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