Tag Archive: music


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!

Rolling Stone hits South Africa

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.

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.

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.

Musical Magazine Represents Locally

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.

‘Mbube’: Musical Exploitation

BY GRAY KOTZE

The financial exploitation of Africa and its people is nothing new. It is an intrinsically morphed aspect of Africa’s pre, and post, colonial history. From the exploitative labour of slavery in the Atlantic slave trade, and the colonial mineral-profiteering of Africa’s resources, to the abusive migrant labour system during apartheid, Africa’s monetary malfeasance by big-business capitalists has been well documented. However, there is an aspect of Africa’s exploitation that has been largely ignored by the pages of the past: musical exploitation. Case in point: Solomon Linda – the author of one of the most artistically and financially rich tunes that the world has ever known.

Rian Malan’s exposé of Linda’s financial mistreatment in his article, ‘In the Jungle’, estimates Linda’s lost royalties for his song, ‘Mbube’, otherwise known as ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, as being in the region of at least $15 million. And what was Linda paid in 1939 when he first composed this song; a track that would go on to be covered by hundreds of artists, from R.E.M to The Weavers, and used in films such as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and – of course – The Lion King. A laughable 10 Shillings. After Malan’s piece was published in Rolling Stone, and Linda’s financial injustice at the hands of the record company Goliath’s was brought to light, Linda’s penurious family began to receive some slender monetary reward – albeit only a glimpse of the millions in royalties which the song rightfully earned. A consolation prize for Linda, as he died without the money to afford a gravestone, but proved a welcome reward for Linda’s three remaining daughters.

Although this case did come to a modestly happy end, the question of why it took almost 70 years for justice (or rather an inkling of justice) to prevail remains. Perhaps the most important issue that Linda’s case arises however is that African musicians, and indeed musicians on a global scale, have been, and continue to be, exploited by the corporate controllers of the record landscape even today. Although many assume that recorded artists of now, and yesteryear, are amongst the richest in the world, this is not the case. The plight of musicians, and their exploitation, is still a genuine concern. Hopefully Linda’s case helps to drag the public’s awareness of this issue in to the light.

Although financial mistreatment by conglomerate record labels is still a concern today, the issue has certainly improved over time, and is a far cry from the commercial mistreatment that artists such as Linda had to endure. Joe Mogotsi of Manhattan Brothers – an Afro-jazzy, 1940s vocal group – and a contemporary of Linda described how unfairly black South Africans were treated in pecuniary matters by the record label kings, Gallo, during the formative stage of recording contracts. “When we asked at Gallo, we were told that black people are not allowed to have royalties.”

In order to produce a recording in the early 1940s, black South Africans had to sign their financial lives away. Mogotsi told of the implications of the record deals, where by signing a contract “you said take me to the gallows, and hang me.” It was in this environment that Linda sold his royalties-soul, which ensured that his millions were to find a home at the looming, American record kingdoms. “It’s not a question of it being illegal”, says Malan – who brought the story into the public eye – “it’s just unfair.”

Many other musicians, not only African, have also been manipulated unfairly like this by music moguls. After Jimi Hendrix’s death, his heirs were left to work lowly jobs while his discography generated millions of dollars a year for corporate-fireball Universal Music Group (UMG). Florence Ballard, a member of The Supremes, died an early death, supported only by welfare money, after UMG halted possible solo career earnings by banning her from publically mentioning her involvement with The Supremes, or her recordings for Motown. UMG still legally own her catalogue to this day.

Many other examples exist of artists who were financially steamrolled by powerful record labels, such as Collective Soul’s song ‘Shine’ – the number one Album Rock Song of 1994 on the Billboard charts – for which they earned almost nothing. Or TLC, the best-selling female group of all time, who declared bankruptcy after their minimal income failed to match their bills. Or even Willie Dixon, who Led Zeppelin lyrically stole from for ‘Whole Lotta Love’ – which remains one of the most popular rock songs of all time. The list continues.

So then; what will bring about a fairer treatment of musicians? Courtney Love, who wrote a ‘Letter to Recording Artists’ in the early 2000s, felt that a call for a union for label musicians was necessary. This letter highlighted the nominal percentage of earnings that musicians received from ‘the big 5’ record companies, and cited a need for a singular union which would battle for performer’s benefits. This notion of an all encompassing trade union which represents the rights of its affiliated artists is worth some thought. Although South Africa does have a musical union in the form of the Association of Independent Record Companies (AIRCO), it certainly does not include all recorded local musicians; which is something which should be addressed.

