemed taken aback, as if this was the first time she could see what it meant to be a pirate, what the affect would be on the artists she was ‘just quickly downloading’.  I don’t know if it meant anything to her, or whether she would stop downloading music, but what I do know is that this Pirate Generation is changing the way music is being shared, be it for the good or the bad.

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.

The Sleeping Lion

Did you know the Alphabet song has the same tune as Baa Baa Black Sheep, which also has the same tune as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

The poem Twinkle Twinkle was first published in 1806 in a collection of poems by Jane Taylor and her sister Ann and is sung to the tune of the French melody “Ah! Vous diraj-je, Maman.”, which was composed and published in 1761 by Mozart.

Has the question ever been raised as to who should take ownership for probably the most famous nursery rhyme in the world? And springing from that question, who then takes ownership for the 2 other songs inspired by the melody.  Taylor or Mozart? And do you think the family of the ‘real’ owner of the song should be paid revenue every single time Twinkle Twinkle is sung or recorded?

Most of you probably answered no. You don’t care, it’s a nursery rhyme, and I’m pretty sure the Taylor and Mozart family have moved on and made peace with the fact that every single child in the world is singing their great-great grandmothers poem and great-great-great grandfathers lullaby without them receiving compensation every time those 6 simple lines of music are played.

 

However recently a similar story that involves a 70-year-old song and its writer has caused a great deal of controversy around the world. Everybody knows the song In the Jungle, and recently, most of the music world has become aware that this song was supposedly ‘stolen’ from South African artist Solomon Linda who after the song was recorded and re-recorded received absolutely no compensation for his work and died in poverty. Until musician/writer Rian Malan wrote his article, ‘In the Jungle’ and proved to the world that Linda deserved compensation and recognition for his of world-renowned song, which he has now gotten, in the form of a small sum of money sent to his family…after millions of dollars spent in law suits. Quite a loss really…

 

But the blame game has been going on for too long, and too much opinion and personal investment has already gone into the matter for me to comment on it. But what boggles my mind, and stumps me every time is why has this song been one of the world’s favourites for 70 years… it’s not that great.

 

Now before I’m stoned for denouncing one of the worlds most loved songs, let me explain. The song is catchy and enjoyable and once you’ve heard it, it will sit in your mind for 5 days until it almost drives you insane.  But the millions of dollars this song has earned in revenue and the lawsuits that came with the profits- One has to ask oneself is it worth it??

 

There are exactly 5 lines to the commercialised version of the song: In the Jungle, The mighty Jungle, The lion sleeps tonight. Aweeeeeeeee weeeeeiieeeee awimbowe. That’s it. The song has no beginning and no end, the musician simply decides when to end the song, so why for 70 years has this song been one of the most famous songs of all time and the cause for such controversy.

 

The song is about a lion, sleeping in the jungle. That’s it, and may it please be noted that South Africa does not have a jungle…. We have the bush, the veld. But yet this factually incorrect song has sold more records and had more artist do covers of it than Beatles songs- even the French did a cover of it!

Then after appearing in Walt Disney’s most beloved movie, The Lion King, the song once again became a global sensation- all because a Meer cat and a warthog sang it for 30 seconds in a 1.5 hour movie.

 

Minus the screeches in the background that could represent someone being tortured, In the Jungle could be no different to an old school nursery rhyme.  Yet the world celebrates the it and gives way to much attention to a song that was originally labelled as ‘trash’ before being sent to Seeger.

 

But the song still plays and plays and gets stuck in your head until you want to scream in pain just to get it out.  The more the song is played and ‘revised’ the worse it gets.  Linda’s version of the song is actually bearable, and almost enjoyable but recently a new version of a Hippo and a dog singing the song was released.  It’s even worse than listening to Seeger sing it as the hippo and dog (?) screech and whine about a mighty lion that is sleeping. Then they add a new verse about the lion sleeping in the village, which is even more absurd than the first verse. This has attracted over 3 million hits on youtube… makes you question where society is heading…

 

Opinions aside this short and sweet melody somehow made it to the top of the charts numerous times, and Solomon Linda didn’t earn a darn dime. Now this is sad, and its fantastic that justice prevailed all that common jazz but I must ask- if Solomon Linda realised everybody in the world had fallen in love with his song would he demand money or would he rejoice that his music was out there putting smiles on everyone’s faces as we all celebrate the sleeping lion.

