South African Cultural Observatory

It starts with a heartbeat…can you hear my heart beat?

BY Andre Le Roux, Managing Director: SAMRO Foundation 26.10.16

ANDRE LE ROUX Managing Director: SAMRO Foundation discusses the importance of music in South Africa and calls on policymakers, politicians and decision makers to find the rhythm that will help soothe the country's musical heartache. Here is his foreword to the recently released Concerts SA report - It Starts with a Heartbeat: Crafting a model for Live Music Support in Southern Africa - Concerts SA Discussion Paper 2016.

Download the report here. 

It starts with a heartbeat…can you hear my heart beat? Can you feel my heart beat? Do you see my heartbeat? 

The rhythm of our hearts are as important to our lives and our bodies as music, the heartbeat of our communities and the societal bodies, is to the villages and cities we inhabit. Why then do we not give the same level of attention to music as we do to our own hearts? This research is a direct call to policy makers, politicians and decision makers to acknowledge the importance of music in our country, to recognise music’s inherent value - both economically and socially – and to do something about the musical heartache the country is experiencing.

We all know that music is tied to our emotions. Music can make us happy, sad, anxious, relaxed, or excited. Music can soothe us and it can even induce pain. Music has been found to influence the ability to learn in unborn babies. Music has unconscious physiological responses which contribute to negative or positive emotions. Research has connected music to physiological responses in our bodies, for example synchronised cardiovascular respiratory responses have linked music to our heart rates, so much so that changes in our listening patterns has direct impact on our heartbeats. With all this understanding of the impact of music on the individual, does it not make sense consider and overcome the insufficient research linking music to the heartbeat of a city? This has started in recent years with a mushrooming of live music research through the Music Cities Report, a global study the Concerts SA project is featured in.

Three years ago, The Royal Norwegian Embassy and RIKS Konsertene (Concerts Norway), in partnership with SAMRO Foundation, created Concerts SA with the mission to understand and encourage the growth of the live music in the southern African. The Concerts SA project started with many more questions than answers, and amongst other high impact initiatives the project produced Songlines in 2014 which built on Moshito’s Mapping of the South African Live Music Circuit from 2010. Songlines found the most crucial element of our current body of research work was the audience, the consumers of music and this research is an attempt to study live music consumption.

Are there audiences out there? 2016 was the year of the Olympic Games in Rio and the year of ground breaking local government elections in South Africa, shifting power from the African National Congress, to smaller parties in our 22 year old democracy. Olympic competitors who had honed their bodies, skills and minds to the singular act of running one hundred metres the fastest, swimming the fastest, jumping the highest or throwing the farthest strove to achieve the ultimate recognition for their years of training, an Olympic gold medal. This honour is well deserved, and when ‘Team South Africa’ returned from Rio thousands of fans crowded the airport at their own expense, to welcome their sports stars home. What had their heroes achieved? Years of discipline and training culminating in fifteen seconds of fame on a television broadcast from a faraway country.

This research is not about sportspeople, and does not dismiss the effort, training and achievement of those excellent athletes. However musicians, after an equivalent in years of discipline and training to our sports heroes, that culminate in live performances of more than an hour of memorable, inspiring art, get far less attention than our Olympians. The thousands responding to our Olympians prove there are definitely audiences out there and as such we started this research to answer the perplexing question: ‘why it is so hard to encourage audiences to support live music in South Africa?’

We looked into what discourages South African audiences from supporting live music? Access? Media Bias? Habit? Stigma? And what limits our politicians from understanding the importance of music for purposes other than electioneering entertainment? It Starts with a Heartbeat considers all these questions and in this document we unravel a few possible answers.

We found that the reasons can’t be the value of live music because, as we found in this research, live music’s value chain has positive impacts on many aspects of the economy, society and the broader cultural landscape. It creates employment for local people in numerous other industries, from hospitality to transport. The productive careers of each musician impacts on hundreds of small businesses and their productive careers can often extend far beyond “normal” retirement age. Attendance can’t be related to excellence, because without a doubt South African musicians can compete with the greatest in the world, as showcased in our Overseas Scholarships Competitions.

The culmination of this research provides justification for the support of small live music venues around the country and the mobility of musicians between them. With enough time a live music circuit throughout the region could create employment and cultural awareness that could sustain itself and communities around the country, however it needs buy in and sustained support.

My call to the policymakers, the politicians, the decision makers, researchers, artists, venue owners, audiences and all who have a vested interest in growing the music industry, is to take some time read this research, to ponder over our suggestions and findings, use it as a toolkit, a menu and choose which options you can use to build the consumption of music for the wellbeing of our society, economically, socially and culturally.

We look forward to recieving your feedback.

Thank you, 

Andre Le Roux


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