As a person who comes from the Rhythm City of South Africa, which is Alexandra, I cannot but applaud the milestone decision taken to decolonise us.
I mean the evergreen with controversy SABC chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, on his introduction of the 90 percent local music content across all the platforms of the broadcaster’s radio stations.
He has shown rare leadership in taking this decision. Many of those who came before him were not brave enough to take that decisive step and decolonise the SABC from the clutches of slavery to the western world –apartheid here at home, and the Eurocentric playlist for our stations.
For many years, African music was relegated to the backroom. This meant that stations, including those that catered to the African market, played music from artists in America, Australia, Britain, Canada etc. This meant our hard-earned money and resources which could have best served our own artists were being exported to those countries as royalties.
Our own musicians were left high and dry to die paupers as their music, which was, and still is, much loved by South Africans, never got to be aired and no royalties went their way, except for the meagre record sales which are now largely landing in the hands of counterfeiters.
Motsoeneng’s decision means more airplay for our own music, more money for our own musicians, and thereby relieving us of the burden of having to club together to bury these talented musicians when they die penniless.
The quality of the music produced by Alexandra’s own Simon Nkabinde, of Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens fame, was magnificent, yet he died a pauper. And so did many others. This for the simple reason that their music was not getting airplay because somebody somewhere who knows nothing about our musical taste and never consulted us either, decided to enrich his kith and kin in Europe and the Americas, including the black assimilados in those countries who were victims of the slave trade.
For those of you who may not know this, each and every time a song of whoever and wherever is played on any radio station wherever, a certain percentage is paid to the person who sang it, the person who composed it, and the person who produced it.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the families of the late Elvis Presley are still sitting and eating pretty from his God-given talent to entertain me, you and us all over the world. If you climb into any taxi, the sounds of maskandi music clog your eardrums and so do Basotho and Tsonga lyrics.
Let’s be shrewd and stop exporting our hard-earned cash to enrich people we don’t know. Let’s keep it within the family so we can all prosper. Motsoeneng has promised to even play more Afrikaans music.
Now it’s time for the families of Mahlathini and those musicians who died before and after him to enjoy the same rewards from the brilliance of their ancestors’ artistic work inasmuch as those of Elvis do today.
Next target is the decolonisation of SABC TV.