KZN record­ing stu­dio project hits sour note

Mu­sic in­dus­try mut­ters as Ngema gets ‘R40m hand­out’ of tax­pay­ers’ money

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - VIC­TO­RIA JOHN

MANY lo­cal mu­si­cians and pro­duc­ers are up in arms af­ter an al­leged R40 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money was awarded to Mbon­geni Ngema to open a state-of-the-art record­ing stu­dio in Dur­ban.

How­ever, the DEDT claims an­other stu­dio was needed in KZN and that the KZN Mu­sic House only costs R10m.

Lo­cal pro­duc­ers say “un­fair busi­ness prac­tices” were used to ben­e­fit one per­son and the money could have been used on other projects to “res­cue” the ail­ing lo­cal mu­sic in­dus­try.

Par­ties in the mu­sic in­dus­try said Ngema, who is the di­rec­tor of pro­duc­tion com­pany Com­mit­ted Artists, was se­lected by the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism (DEDT) in KwaZu­luNatal to run the Greyville-- based KZN Mu­sic House – and was given R40m of tax­pay­ers’ money to do so.

Par­ties said adding an­other stu­dio to the myr­iad al­ready set up in Dur­ban was a waste of money and that lo­cal gov­ern­ment was aim­ing to “mo­nop­o­lise and put all mu­sic busi­ness into the hands of a few se­lected cus­to­di­ans”.

Ngema was also re­cently given R22m by the Mpumalanga gov­ern­ment to stage a pro­duc­tion called Lion of the East, which re­cently opened at the Play­house.

This month, the DEDT called a meet­ing with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the KZN mu­sic in­dus­try where they were asked to dis­cuss how the R40m should be spent.

Shawn Wehsling, cre­ator of Luna Lounge, a so­cial net­work­ing plat­form which pro­motes South African mu­sic and per­for­mance art, says: “Every­one got re­ally ex­cited and formed the KZN Mu­sic Clus­ter, in or­der to be in a po­si­tion to re­ceive any amount of this money.”

He said Ngema’s should have been one of the many pri- vate com­pa­nies called to this meet­ing. How­ever, long be­fore the meet­ing, his com­pany was given a “mas­sive” amount of the money with which to build the stu­dio.

Ngema is well-known for his co-writ­ing and di­rec­tion of mu­si­cals per­for med in the 1980s – Woza Al­bert (co-writ­ten with Percy Mthwa and Bar­ney Si­mon), Asi­na­mali, Sara­fina and The Zulu.

Ngema re­fused to com­ment on the new record­ing stu­dio project.

Com­ment­ing on the launch of the KZN Mu­sic House, Bheko Madlala, the spokesper­son for KZN MEC for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and Tourism Michael Mabuyakhulu, de­fended the de­ci­sion, say­ing: “Mu­sic is a multi­bil­lion-rand in­dus­try which can con­trib­ute a lot to the prov­ince’s econ­omy. It was be­cause of this that the DEDT de­cided to build a stu­dio with state-of-the-art record­ing fa­cil­i­ties.”

A key player in the lo­cal mu­sic in­dus­try, who wished to re­main anony­mous, said: “The KZN Mu­sic House poses the prob­lem of gov­ern­ment med­dling, set­ting up in­di­vid­u­als for their own ben­e­fit, and hi­jack­ing an in­dus­try which they might crip­ple in their ef­forts. Time will tell if the de­ci­sion to task one sin­gle pro­duc­tion com­pany with the en­tire KZN mu­sic in­dus­try func­tion, was a wise one.”

KZN, fi­nance MEC Ina Cronje, who spoke at the open­ing of the mul­ti­mil­lion-rand record­ing fa­cil­ity, said: “We wanted to do some­thing to keep our artists within the prov­ince.”

PIC­TURE: MN­DENI VI­LAKAZI

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL: Mbon­geni Ngema

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