Nanny city’s by-laws and mayor must get in tune

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

THE Nazis had rules for jazz; ac­cord­ing to author and swing fa­natic Josef Skvorecky, they were bind­ing for all dance bands in the Third Re­ich and re­vealed, un­sur­pris­ingly, a fright­en­ing ob­ses­sion with or­der.

“Ne­groid ex­cesses in tempo (so­called hot jazz)”, for ex­am­ple, were pro­hib­ited, as were “hys­ter­i­cal rhyth­mic re­verses char­ac­ter­is­tic of the mu­sic of the barbarian races and con­ducive to dark in­stincts alien to the Ger­man peo­ple (so-called riffs)”, and trum­peters were banned from us­ing mutes to turn “the no­ble sound” of their in­stru­ments into “a Jewish-Freema­sonic yowl”.

Un­for­tu­nately, as re­cent events have shown, Cape Town also has reg­u­la­tions when it comes to live mu­sic.

It must be said, though, that in no way can the en­force­ment of the Nanny City’s by- laws be com­pared to the ac­tions of those whose du­ties in­cluded the safe­guard­ing of “the Aryan sense of dis­ci­pline and mod­er­a­tion” in cul­ture. The metro cops who dealt with Lunga Good­man Nono for al­legedly per­form­ing longer than his per­mit al­lowed cared lit­tle whether the blind busker’s lyrics were “Jewishly gloomy”; they smashed his gui­tar in front of his fam­ily and dragged him off any­way.

In the out­cry that fol­lowed, the mayor, Pa­tri­cia de Lille, called for a re­view of busk­ing reg­u­la­tions. Street per­form­ers have been de­mand­ing some­thing like this for years, but they shouldn’t get their hopes up. As De Lille omi­nously ex­plained, “We need to en­sure that we main­tain the nec­es­sary bal­ance be­tween up­hold­ing law and or­der and the right to artis­tic and other forms of ex­pres­sion at all times.”

Her fussy ad­min­is­tra­tion, it must be said, doesn’t par­tic­u­larly like mu­sic and, per­haps as a re­sult of un­nat­u­ral urges to in­ter­fere with the non-cycling classes, has di­rectly con­trib­uted to the dis­ap­pear­ance of live mu­sic across the sub­urbs of the Penin­sula.

Speak to any venue man­ager, any bar or restau­rant owner who’s ever thought of hir­ing a few mu­si­cians to liven up the place, and they’ll tell you hor­ror sto­ries of the hated “en­ter­tain­ment li­cence” runaround.

Ba­si­cally, this non­sense doesn’t ex­ist – but you’ll need it any­way if you’re hir­ing mu­si­cians, and God help you should your fool cus­tomers get up and start danc­ing be­cause you’re go­ing to need a li­cence for that as well. For a “mu­si­cal” city that prides it­self on an­nu­ally host­ing one of the world’s pre­mier jazz fes­ti­vals, we’re not ex­actly on song when it comes to giv­ing mu­si­cians a break, are we?

But back to man­ag­ing buskers. Should they au­di­tion for their per­mits, as they do in Lon­don? Per­haps not. Th­ese eval­u­a­tions or qual­i­ta­tive pro­cesses, if I may, do have un­for­tu­nate non-demo­cratic as­so­ci­a­tions, are his­tor­i­cally sus­pect, and smack of some sort of Western cul­tural im­pe­ri­al­ism.

Be­sides, who says you have to be a good mu­si­cian? Most buskers are rub­bish. When I lived in Jo­han­nes­burg, for ex­am­ple, I no­ticed that the worst of them seemed to earn the best money; din­ers at the trendy pave­ment cafes in the north­ern sub­urbs would pay them hand­somely just to keep quiet or move on to the next ta­ble.

What the city should do is set up des­ig­nated ar­eas where buskers can per­form – noth­ing more elab­o­rate, let’s say, than a cir­cle painted on a street cor­ner. Buskers can then be charged by the hour to per­form in much the same way that the rest of us are charged for park­ing our cars.

In fact, get the same guys who is­sue park­ing tick­ets to hand out busk­ing ones. They can get blood from two stones just as well as one, they’re good that way. If buskers do well, and are show­ered with money and record­ing con­tracts, then they won’t mind pay­ing to stay. If not, then they can move on and find an­other spot, or bet­ter still, go home and bone up on the scales.

Mean­while, three cops in­volved in the Nono in­ci­dent have been sus­pended for three months. But there are those, like Cosatu provin­cial sec­re­tary Tony Ehren­re­ich, who feel that this is not enough, and that the may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for safety and se­cu­rity, JP Smith, should re­sign as well.

Nice bit of op­por­tunism, Tone, but it’s not Smith who should re­sign, it’s Mark Wi­ley. As chair of the prov­ince’s com­mu­nity safety stand­ing com­mit­tee, Wi­ley re­cently com­plained about my con­fu­sion re­gard­ing the pro- ganja stance of ace Mitchells Plain cop, Gen­eral Jeremy “Ras­ta­man” Vearey, and pointed out that, un­like the US and else­where, we’re rather lack­ing in the civil ser­vants’ res­ig­na­tions depart­ment.

As a gui­tar player, I cer­tainly don’t feel safe at the mo­ment. I blame him for this. Let him fall on his sword.

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