Although much has changed in the industry since the recording of ‘Mbube’, the underlying theme of musicians’ financial exploitation has remained the same. Today the biggest ‘exploiter’ in the music industry is however not the record companies – although they too play a role – but the internet, and musical piracy. This online foe currently represents a new exploitative figure to African, and world, musicians alike. However, it also represents opportunity; opportunities for local artists to break free of the big business boys, cut out the middle-man, and make music’s money independently. In this 2.0-world of business, new distribution methods have been made possible. Hopefully, due to these new possibilities, financial success for local musical talents will increase, and minimise the exploitation of future Solomon Linda’s.

Finders, Keepers

By: Tendani Mulaudzi

The words resonate in my mind like a bad song that is stuck in my head: ‘finders, keepers’. Some of my traumatic childhood experiences that I will always remember quite vividly involved the speaking of these words; never by me, of course, but rather by a mean peer. The situations always went along the lines of the following: I lose a sweet. I look everywhere for it and I am very upset by the fact that it is probably gone forever. One of the girls in my class finds a sweet just like mine (because it is mine) and proceeds to unwrap it. Like something out of a movie, I run towards her in what feels like slow motion and demand her to give it back to me. She simply replies, “Finders, keepers!”

It’s safe to say that this is similar to the way that Solomon Linda and his family probably felt when “Mbube” was stolen from them: cheated, robbed. Comparing losing a sweet to losing a creative entity such as a song is a terrible comparison, but my point has been made. For the 6 year old me and Solomon Linda, our feelings concerning our specific conflicts matched.

Solomon Linda, a Zulu tribesman, wrote a song that some say changed the world. I first heard it when I was about 1 and half years old, although I was probably only singing along to it 2 years later. The song was featured in one of my favourite movies, a classic that remains one of my best to this day, The Lion King. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, as it is now called, is a song that I will never forget, no matter how long I don’t hear it for. However, I had absolutely no idea that a Zulu from South Africa was the original composer of the song until about two weeks ago. For 18 years, I have been deceived into thinking that an American wrote the song from scratch. 18 years of giving credit to someone for something they hardly had any part in is a rather alarming.

The first thing I felt was pure shock when I found out. How could these people do that, just take something that didn’t belong to them and keep it as their own? After this appalling information had set in, I asked myself, “Can you blame them?”

The song “Mbube” first landed in the hands of an American in 1948. These hands belonged to Pete Seeger, a folklore singer and at that time, part of a band called Woody Guthrie. The record of the song that he listened to was the original by Solomon Linda and his band, The Evening Birds. Seeger kept the entire song the same, except he misinterpreted a word that was repetitively sang throughout the song. Instead of “uyimbube”, Seeger heard the word “awimoweh”.

Cutting a long story short, in 1950, Seeger and his band the Weavers made the big time with their new record, which included the new “Mbube”, now called “Wimoweh”. Other than the name, the song hadn’t changed much. The Weavers just added a “finger-popping rhythm” which made it more accustomed for white people.

I must admit, I feel a bit of sympathy towards Pete Seeger’s part to play in the commercializing of “Wimoweh”. He was given ten records that no one else wanted, and found a song that would be great to sing. He wasn’t very well off, and could do with a little push in the right direction. The song landed in his possession at just the right time for him. In later years, it was clear that Pete Seeger did not want any of the profit made from “Wimoweh”. He acknowledged that it was not his song; it belonged to a man in South Africa named Solomon Linda. He was one of the few that did not want to be credited for something he was not responsible for.

Therefore, I cannot blame Pete Seeger. He was a man that needed to make a living, and all he needed “Wimoweh” for was to get his career going; he did not want the song to define his career and he certainly did not want to make his living off of the profits of that song alone.

It is not Pete Seeger who was the problem. It was the people who came onto the scene of “Wimoweh” later. George Weiss is a person we can blame quite a bit. George Weiss wrote the words, “In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.” He added lyrics consisting of ten words turned the song into something that could fit the pop genre a little more than it did, which, to him, made him the original composer. According to him, Linda only composed the “uyimbube” lyric of the song.

As one would guess, seeing as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is more or less the most famous song in the world, Weiss has made millions from the royalties of the song. It wasn’t until years later, when he was forced to acknowledge that Linda had a part to play in the composition of the song, that he sent Linda’s family $12 000, which equalled 10%, of the royalties. 10%, when Linda was responsible for at least 80% of the product that apparently belonged to Weiss? Again, this is anything but impressive.

