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Why are we not branding our local music? Part II

Still I ask this... The first article on this topic asked why we, as South Africans, seem not to be valuing our skills and composing music that is ingrained in our South African-ness when raising awareness on social issues.
The SHOUT campaign is a great initiative that aims to heighten our plight against crime and its effects. However, like many other nations, my point is that this should be done through chords, bass lines and rhythms that are proudly South African. We don't see Australians importing music for "Australia Day", so why do we import their music for usage in what is a SA challenge?

We seem to forget or perhaps don't want history to tap us on the shoulder now and then. When SA was in isolation, our people rose up against apartheid through music and chants, original music and chants; it is how we as South Africans give voice to our concerns and deliver a message.

Recognising the power of original music...

During the mid-nineties when political violence rocked the nation, our prolific music artists - Brenda Fassie and Tshepo Tshola - penned an original piece in solidarity with and comfort to the people of Boipatong.

Boipatong, the song, was an expression of remorse which urged the community of Boipatong to rise up again - to take charge of their community. It is that quick thinking and creativity that made Boipatong, the song, a sincere message and a hard hitting call-to-action.

Icons such as Brenda and Tshepo Tshola knew then that what drives a message across is fresh music as it causes people to stop, take notice and listen. Tshepo Tshola still graces us with original material, showing that only original material can keep you on top. It is only original music that has more power to move people and urge them to take action.

Further proof...

Another showcase of what original music can do is in the "Peace Song": while the country was in transition and the mood was really volatile, again SA artists composed original music to allay fears and instill calm.

Peace song - "South Africa, We love you, our beautiful land, let's show the whole world we can bring peace in our land..."

That song put SA on the global map as a country that is determined and capable of solving its own social ills and becoming a new SA. All of us, young and old, were touched by that song and sang along to it as if it were our new national anthem.

The message struck our hearts as the delivery sounded like nothing we had heard before. The "peace song" represented the new age that we were getting into. It embodied and encouraged love, hope and effort - not only effort from the artists but from the country as a whole.

It felt good being South African; we had a differentiated identity that enabled us to be known as strong "self-starters", with a firm grip of the future in their hands.

The "Peace Song" was an original masterpiece that differentiated SA musically, culturally, politically and socially to the rest of the world. That is what branding is about.

This song evolved into an integrated campaign before integration was the "in-thing" - PR spinoffs, word of mouth and branding paraphernalia, plus activations in schools as well as in various organisations in communities across the country.

The world got to know SA as the "Land of Peace and Reconciliation", all thanks to a song, a locally composed and produced song that showcased our local creativity, sincerity and love for our country.

Let's be bold and more creative...

Why can't we do the same today?

With all the technology and talent that is evident out there, why can't we think and speak to our people in the language that they understand the most - homegrown music?

I am by no means insinuating that cover songs or samples do not work. All I am advocating for is local compositions to drive messages that bring forth solutions to our challenges. Africa's solutions by Africans, as our former president would say.

The whole fuss around original music is very simple:
  1. Artist's sincerity - it tells the recipient that the artist values them; they took time out to conceptualise the music that will strike chords and resonate. In most cases than not, original music does this best. It says to the listener the artist cares about you and, as a result, you must pay homage.

  2. Country's marketing tool - original music showcases our creative prowess; it acts as a marketing tool in showcasing our cultural makeup. It tells the world of who we are in not so many but highly effective words.

  3. Unbiased conveyor of a message - it delivers the message easily without bias or preconceived judgement, giving the song a fair opportunity in delivering the message and evoking the desired outcome.
Rather than opting for the easy way out, let's go back to basics and ask ourselves why do we do what we do. If you are a music artist, ask yourself, "Why am I embracing other nations' assets and successes, as opposed to mine?"

In there lies an answer, somewhere.

Let's brand and market ourselves - none but ourselves can and should do it.

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About Tebogo Koena

Tebogo Koena is a brand builder who has been in the advertising space for eight years. He used to work at The Jupiter Drawing Room (Johannesburg). His experience stretches across automotive brands (Mercedes-Benz and FIAT) right through to the FMCG sector (Coca-Cola, Philip Morris and Plascon, among others). Tebogo is also a budding writer and commentator. He writes here in his personal capacity. Email Tebogo at and follow @GOTG on Twitter.
Mike Joubert
Great article and very relevant. We did something similar with a number of SA artists for HIV & Aids some years back ( Levi's Red for Life) and every single one of the artists we're 100% committed to help educate and spread the message. One of the things they did was a powerful music video - ?v=-8j8c29vmL8 Look forward to more on the topic.Mike
Posted on 21 May 2012 14:09
Tebogo Koena
Thanks Mike, definitely more will be coming. I know of the Levi's campaign, one the very few that pushed boundaries with local artists. Great work you're doing at Brandsrock.Tebogo.
Posted on 21 May 2012 17:42
rizamay cruz
So sad, that some people just we thought to be patronizing own work, they just promote foreign music. If this issue will continue I guess they need to revise something that protect the local industry, re brand if possible.Riza of
Posted on 1 Sep 2012 10:06