September 17 2013
Ever since the 1980s, when the house genre took form, we have witnessed a rise of DJs embodying modern success on a global level. The dream of being a house DJ offers a glimpse into an enticing array of glamorous possibilities. One dreams of doing what one loves (if that is the case), while earning a decent living, and being an inspiration to many fellow house enthusiasts. It is no wonder many youngsters strive to make it as house producers.
Being in the house industry is not only a passion, but also an entrepreneurial career. Especially in a country like South Africa, which according to this documentary ‘Real Scenes: Johannesburg’ seems to be a mass consumer of house music. People listen to local house music on their way to work, instead of some generic pop from the wells of global music industry. Being a DJ is a career much better than rummaging the streets and living a ghetto lifestyle, and creating a home-made studio is a good path to start-up a business.
Today, Johannesburg is cosmopolitan and underground and has a plurality of scenes, which is common for a city of aprox 8-9 mill inhabitants. Not so long ago though, there was struggle – black people had curfew imposed on them after 7 pm. One can only try to imagine what kind of an effect that had on the black self esteem. In that setting, music came as a remedy, a struggle side-effect and eventually turned out to be a tool for empowerment.
Subsequently, a new genre was born, the s.c qauta music; characterized by South African vocals layered on top of slow to fast paced beats. On a semantical level: quata celebrates the streets where it comes from. Creating music was a way to talk about issues that arose from within the community, and gradually, making music became a question of belonging and identity. In the beginning, no one thought of making music as directly political, no one intended to become political either, as people were tired from political struggles. Unknowingly however, there was something quite political in that music, as where there are identity questions involved, it is political in ways more than just a direct argumentation of issues.
Questions that this documentary only side-brushes, but would be good to find answers to, is whether there is a proper dialogue within the house music on a cross-national and cross-continental level. The documentary suggests that South African house is a bubble of its own, while in the same time, the South African DJs don’t seem to mind, as their music gets exported to the global markets. We know for a fact that South African house inspires many, but are the actors and true creators really credited for their work?
Visit the feature page on RA:
Real Scenes: Johannesburg
Producer and Director: Patrick Nation
Associate Producer: Ryan Keeling
Executive Producer: Paul Clement, Nick Sabine, Ed Williams
Editor: Dan Higginson
Camera: Sim Higginson, Dan Higginson, Patrick Nation
Researcher: Richard Marshall
Production Manager: Lisa Telfer Brunton
Additional Footage: Sony Music
Film Production: Clockwise Media
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