The Friday Fuss is a weekly opinion column whereby we invite contributors in the local music industry to pen their thoughts on anything related to the industry. This is an opportunity for musicians, promoters and fans to share their opinions in order to create discussion in an effort to enhance the industry.
This weeks featured columnist is Tamara Arden
The new generation has left people in their late twenties with a music scene that has lost its supremacy. Those who did not live through the nineties have lost a huge chunk of music’s timeline. A decade ago, musicians were spreading viral messages through choruses or combinations; now, we are losing our voices. The bulk of music emerging out of South Africa has lost its stimuli for me. The age of trends arrived and attracted people into a culture that gave people the opportunity to create followers, instead of giving them a revolution to fall under. To be part of this lost generation is to feel uncertain about its direction. Every era passed has struggled for meaning or freedom through music, but the 21st century is vague about its legacy. I am aware we are consumed by the age of information, and maybe that plays a part in why everything and nothing can be amusing, or of disinterest at the same time, but it also gives us a platform with nothing to lose.
The 40’s introduced music in the most animated way- through jazz and swing. Favourites such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole romanticised life by flirting with every day. People took to ballrooms and boardwalks and let love take them to the stars. These women were often taunted by their emotions pouring out of them, but each time they stepped on stage, not only did they melt the audience with their tempos, they performed for them too.
Most women vocalists will never reach their peak in this generation. They do cute cause they are cute; sing sweet, because they are sweet. I watched Chantel Van T’s music videos and felt disappointed with the outcome. Yes, it is probably her- just being her, but where is the intrigue? Is natural really that appealing? In both videos, it felt like she was playing peek-a-boo with the camera. The footage was edited to appear as her music is presented, happy-go-lucky with a hint of self-awareness. There was no mystique in her presentation to the world, and it bored me instantly. Van T is not the only girl presenting her music to a new audience as is. Many have come before her, and hundreds will follow the trend till it dies out. But girls they are, and girls they shall be. They will be swallowed up their foreground if they keep up this pace as it seems performance is no longer a requirement and folk singers just sit there and look pretty.
We are living in a society where being image conscious is important. Men have become obsessed being groomed routinely and women pretend they don’t fart. Where has the masculine energy in the music industry gone? Front man Jacques Moolman for Shadowclub claims to be and act like a rock star. So much so, that at a party he attended at the old Newtown favourite Go-Go bar, he spent an hour in his coked-up state shouting to the last ones standing “I’m a fucking rock star;” echoing and craving it, like it could disappear at any moment. His band Airship Orange had split around that time, so angst it could have been. For anyone who has seen Moolman on stage, you best believe he behaves like a rock star, because he’s performing, and that’s what pulls us in. I don’t want to feel like I know the guy. People build stages so we could watch in awe, not hold their hands and get to know them- it always changes the way you hear the music. Even though I prefer Moolman with some hair and a little bit of stubble, the man still sweats, and that’s as stallion as it gets.
Occupying powerful energy is hard for women. We rarely see a strong woman’s presence front a rock ‘n roll band, and when we do, the girl usually has no hips, blonde hair and a sexy husk in her voice that she is afraid of pushing. I often come across woman vocalists/ wannabe punk characters who exaggerate their voice or performance to overcompensate for their lack of talent. I want to be shocked, not scared. There are two girls that defy this stereotype and push their raw energy into their shows- Sannie Fox and Inge Beckman, they like a modern version of Blondie and Joan Jett. Fox doesn’t even have to move on stage, as her stillness commands you to pay attention. The first time I watched her play with her band Machineri at Mercury, Cape Town, I just stared up at her. She literally made me stop what I was doing and let her take over my senses. Her voice vibrates off of you, because it comes from within. There is no pretence.
Beckman has an enigmatic approach to live shows that has thrilled audiences for years. From her quirky robotic forms and electronic reverb in Lark to her experimental and intimate experiments in her solo tracks, Beckman has breathed the music industry in and controlled what she wants to produce in it. I do think Beast is her reckoning. She looks more comfortable in the genre and the raw energy she channels on stage with the band reminds me that etiquette could matter less, and that manners are not a priority. It shows that it’s all about the music.
Performance is a musician’s duty to themselves, and reminds us that music is an art form that evokes multifaceted emotions. I rarely find a new band that offers reckless chords and animalistic performances, so allow our generation to revive its pulse and make musicians accountable for this part of the music timeline.