Presidents Day should abolish ‘Contemporary’
by Rampholo Molefhe
Congratulations to Ndingo Johwa, the winner of the ‘Live’ category in the genre of contemporary music in the President’s Day competitions.
It is questionable, even if it is taken into consideration that all artists and Botswana’s working class are the worst affected by suppression of wages and deterioration of the buying power of the Pula, that the category of contemporary music should be considered at the Presidents Day competitions.
As a general principle, wherever tax payer’s money is put to use, it must be seen to benefit the least advantaged in society.
There should no dispute about the fact that the artists that perform in the category of contemporary music are also commercial artist and most of them are based in the urban centres where there are more venues and greater densities of population. There are more employed people and a greater volume of corporate and government sponsored jobs for musicians.
To use a borrowed expression, the practitioners of contemporary music represent the aristocrats of the industry.
Secondly, it is this genre of music that enjoys a near monopoly of opportunity at the BOMU Awards. The fold and traditional music practitioners, most of whom do not have recorded music despite their indisputable talents, find it difficult to get recognition of their work there.
They enjoy dominance of the air waves in comparison to their counterparts in the folk/traditional genres. They appear on Mokaragana and in the Orange and Mascom sponsored projects.
Finally, even if it not immediately evident, the most progressive of the contemporary artists feed off the base of folk and traditional arts. The contemporary artists then go on to reap the fruits of this collaboration whilst the folk practitioners get nothing.
It is recommended here that the category of ‘contemporary’ should be abolished at the President’s Day competitions for these reasons:
• They already enjoy living conditions of work and life far beyond those of the folk and traditional artists
• The underlying aim of the use of tax payer’s money to support the arts is more appropriately directed at unearthing, preserving and promoting the folk arts who benefit least from the current shape of the infrastructure of the music industry.
• The contemporary artists already have places such as the BOMU awards where they are acknowledged, and the folk artists are not.
It is also not clear why there should be a ‘back-tracks’ category under the category of contemporary music. The aim of music is to engage musicians at every stage of the creation of the artistic product. And if the artists must be encouraged to create in order that they might make a living, also contributing to the economy, then back-track music should be shunned at the President’s day celebrations. Especially in this age of IT.
Back tracks are more often than not crated from the work of other artists on the Internet without acknowledgement. Not only are the ‘back-trackers’ depriving other artists of their livelihood, they are also lying to the world about the originality of their music.
All that this can achieve is to weaken the cause of effective application of the principles of copyright.
Finally, the ‘upcoming’ category seeks to encourage newly discovered talent. It must be assumed that raw or unfinished talent.
In that regard, it means that the aspect of talent supersedes all considerations of genre. New talent in classical music, jazz, folk or rock music remains ‘upcoming’ in whatever genre. So these people can be judged as a group with others in folk, traditional or other music genre.
Here the competition is looking for talent rather than professionalism.