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What Happens In Between: The Durban Music Scene

  • Written by Lav Nandall
  • Published in Editorials
 

Sandwiched between humidity and sugar cane fields is a minuscule music scene. This is the music scene that belongs to Durban. Durban does not have a big bustling scene nor is there a lack of one, it is just stagnant. Perhaps, I’m being biased. If your choice of ear candy is Gospel, Kwaito and Boeremusiek then Durban caters for such. If your choice of ear candy is heavy metal, alternative live music and Pop then you better start seeking elsewhere.

That’s not to say that Durban has no talent. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’ve been running around the local scene for several years watching live music shows, supporting bands, writing about the local music venues and getting the word out about acoustic acts happening at the local pub and grill. During my time of doing such I have noticed something truly unique of Durban-grown talent. I’ve noticed that performers try twice as hard and face twice as much rejection than their associates in larger cities namely, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Why is this? While I reason finances are a common central issue there are also a few others such as; no fan-base growth, lack of supportive venues, no back-up from the Arts and Culture departments as well as absolutely no promotion or education of music.

There are many alternative/metal bands that originated from the shores of Durban but most of them disbanded due to a lack of support from a fan base and finances. Many bands never saw an audience after several live music venues closed their doors permanently. And of course, many musicians packed their creativity in suitcases and moved out of Durban to broader horizons.

Not too long ago, a little bit of hope trickled in. Live The Venue, The Red Door, The Winston and Jack Rabbits opened their hearts and door steps to Durban musicians. Could it be that Durban’s live music scene is able to reunite with it’s counterparts in other cities? Perhaps so. While these venues are pulling out all the stops to put the energy back into live music there is one main ingredient missing: fan-base growth. With a limited audience, there is limited opportunity and with limited shows there is stagnation.  No musician of any genre and style is willing to gamble in a music career that lacks an audience.

This is why I stated at the beginning that Durban’s music scene is miniscule. Loyal but limited.  Intimate but stagnate. It is just the way it is and despite coming from the sugar-cane fields of Durban, I cannot sugar-coat the truth about the Durban live music scene.