In the past few decades, globalisation has had various positive impacts on the developing world, such as technological advances and an increase in levels of education, but not all globalisation’s effects have been deemed positive. The major concern in most developing countries is the degradation of people’s culture, as where the preservation of customs and traditions are considered very important.
According to Alexandre Lunsqui in a paper titled “Music and Globalisation: Diversity, Banalisation and Culturalisation”, “Globalisation seeks to enhance economic growth by stimulating trade among nations. The process does not prioritise cultural diversity and departs from a clear and simple premise: we are all consumers.”
The spread of popular western music, more specifically British and American music (Hip-Hop, rock, pop and EDM), has steadily changed the musical styles of many nations, taking them from a more traditional sound to a more contemporary, modernised and popular sound – some being a hybrid of local and modern sounds.
South Africa has experienced this injection of western music for some decades, with genres such as blues, jazz and reggae influencing the country’s music. Musicians such as Hugh Masekela (jazz) and Lucky Dube (reggae) are artists that have contributed to the spread of these genres away from western shores. However, in more recent times, the increase in financial investments has made music a more profitable industry. Artists, particularly from the west, have been able to increase their reach and global appeal due to major sales, streams of their songs, the sales of merchandise and their ability to stay in touch with their global fan bases through tours and social-networking. Local musicians do not always have the means to achieve this sort of global reach, as they do not always have major record labels to support them, especially if they do not have the sound that the labels find marketable. Local acts are therefore forced to copy what international acts are doing. This includes trends, music styles, music video imagery and lifestyles. This is what has led to local artists moving away from making more traditional or local sounding music to making popular music to mirror popular western music. South Africa has made efforts to stop this trend by enforcing a 90% quota for radios to play local music in order to expose the youth to more local music.
Ntando Hadebe of The Looneys, a UP rap collective, said, “When it comes to Hip-Hop/Rap music, you have to agree on the extent of western influences on the music made in South Africa today. Globalisation of music is real – in any genre. If the type of music that is made reaches an audience [that] vibes with it, it has already been globalised and opens an emergence of a market in a country. The audience (consumer) becomes the manufacturer due to the influence of where the sound originates from. The passion drives the new artist to pursue a similar sound. From the likes of reggae and rap, which had a strong following in the 90s and today, as a way to send through a message to the people. Let it be a message of hope or love, the way the message is being portrayed is linked to international influences, [for example] Bob Marley and Lucky Dube. [There is] a great deal of globalisation. The same happens with sounds coming from South Africa, which is accepted in the US but at a micro-level. Regardless of the scale, it reaches a new crowd, which allows an ongoing process of globalisation and geographic influence. The relevance of western influences on local Hip-Hop is evident on the music that’s released lately, and a similar trait can be found with artists like Nasty C and AKA who speak about how they are motivated by international artists, like Kanye West and Travis Scott, to make music that’ll spark a large following on their local music listeners. They took a similar sound and mixed it with their own on a creative spectrum, to make a vibe that a local Hip-Hop market can relate to and not feel confused even when they listen to international artists. South Africa went from an era of a large Kwaito to Hip-Hop following due to the globalisation of Hip-Hop in the US and how it has reached high status in the Grammy circle and Billboards. The platform that Hip-Hop has [in order] to reach out to the public has stretched out across borders and it’s no secret that South African Hip-Hop is a derived product of globalisation.”
In an age where musicians are idolised, specifically by the youth, it is essential that artists stay up to date in terms of what is deemed popular by the public for them to stay relevant. This means that newly-released popular music is likely to have less of the traditional or local touch as the music evolves. The globalisation of music seems to be continuing, and it remains to be seen whether it is good or bad for the South African music industry.
Illustration: Michelle Hartzenberg