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Saluting The She’s and He’s of Music

DRAKENSBERG Promotions’ Tribute Concert must be the only festival with the remnants of the culture of lala vuka (partying till dawn) that was the norm among township festivals of pre 1994.

The 6 To 6’s, as they were commonly referred to, were a source of great excitement and taking off the steam when the laws of the country meant the going was much more tougher for the bantu’s in South Africa.

Back then risks associated with travelling at night –including menacing ghosts, perhaps also the naughty tokoloshe’s; the sjambok wilding, torture masters and kick to permanently scar apartheid police and knife wilding tsotsis – contributed to audiences opting to go home just after sunrise when it was a bit safer.

Change in goverment  that came in ’94  opened up (to some level)  economic opportunities that meant more black people can now stay (some do) even at the most expensive of hotels, own cars and have means to arrange special group transport to get them to a place of their desire at any hour. Yet it would seem most among the audience for the Tribute Concert have made a choice to reminisce about the bittersweet old days in their own special way. Perhaps it is also the nostalgic element of the festival that attracts the lala-vuka type of audience. It is a common characteristic of the festival to feature a cross generation of artists from the ‘60s right through to the present. Take this year’s line-up; it is headlined by the up-to-date (pop music-wise) Afro-pop duo Mafikizolo who recently collected two MTV Africa Music Awards and represent the ‘90s local music generation. Last year’s Idols S.A winner Musa and Mi Casa represent the now generation.

Someone familiar with the lala-vuka era is Yvonne Chaka Chaka who broke into the scene with songs like Umqombothi in the ’80. Lira and Zonke are the presently top-ranked Afro-soul sisters on the bill while Johnny Clegg comes from the ‘70s, Letta Mbulu the ‘60s and Jonas Gwangwa from the 50’s into the 60’s. There’s also Thomas Chauke, Ringo, Bhudaza and a number of up and coming acts performing at the festival.

“This year’s event is a particularly special occasion for us, because it gives us the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a country in the two decades since the dawn of democracy – but also to celebrate our musical riches, from our evergreen stalwarts right through to our talented young upstarts,” said Leonard Sithole of Drakensberg Promotions.

The Tribute Concert remains one of the few festivals that only feature South African Acts. This means the organisers spare themselves the headache of dealing with ridiculous demands and childishness of some European and U.S artists. And on top of that they keep the money circulating here at home. Still, it will not be such a bad idea to reach out and also celebrate artists in other parts of the African continent. With nearly twenty years of staging a successful event, the festival can do with some new innovations and additions without moving from its working and winning formula.

The first Tribute Concert in 1998 was said to have attracted an audience of approximately 5 000 people at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. The next year it moved to Moretele Park in Mamelodi, Tshwane where the figures doubled. Organisers place the number of audiences that attended last year’s festival at more than 30 000. According to the festival’s own research about R18 million was injected into the Tshwane and Gauteng economy as a result of activities linked to the event, such as accommodation, transport, food and beverages.

While these figures are impressive what has not been ayoba is that most of those –what we shall call the atmosphere audience (AA)- who attend the festival hardly pay attention to the performances on stage. It would seem the AA’s are much happier with the vibe and buzz of a massive crowd (togetherness), while getting high on the smell of braai meat with the music playing at the background or a passive role of a sound-track.

Such a state of affairs needs to be turned around especially in an event whose objective is to celebrate and perhaps appreciate home-grown music and the people behind the creativity. The Challenge then is for the Tribute Concert offering on stage to arrest the attention of the greater part of the audience so as to fully realize the objective of saluting our music heroes.

While the organisers can play a significant role in improving the technical, sound and stage design of the show; it is also all the artists on stage who must up their game by giving audiences the kind of performances that leave no option but to be totally immersed in the presentation and most of all enjoy. A number of acts including (Lira, Caiphus Semenya, Mafikizolo, Stimela and Ringo) have over the years won almost the entire Moretele Park audience and so can the others through well-prepared performances that do not take the audience for granted.

An early bird ticket sale promotion of this year’s Tribute Concert has seen just over ten thousand tickets of the festival sold in the month of June. That’s a massive market for any artist or act to sell themselves and what they have to offer. An often neglected reality is that when really impressed or not by an act the audience (s) go on to voluntarily, unaware, do a word of mouth marketing campaign about an artist’s (in question) service or offering. So, walala wasala! 

The 17th Tribute Concert takes place on Saturday the 30th of August 2014 at Moretele Park, Mamelodi in Pretoria with the entertainment starting at 11am. Tickets are now R300 at Computicket.







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