Born and raised in Durban, Victor Masondo is one of South Africa’s greatest exports. He grew up in a very musical family and so knew from a very young age that music was his path. He produced Miriam Makeba’s album ‘Mama Africa’, which featured people like Hugh Masekela, Nina Simone and Dizzy Gillespie. If this isn’t enough to impress you, he has worked with musicians; Lucky Dube, Wendy Oldfield, Ringo, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Wouter Kellerman, Nianell, and the list goes on. He has worked locally and abroad, with legends and up and coming musicians, and so it makes sense that this music legend in his own right, would put together a show like ’21 Songs for 21 Years of Democracy’.
There are so many commemorative things dedicated to democracy, do we need another one and why?
“That’s the point. I didn’t want a typical concert, what I wanted to do was to present the songs that remind people of a certain time within this time period of 21 years. I just wanted people to remember 10 years ago, 5 years ago… Which song made an impact on your life? How did it challenge you? How did it make you think? What did it do for you? Where were you when you heard that song with Johnny Clegg? I want to bring out nostalgia and sentiments from people. I want a concert where everyone is singing together and enjoying their time together. I want people to go back in time.”
“There is nothing more beautiful than people remembering their history through music. I remember our President once said that he went to see a play called ‘Amandla’, and he said, ‘it took you guys two hours to address what we have been trying to address in 20 years’. Music gets through to people. It’s the only thing I know that helps us to see things differently from a very different point of view. It becomes all human. It transcends colour, race, you name it. Everybody has a song that they remember that did something for them at a certain point of time. At the back of my mind what I am trying to encourage more than anything else, is to help people understand that they have something in common. We all have this thing in common, which is music. We must find common ground and start discussing the things we agree with, not the thing we disagree with. From there we can start building very informed conversations.”
“For me, I never thought I would ever see democracy in this country. I thought it would be impossible. When it happened, it changed the mood of the country and music was at the centre of it. We were up there with bands, making music, sending out messages indirectly.”
“During these 21 years, not only has democracy been at the centre, but also love stories; there are people who fell in love. There are things that happened in the country that weren’t only political. So the whole idea that were able to address things and talk about them through music, is one powerful thing to do.”
“I want us to celebrate together and reminisce together.”
Why did you choose these musicians?
“During my time in the country I was exposed to different types of music, like the music in the Afrikaans community, there was a distance at the time. I worked with various musicians in the Afrikaans community who were introduced to me through Lloyd Ross and I realised that there was a whole lot going on here. I didn’t want to be tunnel visioned, I started working with quite a few of the musicians, like Koos Kombuis, and I found that there was a lot to share. I’m sharing my part, they’re sharing their part. So because I’ve been touched by all those genres, I wanted to bring all those runners to the stage. There are songs that are sentimental to some people. There are stories behind the songs. We missed those stories because we were distracted by other things. I want to bring things back to people. I’ve got people from traditional music, people from Gospel music, they all mean something to me.”
Looking back at the past 21 years, do you think people are still in that mind set of it’s Kwaito, it’s Afrikaans music, it’s black music, it’s white music? Do you think people are still segregated in this regard with all these genres? How do we get rid of that and open people up?
“I think people think differently. When Mandoza’s ‘Nkalakatha’ came out everyone responded to it. It wasn’t just a Kwaito song. All races where singing it. Music has always had this thing of reaching out to people. It depends on the mindset of people. People who are open to more, experience more. Those in tunnel vision, stay there. We have people like Kurt Darren on stage. He is a wonderful person and great musician. This was my way to remind people why music runs through everyone’s veins. Music is just music.”
“I think in the country we have phenomenal musicians who have matched the world stage and more. You can go back to the likes of Lucky Dube. Lucky Dube was well respected in Jamaica. One day he went to Jamaica and people were lining up from the airport to the stadium just to get a glimpse of him. So that tells you about the quality of our music. Miriam Makeba is another one. People praised her phrasing. Paul Simon made a lot of money through our music. The problem is that we have always undermined ourselves. We have people who have reached the highest levels. When people are too lazy to play our music, they say that the quality is bad. When ever someone says our music is bad, I’ll play them something and they’ll respond with amazement to it, and then I’ll tell them that it is local. We have always had great music in the country but because of the format of radio, it isn’t played enough. For Australia to be a power house in the music industry they decided that it must be 100% Australian. The government went with it. Some of the music was good and some was bad. All over the world there is good music and bad music. Government put more budget into the industry and it helped develop the musicians. We need a platform here in South Africa. If we did this here, it would work and revolutionize the industry.”
“But we do have work to do. We have to legislate it here. There also needs to be more creative thinking around the arts.There are musicians that are playing in my show that many people haven’t heard of and that is why I mixed the line up, so that people get to hear musicians they don’t know.”
“The whole idea is to really get people to be introduced to other ways of doing things, to have fun and find out the value of our music in South Africa. I want people to think back at 21 years but also to move forward and look ahead at 21 years in the future. I want to go beyond. There’s more to this concept than the name itself.”
21 SONGS FOR 21 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY OPENS AT THE JOBURG THEATRE ON 26 MARCH!
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