Opportunities in the Development Sector for South African Musicians
This article examines ways for musicians to earn an income – as well as make a difference in society – by getting involved in the development sector.
South African music: a rich cultural resource
Pianist and ethnomusicologist Dr Alvin Petersen was the first South African to be elected to the board of trustees of the International Society for Music Education. In 2000, Petersen created the National Indigenous Music and Oral History Project for the Promotion, Preservation and Protection of South African Indigenous Music – a detailed document which was presented to the government as a methodology to standardize an African music curriculum for schools and universities. As Petersen says, “South African music is envied for all the wonderful traditions we sit on. And in the same breath, we are chastised for not doing enough for our musical education.
It is important that South African musicians become aware of the wealth of cultural resources available to them and seek opportunities to preserve and share this musical heritage. Not only will this ensure that authentically South African music continues to thrive among the next generation of students, but the keen interest in South African musical traditions could lead to exciting career opportunities.
A case study of how this approach can pay off is illustrated by the example of guitarist Billy Monama. Monama has compiled and written the upcoming South African Guitar Styles: Volume One. In this publication, kwela, mbaqanga, maskandi, African jazz and all their sub-styles are documented for teaching through scores, video tutorials, discographies and historical analyses. Additionally, leading the South African guitar styles agenda, Monama has received endorsements from Gibson and Sennheiser, as well as funding from SAMRO. Indigenous African Music (IAM) transcriptions project.
Further evidence of this wave of interest in South African music can be found in the recent publication of The True Book of South African Jazz (Vol. 1 “Jika”), a collection of SA jazz standards compiled by the trombonist, educator and founder of Jazz.co.za Jannie ‘Hanepoort” van Tonderand pianist Georges Werner. Reflecting on the experience of publishing the book, Van Tonder says, “What I take away most from this whole process has been the tremendously rich body of work that exists in terms of SA Jazz repertoire, much of which has not not been published, recorded or distributed. to the extent that it is necessarily available to the general public.
South African musicians looking to tap into the country’s rich musical heritage may find the following resources helpful:
As early as 1965, Hugh Tracey – known as Madagascar (“the sewing machine that never stops”) – introduced the groundbreaking research paper, A Plan for African Music. It was the beginning of a formalization of African music education, “codifying the logic behind the creation of indigenous styles of music and bringing it naturally, without prejudice, into the realm of African education”.
Yet, in 2022, there is still a lot of important work to be done to present the brilliant and authentic musical styles and languages of South Africa with a contemporary educational perspective. To meet this need, bassist, recording artist and educator Concord Nkabinde established in 2021 Music Creators South Africa (MCSA) to help protect the interests of composers and continue to play the important role of skill development transition through educational workshops.
Historically, in the South African context, community centers have been notable hotbeds for musical talent – and today they continue to play a crucial role in providing the pathway for many talented musicians to build a future career. These remain excellent spaces for hosting professional development workshops of all kinds. Meanwhile, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging YouTube channels offering online workshops – such as Uhuru Jazz) – are available for viewing.
Musicians interested in starting their own educational workshops are encouraged to review Music In Africa’s article on funding opportunities for South African musicians – and in particular the section on NAC Funding, because this organization favors projects with a strong social impact. Those who feel inspired to start an online workshop series can check out our guide to making money through the YouTube Partner Program.
Video: In this video from Cape Town Music Academy, Concord Nkabinde discusses the importance of giving back to the music industry.
The value of the NGO sector to South African society has been long documentedwith organizations across the country working tirelessly to offset large social deficits, while contributing over R1.5 billion to the economy every year. Additionally, the 2022 Income Streams for Music Creators in South Africa report from Music In Africa shows that NGO grants provide an average monthly income of R13,584.
Given their important social role, NGOs tend to have close ties with local communities, and it is no surprise that the impact of the NGO sector has been strongly felt in the local music industry. Among the many notable examples are the iconic Buskaid Projectan orchestra operating in Diepkloof since 1997, the Moses Molelekwa Foundationoperated by Jerry ‘Bra Monk’ Molelekwa and based in Tembisa, and that based in Mamelodi Artists committed to cultural advancement (CAFCA), an organization founded by Jess Mogal.
The NGO sector is a dynamic and rapidly changing environment where South African musicians are bound to find opportunities to devote their time and skills to broader social development goals.
Video: A SABC News insert on the Moses Molelekwa Foundation from 2015.
To study abroad
Some universities and music schools, especially those with close ties to other academic institutions around the world, offer college scholarships and exchange opportunities, helping students further their careers by studying abroad.
Music In Africa’s 2022 Revenue Streams for Music Creators in South Africa report indicates that university grants can provide an average monthly contribution of R18,375. These opportunities also highlight the role of music as an international language. Cultural exchanges can bring great benefits to your development as an artist and to your musical career.
Recent Study Abroad Achievements, all from the Music Department of University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), includes pianist Witness Matluwho won Berklee College of Music’s Africa Scholars program and now lives in the United States while helping run the Panama Online Jazz Festival, pianist Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane, who spent a semester abroad in the United States Unis, and gqom producer Prince Bulo, who studied with John Rapson and Steve Grismore at the University of Iowa School of Music.
South African musicians interested in studying abroad can find more information on funding and opportunities below:
A truly integrated Afrocentric music program remains the unfinished business of the new South Africa – and, for now, meaningful transformation is often best achieved through grassroots and community initiatives.
Therefore, by finding opportunities in the development sector, musicians can supplement their sources of income, while helping to ensure that the future of South African music education develops along authentic and sustainable lines.
Resources and citations
-  Original interview for Music In Africa with Dr. Alvin Petersen: January 4, 2022.
-  Ansell, G. (2020). “Billy Monama: Stringing together South African guitar history”. Courier & Guardian. Consulted on January 22, 2022: https://mg.co.za/article/2020-05-06-billy-monama-stringing-together-south-african-guitar-history/
-  Indigenous African Music. (2020). An Introduction to South African Guitar Styles. Consulted on January 22, 2022: https://iamtranscriptions.org/an-introduction-to-south-african-guitar-styles/
-  Original interview for Music In Africa with Jannie Van Tonder: December 18, 2021.
-  Tracey, H. 1965. “A blueprint for African music”. Journal of the International Library of African Music. 3 (4): 6-13. Consulted on January 22, 2022: https://doi.org/10.21504/amj.v3i4.1059
-  Shumba, A. (2021). “South African composers now have a representative organization”. Music in Africa. Accessed January 22, 2022: https://www.musicinafrica.net/magazine/south-african-composers-now-have-representative-organisation
-  South African Cultural Observatory. (2018). Mapping Study – Performance and Celebration. Accessed January 6, 2022: https://www.southafricanculturalobservatory.org.za/download/734
-  National Development Agency. (2016). South African government funding to non-profit organizations. Accessed January 25, 2022: https://www.nda.org.za/assets/resources/97BB1A6D-430C-421F-9595-E018FB203EA5/SA_NPO_Funding_Government_1.pdf
-  Lee, I. (2018). “Benefits of Studying Abroad as a Music Student”. Make music. Accessed January 25, 2022: https://makingmusicmag.com/studying-abroad/
This article is part of the Revenue Streams for African Musicians project, supported by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity under the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the Siemens Cents4Sense program, Siemens Stiftung, Goethe-Institut, the National Arts Council of South Africa and Kaya FM.
Editing by David Cornwell and Kalin Pashaliev