An online petition has been set up by a collective of Rastas initiated by veteran musician Angolah Maseko to urge the SABC to give the genre more airtime on its national platforms. The petition is dubbed 'Free Reggae and Dancehall Artists and can be accessed via this link https://www.petitions.net/sabc_free_reggae_dancehall. There is also a Facebook Group page https://www.facebook.com/groups/533773827272215/?ref=group_header; and a Whatsapp Group: +27 72 559 4193. Elder Angolah Maseko urges all South Africans to sign the petition. The collective is made up of South African Reggae Artists, Selektas, and Friends of Reggae with the aim of getting the message across to the Department of Arts and Culture and the SABC to playlist Reggae music.
Elder Angolah explains why he found the need to pursue the matter:
“I purposely created the Group for fundamental liberation of local Reggae by SABC I knew that I couldn't do it alone so I invited Rases to hear what they think and I dubbed it SABC FREE REGGAE/DANCEHALL and added few brothers whom I know. Their response was indeed amazing we never stop reasoning. I decided to draft example of the petition to make sure I'm understood /overstood and sent it to the group. I asked each one to add something and we consolidated all the ideas into one.
We decided to have an interim committee of 4 members for executive and 4 from each 9 province to assist in mobilising and centralizing. There committee members are Angolah Maseko as Chairman and the Secretary Don Dada. This movement of leaders is for Reggae Artists by Reggae Artists. Our vision is to level the play fields with equal opportunities for Reggae Artists and Reggae genre across all South Africa music platforms. To achieve this outcome, participants are encouraged to share and send ideas, strategies,invitations and so forth as in "creativity without borders". The Reggae Renaissance for Reggae Music to be included on all music platforms without prejudice is our main goal. It starts with the individual. We are the leaders, movers and shakers.”
South African Reggae music has a very rich and diverse culture embedded in the South African heritage. Reggae artists like Carlos Djedje, Lucky Dube, Senzo Mthethwa, Jose Carlos, Sons of Selassie used reggae music as a weapon against the then apartheid system, and defied bans that were put up by the states to silence any critic that was meted to them. Reggae Artists across the globe also added their voices to the South African plight through their music that spoke against Apartheid. But reggae music has since taken a back seat on the national discourse and the music hardly getting any rotation on the National Broadcasters channels; no one seems to have a reasonable explanation as to why. Most people attribute this to the death of Lucky Dube, saying that reggae music died with him.
In a recent interview the internationally acclaimed Jamaican reggae artists Buju Banton asserted that ‘Dancehall/Reggae Doesn’t Have Mainstream Appeal Because the Artists Don’t ‘Lie’. The same sentiment echoed by South African artist, Bongo Riot, in an interview with MzansiReggae: “Reggae will never get airplay because it speaks the truth”. Yet the South African Broadcasting Corporation is mandated to accommodate and service all the cultural, religious and ethnic groupings of South Africa, yet Reggae is relegated to the back seat and not accorded its fair exposure.
This is not the first attempt from the Reggae community to try and engage with the SABC on this matter.
In 2016 The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) gave Rastafarians air-time on radio and television when the Rastafari United Front (RUF) was lobbying and agitating for Reggae Music to be given air-time on the National Broadcaster; stating that Reggae culture and values need exposure supportive of local content. The SABC committed to working with the group and the then SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng met with the The Front where they signed a Memorandum of Understanding. RUF explained that Bantu Media is an agency of RUF set up to facilitate the relationship between the SABC and the Rasta Community in general. They will act as the gateway to the SABC and all proposals will go through them for screening purposes before they could be submitted to the SABC. There are three areas that they were looking at: Education, Entertainment and Spirituality. Although Bantu Media did not divulge specifics on the proposal they sent to the SABC, the field was open to the three sectors as stated out in the MOU. There has not been any visible actionables since.
At a Reggae indaba held during Reggae Month in 2017 James Mange the first Rastafarian prisoner in South Africa and one of the forefathers of Reggae stated: “The establishment has deliberately kept Reggae Music from people because what reggae music does is definitely about developing people and doing things not destroying things, Reggae music is a mirror of what happens to society at that particular time and reggae music has an unfortunate element of being so truthful because it presents things the way they are” at the same Indaba James Shikwambana, the then SABC Western Cape Provincial General Manager alluded the lack of reggae music on mainstream media to “lack of fresh music”
In March 2019 the Department of Culture in association with Lioness Productions organised what they termed “The Special Reggae Indaba” with the objectives : Development, Integration and Mainstreaming of Reggae cultural practices into the music industry and national media channels; Strengthening of socio-economic trade relations among Reggae musicians with public and private institutions and to reinstate the role of reggae music in national, provincial and local commemorative cultural events in South Africa.” The outcomes of that special Indaba are yet to be made public and/or actioned.
It seems though that the initiatives have a good start but never and end.