In recent weeks, South African Jazz musician and Kalawa Jazzme co founder, Don Laka has lambasted local radio stations for their penchant to play predominantly international music which, as proven by Laka, is to the detriment of South African musician’s livelihood.
A legend in the music industry, Don Laka has seen his thoughts on the state of our music and art industry being welcomed with hundreds of shares and comments across social media, a sure sign that many South Africans share his sentiments. While the recent championing of artist rights by Laka is admirable, his recent updates on social media bring into the conversation a much more complex issue, the issue of cultural imperialism; “culture of a large and powerful country, organization, etc. having a great influence on another less powerful country.”
American culture in all its forms from hip hop to hamburgers has been largely celebrated and mimicked throughout the globe. This is particularly interesting seeing as many American art forms such as Jazz and Hip-hop have distinctive roots in Africa and have merely been popularised and commoditised by America. We’ve seen in the past few months how ancient African garments and accessories have made their way onto European runways and have suddenly been termed fashionable and cutting edge, simply because they are being presented by Europeans.
The lesson that we need to learn and the energy that many of us need to reserve for once the lambasting and ranting is over, is that we need to make being black and African aspirational, we need legislative, media, educational and commercial reforms that encourage the consumption of our products and talents.
The West has repeatedly commoditised African experiences and sold them back to us looking shinier and with a heavier price tag. With consciousness of young black people rising (all over the world) there is no better time to build than now.
Written by: Vuyiswa Xekatwane
Illustration by: Thato Simelane