And did the lawsuit really bring about a world of good for the Linda family, who lost their father and sister and then spent years fighting a case that they barely won? But according to the lawyers and many musical suitors all is now well that Solomon Linda’s body could finally rest in peace under a real tombstone that the family could now afford thanks to all this hype.

 

How much longer can this song be played for? After 70 years of listening to the same song isn’t the world getting bored of it?  In my opinion the song really should be put to rest next to the lion in the non-existent jungle in South Africa…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Iman Adams

Its 9pm, I walk into Zula and order a coffee. Yes that is right, a coffee. Cappuccinos are fantastic. It is That Circus Show, a supposed night of saucy burlesque dancers, live performers and music acts. I am curious to see whether it is as debauch as it sounds. Thirty bucks gets you in. Pretty reasonable. I like this indeed.

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Swingsister, Zula Sound Bar, Cape Town Photo by: Iman Adams

I walk upstairs to find an average set-up, some black balloons and fairy lights, with the projector screen to the right of the stage. I am not sure I entirely buy the whole audio/visual experience thing; nobody is looking to the right of the stage when the performers are at the centre. Although, whilst looking upon Swingsister dropping some electro-swing beats, I find the projected images a lot more entertaining. It is 9:30; there are about five people in the room, understandably so, it is incredibly early. However, it does not make the scene any less pathetic. There is no vibe, there is no atmosphere, there is no crowd, and no matter the funkiness of Swingsister’s groove, the emptiness drowns it out.

Let us fast forward to 11pm, where the fun began. Through the past two dreary hours, I had heard whispers running through Zula about the quirky foursome called Sun-Do Q’lisi, and I had been praying this one would pick up the night. My prayers were answered.

It may have just been the lights, but when these four walk on, it is as if someone just dropped an array of colourful paint bombs all over the place. The room has finally filled up; there is excitement, creepy smiling people, and an explosion of bass, brass and cats everywhere. Sun-Do Q’lisi has arrived, and I finally feel like I want to pee my pants with excitement. With the first beat that drops, and the strange harmonies coming through the speakers, it feels as though the room and everybody in it is being transported to a place where all the weird and wonderful things people think and want to do, is being manifested through the four talented men on stage.

The best part about these muso’s is the undeniable stage presence; they are feeling the music, they are feeling each other, and they are feeling the crowd. It is all one big swirling mass of colourful connectivity through an insane collaboration of electronica, instruments and vocal harmonies consisting of occasional animal noises, a vast display of comical facial expressions and hard jamming.

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Sun-Do Q’lisi, Zula Sound Bar, Cape Town Photo by: Iman Adams

Half way through the set, two burlesque dancers’ pop-up onstage, this does not impress me, an average five-minute performance that feels like a distraction. Then to my surprise, Swingsister arrives with fire batons… this is confusing… is she a DJ or does she play with fire? Indulging in both in the same night, at the same event, made it appear as if Zula had some trouble holding on to their line-up. I turn my attention back to the main attraction

After Sun-Do came DJ Tony Finger, at least that is what the program said. As far as I know, DJ Tony Finger is a solo act, but before me stood three men: one with a clarinet, another bashing out on an electric drum kit and one working the macbook and a keytar. The room empties out, but a few crazies stick around to groove to the cool Balkan beats blasting through the system. The music is thoroughly enjoyable, with Sun-Do Q’lisi increasing the good vibe, the space to move is most certainly welcome. Whilst enjoying a bit of a wiggle, I look up to notice that one of the three has left the stage; he comes back, only for another one to leave the stage for a bit and come back. This is annoying, and none of them appear particularly interested in what they are doing. More live cirque performers were promised, but I have lost my enthusiasm, (it seems most of the crowd has) and decide to leave.

That Circus Show-Official Launch Party is not all that I had hoped it would be. It all seemed a bit unorganised, badly marketed perhaps, but even with all the disappointments, I went home chuffed with the one performance that made the whole experience worth it, at the end of the day, it all comes back to the music. Sun-Do Q’lisi ensured my money well spent. Would I go back for another Friday night circus show? That is debatable.