I have tried to put myself in Weiss’s shoes and asked myself why he would claim so much of the royalties of the song, when he already had enough money to last him a lifetime. Greed, he had plenty of that, but what he lacked was simple humanity. When I heard the story of Solomon Linda, how he died a pauper, without a tombstone on his grave as his family could not afford it, my heart broke. How was it possible for George Weiss to lie there luxuriously amongst his millions and not think of the rightful owner of these millions and his family, who had absolutely nothing?

There are a few conclusions I have come to. To some Americans, Africa is like a mythical place to them. It seems far and foreign, their paths would never cross. Maybe this is what Weiss thought of Solomon Linda. Maybe he thought there was no way that Linda’s family would ever find out about the song and his claims, since, to him, Africa was so distant and disconnected from America. After all, Weiss is one of the gullible people that still, to this day, are under the impression that the song is a tribute to the process of hunting a lion. He probably did not doubt this perception of the song as soon as he heard it. You cannot blame them for their pure ignorance.

He probably also thought, “Finders, keepers” when he stole the song and its ideas directly from the Tokens and indirectly from Solomon Linda. Since he found it, and made it sound better than it did originally, it was his. Why praise anyone else for the song when he made it what it is today?

The only reasons I can come up with basically link to the idea that George Weiss is purely delusional. I can’t think of any other motive that would cause him to claim recognition of a song of South Africans in poverty other than ignorance.

I am now one of the very few people that know the truth about this song we all know and love. There is not much I can do to help Solomon Linda’s family attain the rights to the money they deserve. However, I imagine Solomon Linda constantly looking over us from somewhere in the sky. I imagine that every time someone finds out the song rightfully belongs to him, he bursts into song and happily sings that amazing melody of his. I imagine that he doesn’t care about the money, he is happy that he gets to share his wonderful music with the whole world, even if some people do not know it is his music. I imagine, but I pray to God it’s true.

Having never heard of Fetish before, I approached this gig with an open mind and a willingness to absorb whatever they threw at me. A growing queue outside proved promising for a band I never even knew existed and a rocker crowd made me feel right at home. I could tell people were excited for this gig, as the crowd chatted enthusiastically. It was only until I learned that it had been 10 years since they last played in South Africa, that I understood why.

As soon as the band stepped on stage, the crowd cheers erupted out of the brewing anticipation, and before long, Michelle Breeze’s smooth vocals flowed over our bobbing heads. For the first few songs, I felt a surprising lack of any real crowd engagement. It was as if the band was more focused on getting through the songs than they were on connecting with the audience and putting on a show. This did however change and by the 4th song I could feel the building energy in the bodies around me.

The sound was good and I could feel the bass guitar’s chords vibrating around the room, giving their music a deep intensity that resonated through me. Their intensity could also be seen on Michelle’s face, as she sang each song with genuine emotion and banged the snare drum with passion. It soon became obvious to me that their music means a lot to them and that each song is a reflection of who they are, not just some hog-wash thrown together by a money-hungry producer.

A lot of new material from their latest album was played, with Michelle saying they “have to play the new stuff”. Being a first time Fetish listener I could only tell the difference between the new and the old by the amount of people singing along in the crowd. The new material was well received, with many an appreciative cheer but it did not compare to the energy that the crowd’s voices created when the familiar songs were played. Having said this, I did feel as though the new pieces showed a change towards a more mature sound.

The only real problem I had with this gig is that fact that I could hardly hear what Michelle was saying in between songs. Her energy seemed to disappear when she stopped singing and only returned with the next song. It would have been great to see the same energy she portrayed in the music in her onstage persona. I wasn’t the only person who noticed this as a guy next to me mumbled something about “speaking up” more than once during the set.

Fetish has a definite style that comes through, not only in their music but also in their performance. They ask their audience for more than to just have a good time but also to critically listen to and genuinely feel their music. They are proud of their music and are more interested in the expression of music than in putting on a show. I didn’t walk away with sweaty hair or any mosh-pit induced bruises, but rather with a new appreciation of what it’s like to express yourself through something you love and the feeling that I caught a tiny glimpse of Michelle Breeze’s soul. – Jean Jacobs

souled out

George Weiss is perceived by many as a white devil in that he used the idea of a man from the poverty stricken Africa as a money making venture. He took the original song by Solomon Linda, presented to him by The Tokens, and changed the sound and lyrics of it. The content of the original song was placed in the childhood of the singing group Linda was part of, Linda Solomon and the early birds. It was a narrative about them being boys chasing the lions away from their fathers’ cattle. Weiss changed it to a song about a lion sleeping in a mighty jungle. Linda did not see much of the benefits of the song that fell from his mind onto his lungs and was projected out in a seamless falsetto. This could be accredited to the uncertainty around the copyright issues of the song. Where Linda died in poverty not seeing the fruits of his song, Weiss rose from his metaphorical ashes and made the song a widespread hit.

