KZN recording studio project hits sour note
Music industry mutters as Ngema gets ‘R40m handout’ of taxpayers’ money
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.”
CONTROVERSIAL: Mbongeni Ngema