Reggae Explosion that did not Explode
Now as a lover of anything and everything reggae music and also an active reggae fan for years. I have seen this Reggae industry break and build many in this country. I have seen people invest their all in this, spiritually, mentally and physically. I have seen people take loans only to be left in debt. I have witnessed talented selectors, promoters and artists, give up on this industry because of lack of support from reggae fans, radio stations, TV stations, government and the society in general. Some have chosen to venture into other genres as to make a living or to gain popularity and recognition. I have spent hours and hours discussing reggae politics in this country and trying to find out the source of our predicament and I have come to a painful realisation that we have gatekeepers looking at their own interests using Reggae as a means to their benefits.
So when I heard the words Reggae Explosion…I decided to go to Durban for the Festival which was organised by Lioness Production in partnership with The Department of Arts and Culture under the banner National Reggae Social Cohesion Awareness (which still needs deciphering for many who are not even aware of the funds channeled into it). The two day event promised live reggae, music, dub, roots, drumming, arts and craft and poetry. I went there with such high hopes, my heart was rejoicing. I thought we were making inroads, a festival that featured the who’s who of our industry on one stage including the elusive Elder Senzo Mthethwa, (it was supposed to be his first appearance after a long haitus). I was happy that finally promoters are getting together to work towards one goal.
I took an overnight bus to KZN because this I had to witness with my own eyes. I arrived safely in KZN, freshened up and headed to the Bat center for a reggae workshop. The session that was supposed to have started at 9am but only started at 12pm and that was the very same time that the Reggae Explosion festival was scheduled to commence. When the session started without the main speakers (organisers) the floor was opened up for anyone and everyone who had something to share or ask. Now what was being asked or shared by the delegates brought me back to reality, I realized that I was a bit too optimistic when in reality we are still far from achieving our goals. Most delegates were still raising the issues of money, and still stressing the need for unity in the industry. One common voice was that people are now tired of ‘INDABAS’ where they’ll be promised heaven and earth but at the end of the day …DOLOLO DELIVERY!
So I ask, like so many have been doing, why are we still crying about unity? If we all claim to love reggae so much why is it hard to find common ground? Why are we still begging Radio stations and TV stations to play our music yet not able to capture audiences with good music? Why are we still complaining about rouge promoters who produce mediocre shows even when they are have funds and are being sponsored; how are we still fighting this battle, why! Why are artists still crying to be paid at funded events?
When the Reggae Explosion and Reggae Indaba hosts finally arrived everyone was rushed through their speeches because of time. We were all bundled inside the hired kombis that ferried us to the Blue Lagoon South Beach and there we were greeted by the unforgiving gale force winds of KZN. .
My heart bleeds for reggae in this country, we are not going to achieve what we are all craving for, will never go anywhere whilst we still have people who feel that they are the only ones who are entitled to be the boss of this industry… its just like when you’re craving for a mjojo meal right in the middle of January but you know that you’ll have to live more than two more weeks with your pap and cabbage. That kind of mentality will have us going around and around in circles and by the time we wake up we are going to find out that it’s too late and we missed a opportunity to take ourselves to greater heights because of greediness, gate-keeping and that entitlement mentally. In my days working on international stages as a production crew member; I have NEVER seen a promoter running a show by themselves, in the hierarchy of things, a show needs a stage manager, an MC that should only do master of ceremonies duties working hand in hand with the stage manager. A show should have a sound engineer, a technical manager, someone who’s going to make sure that all the artists’ technical needs are sorted.
What I am trying to say is a promoter will never do everything by themselves, yes you can pull it off at corner shop somewhere but not when you are trying to pull off a world class International show. How are we going to prosper and be taken seriously by the world when we are still doing this to ourselves, when there are people who act as if they care about us but behind closed doors they push their own agendas to benefit themselves and to get recognition using other people’s blood ,sweat and tears?
When the Reggae Explosion eventually began, Undivided Roots took to the stage but the sound was howling so bad it was really hard to enjoy this talented band’s music. Act after act came on stage and the sound didn’t get any better. Highlight of the show is when The Durban based band The Meditators called the SAMA award winner Black Dillinger on stage and whilst he was performing, Bongo Riot and most of the artists who I assume were feeling the vibes or were just anxious to get on stage due to time constraints cause of the late start, either way what was supposed to be a jam session between the Meditators and Dillinger turned into a beautiful Mzansi Reggae Medley, and the artists blew the crowd away. It was a beautiful experience, unfortunately due to some technical issues Elder Angolah Maseko and many others couldn’t perform. Another missing act was the highly anticipated Senzo Mthethwa which I think disappointed many revelers and no word from the promoters as to what happened and why he did not show up.
For the second leg of the Reggae Explosion festival we took the 4hr drive to Ladysmith, Ezakheni where the Rub A Dub was hosted by Slu-Dem Sound System. As part of the social cohesion awareness fruit trees were planted at 2 of the 3 schools that were chosen. Blessed Love to the people of Ezakheni for their hospitality, I had mad fun.
I sincerely hope and pray that Jah keeps me going for I really want to witness the day we are all united in one common goal. I hope and pray that Jah gives length of days to those who are still giving their all to make things happen. I hope and pray that Jah gives strength to the artists and selectors.