While that is a good argument to go by, Weiss is painted with unpleasant colours because his actions are seen as an injustice to Linda and his family through the lens of morality. I agree that too the extent of his music career he lacks a soul, and on an ethical level should perhaps feel bad about his choices that wronged in Solomon in however many ways. I would like to suggest that the music business (business being the operative word here) isn’t about ensuring that your moral compass is always facing north. It is a money making business which seeks to do just while providing entertainment by any means possible.

Weiss took Linda’s song and gave it modern appeal. He took something that was generationally relevant and gave it a contemporary feel for it to be exposed to a broader audience. He adapted it and added an element of timelessness so that Linda’s song would be known to generations to come. This generation includes me. I remember gathering with my brother religiously once a week in my mom’s room to watch the ultimate Disney movie, The Lion King. I could quote every line and sing along to every song. I would cry each time I saw Mufasa lost grip of the branch falling to his death into the stampeding cattle and get excited when Nala and Simba ended up together regardless of the fact that I had seen it seven days prior. I would experience the same joy every time the warthog and meercat would talk in jest and sing in perfect unity. I distinctly remember the first time I heard the adaption of Linda’s song as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Timon and Pumbaa’s a cappella rendition still reverberates in my skull as I recall the scene where they are walking in the forest happily bobbing and singing away as with Timon getting carried away in wailing while Pumbaa goes off trail and gets lost. This sort of exposure of the song is not likely to have been possible had it not been adapted to encompass an audience of children and adults alike.

No obligation to Linda was required from Weiss in accrediting or acknowledging him for the use of the idea of his song. If Weiss was to do so it would be voluntary. People view it as an injustice based on morality and ethics, yet business is about churning out good music as well as making money. Which he did. A lot of it. A contract was not drawn up between Linda and Gallo records or with anyone else that whose version of Linda’s song was made which makes sense considering the context of the marginalized and oppressed position of black people, highlighted in this industry. The extent of the copyright was a Linda’s name and the song title on a 78-rmp record. Hardly anything legal. Weiss was therefore not legally bound by any agreement spoken or otherwise. He simply saw an opportunity and took initiative. He made use of the resources within his reach. It may be argued that it was at the expense of an innocent man who should have been given that same amount of exposure, but Weiss just did what he knew best.

As for Linda’s family: they did not do much except be related to him, and even that should be attributed to nature. His riches, or lack thereof, were passed onto them by virtue of the fact that they share a blood line and a surname, not because they earned it. One cannot but wonder that had the contestation around Linda and royalties owed unto him not occurred would they know any different and cared.

Linda did get some form of acknowledgment for his work which was not a requirement but was done out of moral code and courtesy. It could have also been done to add to a gimmick where American artists would be seen working with an authentic piece from Africa. This would add to the anticipation and growing of the song. Weiss was simply doing what he was getting paid for. As much as many regard George Weiss as unjust riddled with no morals, I argue that the consideration of that would lose his true intent: to be proactive in his decisions and make a success out of a song that would have possibly just been a passing fad (with its lifespan lasting as long as the Weavers success) or just remained a part of oral tradition in Africa.

The original “mbube” was adapted to a contemporary version for the benefit of the music sphere as well as George Weiss’ career. It also exposed the song to the American population, where the entertainment industry was and still is booming. That is where it ultimately became timeless. By including “the lion sleeps tonight” in movies such as The Lion King and Ace Ventura, both popular at different times and to different audiences, it defied time and is still a familiar tune amongst my generation. In an industry where songs have the tendency to be fads he was able to take a song, even birthed from another man’s mind, and adapted to one of the most used and most sung songs of the 20th century.

The Circus is in Town

BY KYLIE HOLLIDAY

Once upon a town in a time far away… no that’s not right.

The circus has come to town! The Akelian Circus that is, and it is here to stay. Where its at? The Nameless Pub, no really that’s its name, in the so-called old-age home that is Somerset West. When is it? Every last Sunday of the month. Why should you care? I shall tell you!

 

The Akelian Circus is the collaboration of a truly talented group of musicians. On this wintry night, 29 April, this acoustic cluster of muso’s included Somerset West natives; Nick Kuiper, Richard Kuiper, Julian Bach and Neil Rautenbach, as well as MISTER & MISREAD band members; Kristyn Rӧhm, Nick Frost and Phil Joubert.

