On Thursday, South African music icon Don Laka sparked great debate with a controversial Facebook post where he described DJs Oskido, Shimza, Vinnie, Naves and three others as “frauds” that promote each other on radio stations and kick other musicians to the curb.

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Laka, who’s the co-founder of record label Kalawa Jazmee, also went on to claim that an estimated 15 000 jobs have been lost in the South African music industry because South African musicians don’t get enough airplay on national radio stations.

Speaking to DESTINY MAN, Laka explains that the problem with the local music industry is the lack of presence locally, which has led to many musicians dying as paupers and often living broke.

“Thousands of people have been left jobless and money is constantly leaving South Africa because of the overplaying of international music and this hasn’t been addressed. People need to understand how the music industry works and how big an impact radio airplay has on an artist’s livelihood,” he says.

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Laka reckons that the issue goes a lot deeper than many of us think saying that as South Africans we’ve lost our identity and, because of this, we’re constantly looking for it in other places.

“The whole country needs a cultural rehabilitation from the top down because the effects of the past are lingering in our minds. We are filled with self-hate. This is why we rehash other people’s cultures and make them ours,” he says.

In his Facebook post, a large part of what was implied was that a few “so-called musicians” have monopolised the industry for their own gain, with no remorse at all.

“How can we be thrown under the bus just like that? If you look at the time between 1994 and 2008, this industry produced the best South African [music] and the best South African musicians ever to come out of this country. But, ask yourself, what happened to all these people? A lot of them… you never get to hear on radio,” he says.

The DJs giving me backlash are the same [ones] that are on our national radio stations and I’m telling you they don’t understand what a conflict of interest is

“DJs are not musicians”

Laka goes on to say that we never actually get to hear real musicians on the radio anymore and that “all we ever hear is DJ music.”

He continues: “DJs are not musicians.”

“I know they’ve been lying to everyone, but the turntable is not a musical instrument. It was not designed to make music; it was designed to play back music. The belief that DJs are musicians is one big lie,” Laka exclaims.

He says that real musicians have been replaced by DJs and that these are the same DJs who work at the national radio stations – something Laka feels amounts to a conflict of interest.

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“A conflict of interest [results in] what? Corruption. But this has been going on for so long that it’s become a norm,” he says.

Although a lot of people have criticised him for his outspoken views, Laka remains confident. “If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s bitter. I spent the whole year promoting an album I’d just released overseas. This is because I knew that it wouldn’t get any airplay here, but I realised that I can’t run away from home,” he says. “I need to fix it here and this is why I’m bringing awareness to this issue that’s killing South African musicians,” Laka says.

Backlash from DJs

Laka has received negative feedback from local DJs on Twitter, including DJ Euphonik and DJ Shimza, but says he’s not phased by their comments.

 

“The DJs giving me backlash are the same [ones] that are on our national radio stations and I’m telling you they don’t understand what a conflict of interest is. There is an ethical code within corporations – go read about it,” Laka says.

Laka finishes off by saying that every time a South African switches on the radio and hears an international song, they must remember that it’s money leaving the country.

“This is the message that hasn’t been communicated clearly to the public and I’m communicating it now. People need to be conscious of the fact that others have lost jobs, that money is leaving the country, and we need to start looking at keeping our own culture and heritage at the fore,” he says.