KAYLEEN MORGAN: Hey, Afropunk! Try taking some tips from Basha Uhuru
Youth month bowed out in a celebratory spirit with many young people being recognised for their work on and around the continent. Young artists and creatives like Sho Madjozi, who just touched down on home soil after being the first South African woman to win a BET award, turned youth month into a winning one for South Africa.
June was filled with several events honoring the youth of 1976 while also maintaining relevance to the current crop of young by "giving the people what they want". As a result, international acts such as Meek Mill and Post Malone graced our shores, and local artists set the atmosphere as supporting acts.
Very recently, SA artists have been calling for increased support for not only their craft but the upliftment of South African products in general. Artists such as AKA, Boity and Slikour have recently spoken about looking inside our own continent and celebrating the wealth within because South African productions are on the same level as international stars.
Basha Uhuru concert goers at Basha Uhuru's 2019 Freedom Festival. Picture: Basha Uhuru
I agree with this sentiment having recently attended the annual 100% local youth freedom festival Basha Uhuru on the last weekend of youth month for the third time in a row. As the older generation would expect us millennials to say – it was a "lituation" and a half!
I learned about Basha Uhuru because of its partnership with internationally acclaimed festival Afropunk in 2017, when Afropunk made their debut on our shores. The fest included a week of activities, such as a creative summit with opportunities for creatives to engage others in the industry, network and even secure funding for their businesses. Local artists also showcased their work at the historical Constitution Hill with daily poetry sessions, art exhibitions, local film screenings, conversations and more followed by a concert with only local artists, no headliners and a localmarket with food, clothes and other products at an affordable rate.
For the past three years I’ve enjoyed being able to be in a setting that makes one feel proud to be South African, and even more proud of our rich and unique creative industry that many international markets have been looking to for inspiration, and have even been imitating for years.
The work that holds our stories that we are deeply connected to, our sound, our attire, our resources have been capitalised on and made popular because of its exposure to the international scene.
BaSotho blankets are now on European runways, the checkered bags our parents used to travel for decades are too. Beyonce, Rihanna and others have sampled our dance moves. Their use of our talents have become popular around the world - not because we did it first but because these artists are internationally recognised.
Busiswa performs at Basha Uhuru's 2019 Freedom Festival. Picture: Basha Uhuru
We keep our celebrations for SA wins in unless they are accompanied by a flight overseas and accepted on an international stage. This is not in any way disapproving that SA artists be recognised internationally, but we need to also appreciate how lekker local is while it’s still exactly that – local.
Basha not only made me patriotic but I’ve been very impressed by how well it’s been organised in comparison to other fests - nudge nudge, Afropunk - which has been held in the same venue for the past two years.
The two festivals hold very similar values and appeal to the same demographic, yet I’ve left Afropunk wishing it was Basha Uhuru because one was better organised, and has only improved on an annual basis.
The first time, we were let down by Solange. It was a huge dampener on my experience, as this was the biggest selling point for the festival. They then also had problems with the tickets - those who bought Saturday tickets were upgraded to weekend passes because of her cancellation, but those with weekend passes received nothing. In the second year, those who bought tickets to see her were promised discounts, but were asked - 48 months later - for proof. Who will keep that weekend band for so long while they figure out a way to compensate us? Unfortunately for them, the rain added to our terrible experience. I'm waiting to see what will happen this year, after two concerts in mud.
Similarly, Global Citizen has only left a bitter taste in my mouth despite seeing some of the world’s stars on a stage on home soil. I was one of the people who was caught up in the mess after the show that left many feeling destitute and scared. I was also with a number of people who weren't from Johannesburg. The confusion around getting home and lack of lighting scared them more than it did me. In those moments, it felt like they cared about the concert happening here, but not necessarily the people who attended it. Their response afterwards gave this more backing. We received apologies from the City of Joburg, but Global Citizens remained mum.
Sho Madjozi performs at Basha Uhuru's 2018 Freedom Festival. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN
At the end of the day, all we want is to be listened to. While these international events didn't even bother listening, Basha Uhuru has made concerted effort each year to make the experience better than the last.
I wish we could have more local festivals on a greater scale, and appreciate the fact that we are the past, the present and the future of everything.
Just because we have been labelled and marketed as third world, doesn’t mean our talent is at that level. On too many recent occasions I’ve admired productions of SA artists I don’t even enjoy just because it was that well put together, and at the same time attended international concerts that don’t leave me responding the way international crowds seem to on social media when they perform on their own stages.
I will once again attend Afropunk this year purely to support a lot of new young SA talent who will be on that stage. But my eyes are squinted at Afropunk, and I’m watching them like Mabena, waiting for them to disappoint me again.
Urban Village performs at Basha Uhuru's 2019 Freedom Festival. Picture: Basha Uhuru