 

The Nameless Pub is as laid back as gets; a couple of couches cosy-ing up the corners of the room, some A-typical bar tables and chairs and the ever- faithful foosball and pool tables all centred around the make-shift stage- equipped with lights, amps, monitors, drum-kits and the kitchen sink.

 

The evening kicked off with a cover of STING’s “Message in a Bottle” by Nick Kuiper on guitar and vocals with Nick Frost on drums. Kuiper’s voice has a gravelly sound that, accompanied by his skilful guitar playing, fills the room. The atmosphere was relaxed; drinks were consumed like it was not Sunday, people were chatting, tapping their feet to the music and the Nicks did not miss a beat. A swig of beer and the last drag of a cigarette and they effortlessly moved onto a crowd pleaser; “Piano Man” by BILLY JOEL; the otherwise ambivalent Sunday-crowd sang along quite enthusiastically. After some John Mayer solo’s from Kuiper, Frost was back on drums for what was arguably the best song of their set; a cover of the iconic PINK FLOYD’s “Wish You Were Here”; the locals were basking in the ambience of old school.

 

Richard Kuiper joined, beginning with FOO FIGHTERS’ “Times Like These”, he harmonised expertly with notes that were astounding. The locals, unsurprisingly, loved it. Nick Kuiper exited as Frost accompanied, with beautiful harmonies, the other Kuiper taking the lead on THE USED’s “Noise and Kisses”; the vocals were pitch-perfect, Frost’s skills on the guitar were just as good as they were on drums and for a pretty ambitious first song they pulled it off with practised ease. After Kuiper belted out BOXCAR RACERS’ “Letters to God” near perfectly, it seemed time for some comedic relief from Frost who sensuously, and with a straight face, sang TENACIOUS D’s “F**k Her Gently”. The comedy didn’t stop there; an improvement on RIHANNA’s “Umbrella” by Richard ensued.

 

Another change and the present MISTER & MISREAD band members were on stage, with joker Julian Bach excitedly hopping on drums, starting with FOSTER THE PEOPLE’s “Pumped up Kicks”. It was fantastic; full, up-beat and succeeded in enticing the Sunday-crowd to sing along. Frost harmonising to Rӧhm’s, sometimes Hayley Williams-esque, vocals makes for a really beautiful over-all sound. The trio debuted some material for the local crowd with Misread whipping out a page of their newly written lyrics. Their first was lyrically sharp and naughty and the tone upbeat but somewhat eerie. Misread pushing her voice with such emotion added an element of depth to PARAMORE’s “Only Exception”, I think, making their cover better than the original. Some more new stuff, BLACK KEYS and MUMFORD AND SONS followed all with the most amazing harmonies.

 

Funny guy Julian Bach accompanied by his brother Neil Rautenbach, playing bass, and Nick Frost, made modulation seem easy with sneaky key changes mid-song done to perfection. They performed introspective Julian Bach tunes that were happy, up beat and kind of folksy, but do not be deceived they are no joke. Bach had such a naughty boy smile on his face while he performed, his passion translated and the crowd loved him. The bass made their set feel fuller, the skills shown on guitar were brilliant and despite some minor feedback difficulties their performance was stellar. It was at that stage of the evening that the most applause and interaction took place on behalf of the crowd, the room was abuzz with energy.

 

To follow, actually to return, were Phil Joubert, Nick Kuiper and Frost with some super up beat, rock tunes which the crowd soaked up. They started off with “Wonderwall” by OASIS with Joubert’s harmonies sounding top notch, then moved on to “Pardon Me” by INCUBUS in which Joubert took the lead with an incredibly strong chorus- line. Joubert then took on MUSE’s “Time is Running Out” with huge success as his ability to break out into screamo was evident, that is skill.

 

There was almost not a point during the night at which it was safe to take a bathroom break because you would definitely have been missing something, leaving early was also just not an option. Overall The Akelian Circus was a very interactive gig, with the artists frequently joking and conversing with the crowd, making for a highly enjoyable experience.

 

The night was a circus of harmonies from heaven so walk the long and winding tightrope to Somerset West, you will not be disappointed.

The Akelian Circus

Kristyn Rohm – Photo by Phil Joubert

The Akelian Circus

Nick Frost – Photo by Lauren Hochfelden

The Akelian Circus

Julian Bach – Photo by Lauren Hochfelden

The Akelian Circus

Richard Kuiper – Photo by Lauren Hochfelden

The Akelian Circus

Nick Kuiper – Photo by Clara Ilena

The Akelian Circus

Phil Joubert – Photo by Tim Hulme