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Has South Africa moved on from using international acts as a draw card for major events?

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South Africa has, as intended, moved away from using international acts as a draw card for concert goers to purchase tickets, and has now struck a balance between local and international acts.

As recent as four years ago, it was still considered a bad investment to have a local musical act headlining a major concert. Many event organisers dangled international headliners as draw cards for numerous festivals and concerts, or alternatively, they would invite a troop of local artists to draw a vast net in the hopes of attracting a capacity crowd. It is ironic that it took South Africa’s biggest music rivals to change that perception, namely, AKA and Cassper Nyovest.

Many regard Cassper Nyovest as the musician who spearheaded the direction that the country is taking, with the first of his annual Fill Up stadium concerts in 2015. AKA also followed suit in 2016, after his alleged mistreatment as the supporting act for American rapper, J. Cole, vowing to never open for an international act again. At the time, the decision sounded like career suicide, however, fast forward to today, his sentiments have now been uttered by other leading musicians.

While AKA might have been the first to declare that he would no longer agree to be a supporting act in his home country, Cassper’s stadium concerts have provided the blueprint to show that local artists can single-handedly fill up a venue. Other South African artists that have since followed suit include Dr Tumi, Shekhinah and Gigi Lamayne.

In looking back, the movement allowed for the local music scene to grow. I wonder if other music sub-genres would have had the same kind of success if there wasn’t a movement to promote and invest in local acts, instead of pigeonholing them as second-rate acts to international artists.

Sabelo Makhubo


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