durban rocks

Musa Ndwandwe

Musa Ndwandwe

Since gold was discovered on the Reef centuries ago, all roads have literally been leading to Johannesburg.

For labourers in need of better jobs; for entrepreneurs seeking to escape the hum-drum life of smaller towns and rural areas; and for singers, actors, writers and ingenious types craving a more amenable audience, Jozi has always been "the promised land".

The last five or so years, however, have seen a shift as far as entertainment is concerned.

Aspirant KwaZulu-Natal musicians, dancers, poets, producers, DJs and sound engineers as well as stand-up comedians need not look any further than Durban to realise their ambitions.

National and regional radio play lists are increasingly being dominated by the sounds and rhythms produced and mastered in Durban.

Television talk shows and magazine spreads feature new "stars" born, groomed and first celebrated in Durban.

Popular national tabloid gossip columns have had to deploy personnel in Durban to feed on the frenzy of the young emerging celebrity culture.

The walls of the nascent Durban production houses are adorned with honours such as the South African Music Awards (Sama) and the Metro awards even as the city continues to export new stars excelling in popular youth culture.

Some Johannesburg-based entertainers - Joe Nina is a case in point - have promptly moved to Durban where their careers are likely to be resuscitated.

Others, having fled Durban in search of a more stimulating environment, have returned.

Gospel veterans Mthunzi Namba and longtime partner Lindelani Mkhize have both invested separately in production ventures in Durban, while songstress Swazi Dlamini and violinist husband Tshepo Mngoma are relishing fresh opportunities presented by Durban.

"In terms of entertainment and nightlife, Durban is an unstoppable tsunami," says eThekwini Municipality's manager of arts and living cultures, Monwabisi Grootboom.

Through his department's calculated interventions, a number of starlets have been nurtured and guided to national and international glory.

Through programmes such as the recently held KZN Music Business Workshop, Grootboom's department is fully behind the boom in the entertainment scenery to create meaningful economic benefits for the players in the industry.

"The workshop deliberately focused on the business side of the music industry because we can see that, despite the documented boom, our artists still have to rely on Johannesburg for such money-spinning functions as licensing deals and pressing and distribution," said Grootboom.

"It is our duty as government to ensure that an enabling environment is created so that the prevalent talent could also be successfully turned into astute business owners quite able to look after themselves."

There are already signs that the present-day artist in Durban is looking beyond success as defined only in terms of record sales.

Plans for a Durban-based pressing and distribution plant, owned by industry players, are reportedly nearing fruition.

This move is expected to put the icing on the cake of an industry that is determined to seize the moment.

With a population of 3,6 million, half of whom are under 35 years of age, Durban provides a perfect backdrop for the explosion of vibrant youth entertainment scene.

"Also, the close proximity of Durban to Johannesburg makes us an attractive option for the cash-flush revellers from up north," said Grootboom.

Though not one person or institution can be credited with engineering the emergence of Durban as a haven for recorded music in the youth genres, some individuals have long been associated with working hard to unleash the city's potential.

Kalawa Jazzmee's Oscar "Oskido" Mdlongwa is one such person.

As early as 2001, the intrepid hit-maker was busy scouting in Durban for fresh talent, video locations and pool party venues.

The result of his affinity with the city's offerings was the introduction of Professor and T'zozo, an energetic duo of Durban kwaito exponents.

Their hit Woz' eDurban caused many to look and listen while it further entrenched the city as a favourite party destination.

"I'm happy that this happened because we've always been of the opinion that Durban can do it.

"That we've inspired more musicians to do work in Durban was an unintended consequence, but the results are pleasing," said Mdlongwa.

His label's fascination with Durban goes beyond unearthing and polishing talent such as Professor & T'zozo.

As a founder-member of the Southern African Music Conference, Mdlongwa is also busy with the development of artists in this part of the country.