Should artists drink on duty? The question yields two definite nos and one not-quite yes.
Veteran musician, Lekofi Sejeso, who says that he has not touched alcohol in over 30 years, finds it highly anomalous that while musicians aspire to the professional respect given doctors, lawyers and others professionals, some of them want their workplace rules to be different.
“If doctors and lawyers never drink on duty, why should musicians?” he poses. “As musicians we always say that we want society to respect us and our profession but nobody is going to do that if we fail to abide by the rules that govern all other professions.”
Music promoter and jazz deejay, Soares Katumbela, is also opposed to on-the-job drinking by musicians and also points out that those who hire artists take the same view.
The standard artists’ contract makes a provision for a stated number of free drinks that can only be consumed after the show. Katumbela, whose company, Streethorn Promotions, collaborated with First National Bank Botswana and Urban Motion Communications Group last year to bring David Sanborn and Joe Sample to Botswana, says that this clause is recognition of the fact that on-duty musicians need to have full control of their mental faculties.
However, the problem with what he says is that not too long ago, Katumbela himself would knock back a few when he was working. In owning up to that past indiscretion, he hastens to add that his sobriety has been an epiphany that has enabled him to view the DJ box with completely new eyes.
“I am more creative nowadays. I realised that I deejay much better sober; I am more organised, more creative and my selection of music has improved significantly. I understand the crowd better, I am more alert and more productive,” he says.
“Creative” is a useful word here because there are those who say that drugs make artists more creative. It was said of master American guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, that he was at his most creative when he was high. On the other hand, Katumbela says that is just a belief.
“Drugs make one think so but the fact of the matter is that they don’t induce talent. Those who believe so also tend to forget that they established their careers not with the Dutch courage of drugs but talent,” says the man who answers to “DJ SK” when he is working.
DJ Smal starts by saying that he is okay with the drinking as long as it is done moderately. To him that would be drinking “one or two beers” to “refresh.” Holding himself up as an example, he says that he drinks that many number of beers before he starts work and doesn’t drink at all when he is in the box.
DJ Smal (real name Selefo Keikepe) agrees with the point about alcohol enhancing creativity and says that once when he was suitably high, he did mixing so masterful he was not able to replicate it sober.
“But it depends on how much you drink because there was also a time when I was so drunk that I couldn’t deejay properly,” he says.
In his experience, the drunkard image can bode ill for the commercial aspect of the deejaying business.
“Overindulging can lead to people undermining us as deejays and performers. Someone can ask you to play at a party or wedding and say they will buy you some beers. You become worthless,” says DJ Smal, adding that such clients consider the beer to be the payment.