In the midst of all the suffering and grief that Covid-19 has inflicted on us, there has been one little upside (if one can find an upside in such tragic circumstances) – it has allowed us to listen and view “live” some of the best local music in the comfort of our homes.
It has made the dreaded lockdown just a little bit palatable.
In the past week I have had the pleasure of watching concerts by pianist Kyle Shepherd, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, and the vibrant group, Top Dog, led by Camillo Lombard and DonVino Prins.
It was an awesome experience, particularly for one whose opportunities to watch live South African acts are few and far between. That would be the case for all the expat South Africans who hanker for a taste of the home-grown stuff.
The online concerts serve another purpose. It is providing an income stream for all the artists, musicians and thespians alike, who have seen the work disappear into the ether when the lockdown was put in place. No gigs, no performances. Nothing.
This is what made watching the concerts all the more satisfying. I was getting a fix of “local is lekker” as well as contributing financially to the performers who have no gigs.
Rashid Lombard, the man who for years was the spearhead of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, says the online concerts have been an “absolute blessing” for the performers.
“People are doing it tough,” he said. “The work just dried up overnight and there was no money coming in. For the lucky few who have put together an online concert, there is some relief but there are thousands of other performers who have nothing.
“I urge people to support these concerts and to be part of an initiative called MuzosDirect. It is a network of musicians, media identities, business people, cultural activists, and music lovers all over the world, who are chipping in to help arts people in desperate need.”
People in the arts haven’t had financial relief from the government. MuzosDirect has set up an online fundraiser – www.backabuddy.co.za/muzodirect – for people to donate.
“The money will be used to purchase food vouchers,” Lombard said.
Top Dog’s Camillo Lombard said the group appreciated the support that came in via the purchase of tickets to view the concert live as well as the donations that came in afterwards.
“We are very pleased with the whole venture and we are exploring ways to generate more such opportunities in the online space,” Camillo said.
A number of studios are equipped to provide top-class streaming services along with quality lighting to give the occasion the full concert ambience.
Kyle Shepherd’s concert was streamed by Penny Lane Studios; McCoy Mrubata’s by Militia Broadcasting; and the Top Dog gig by Victory Kingdom Studios. All three were commendable efforts.
The head of Jo’burg-based Militia Broadcasting, Eban Olivier, said they had been doing sessions “off and on for five years but really started to get to business only three weeks ago”.
Militia currently has a number of concerts available for streaming on demand on its platform, including Bokani Dyer, Benjamin Jeptha, Sydney Mavundla, Mandla Mlangeni and Keenan Ahrends, all of whom lean towards the jazz genre. The average cost of a live concert is about R80 and a stream on demand about R30.
“All genres are welcome on the platform . . . with that said, we do adhere to a level of musical quality,” Olivier said.
Militia Broadcasting’s company has streamed a number of international live concerts, among them big names like Mumford and Sons, Chris Brown and Linkin Park.
“We have sold over 4500 tickets in the last three weeks with only 42 per cent of these tickets coming from our own local soil. It is being promoted straight from artist to fan via social media.”
Kyle Shepherd’s concert was a solo piano performance titled After the night, the day will surely come. It was music of a very high calibre, almost cerebral in places. Not much of the spoken word during the performance bar the opening remarks.
Of his concert, Shepherd said: “My performance will be a reflection and meditation on a time when we can be together again! A musician’s purpose has always and will always be as an advocator of community. As it has been throughout the ages, balance will be restored to life.”
McCoy Mrubata had Lex Futshane on bass and Paul Hanmer accompanying him and the three provided an eclectic set that touched on some smooth jazz, some ghoema and some interesting influences on a tune called Tunisia on which Mrubata played a haunting flute.
Top Dog dedicated their set to indigenous African music that embraced their Khoi and San roots, some traditional ghoema sounds, Afrikaans tunes and moving poetry.
All in all three very satisfying concerts for a music lover stuck thousands of kilometres away. Like many other expats in a similar situation, I relish the thought of the smorgasbord of “local is lekker” stuff that is being made available online (even if we watch it on demand at a decent hour).
For those in South Africa, turn off the radio, Chromecast to the big screen telly from your smartphone/laptop and enjoy. I did. And think of the benefits to the struggling artists.
If your entertainment taste is a bit more diverse you can always check out Mujahid George, Loukman Adams and Alistair Izobell on their live stream on Friday June 5. Or comedian Marc Lottering’s My Fellow South African’s live stream on June 13. Click on the link below and follow Auntie Merle’s instruction on how to get a ticket.
To all the ex-pat South African’s living where the exchange rate is a gift from heaven, dig deep and give till it hurts.