South Sudan Conflict slaying the music industry
By Mandela Nelson Denis
The South Sudan’s music industry used to boom in the years before 2013 war erupted, so many key players such as telecommunication companies sponsored events. There was peace and there was a massive turn up for concerts in the country.
Since the war broke out in 2013 some areas became difficult to reach for music concerts. Entertainment events are now concentrated in the key administrative states where the security is averagely good and safety of music lovers, who parted till morning are guaranteed.
The wise musicians of that time were able to establish themselves financially, others bought cars, land and built houses.
Kawaja Revolution is a dancehall singer and has been doing music for the last ten years, though he managed to buy a car from the proceeds of his music in 2015, he told Juba Monitor that today it is difficult for him to afford paying for music videos and audio. It forced him to put music on hold and look for other ways of survival.
“Music right now cannot bring food on table, the money we get from music concerts cannot even pay for music videos or audio production,” Kawaja Revolution said.
Kawaja said that he was fed up of investing his money into music hoping that his music would make its own money to finance his development projects.
Kawaja revealed that he has ventured into other business like supplies for both international and national organizations in the country to make ends meet.
Denis Denaya of Star Eagle’s Gospel Band told Juba Monitor that depending on music talent in South Sudan takes a lot to bring food on the table.
For him, he is a processional Information Technology expert where he survives.
“It’s my IT skills that is feeding me and even paying for our music expenses per now till we have peace, the music industry will continue to worsen,” Denis said.
Tony Manas also a member of Stars Eagles runs a furniture workshop in Gudele where he makes all types of furniture.
“For the music industry to take care of our day to day life, it needs combined efforts, first we need to appreciate our own music, once we learn to appreciate our own then the artists will gain,” Tony said.
Most concert venues in the country especially within Juba charge over twenty thousand South Sudanese Pounds per concert. The club owners also complain that for a club to run the whole night, it needs forty liters of diesel for the generator.
Bidal Ken who manages Club Secret Corner said the club or bar business is no longer booming like it used to be.
“People don’t have money for leisure, the little money people get is for food, medical bills and school fees, little is spent on drinking beer,” Bidal noted.
MC Bulda who doubles as musician remembered that he managed to pay his school fees in Sudan when the music industry used to pay a lot compared to South Sudan’s now.
“I used to pay guitar for gigs in Khartoum and was paid about two hundred US dollars a night, something that is lacking back here (South Sudan).
Bulda came to Juba in 2013 the same year war broke out. He revealed that the effect of the war crippled his dream of making it big in the music industry.
Shenjo one of South Sudanese female dancehall star who has gone quiet musically told Juba Monitor that music is not benefiting her; she revealed that she spends a lot but gets “peanuts.”
The ongoing conflict has also shattered the promotion companies that supported the industry in terms of signing artists and organizing concerts.
A renowned promoter commonly known as K2, boss of K2 Promotions and Events Company told Juba Monitor that it’s through peace that the industry will boom again.
“Our music industry used to rock but when the war erupted, everything changed,” Promoter K2 said.
He explained that the war created fear among fans and the fear stopped many from attending night concerts due to insecurity.
DJ Skupz, a Kenyan who has been playing music in various clubs in Juba for the last five years, also revealed that the war has negatively impacted on the music industry.
Kelly Kaku a die-hard of the local music said he never missed any concert in or out of Juba. He said that there were times he would travel to Obama Village in kit, along Nimule-Juba road just to party but now he cannot due to the insecurity.
However, hope has never been lost to some musicians like Silver X who is currently based in Kampala for the efforts they invested in music. The singer said that peace will one day come and the music industry will flourish again.
“There is no situation that is permanent, we will have peace one day and the industry will rock, like it used to do those days,” Silver X said.
Tvavy, a female artist said that the war has caused tribal hatred amongst fans; she revealed that at times she is asked by fans which tribe she belongs to.
For Beaty Toni another female artist who started music in 2010 said that the war sent her fans away to different parts of the world.
“When the war broke out in December 2013, people shattered for their safety and this left us with few fans to support our music industry,” Beaty stated.
WJ De King advised that the industry has to pray for peace to prevail in the country so that the music industry can be re-organized.
Producer Jehu Sam of Corner Stone Music said that as the crisis continues, the music industry is slowly dying. According to him, the big players in the industry are not supporting its growth.
“The music industry used to survive on the giant companies that supported it but since the war broke out most of these companies left the country,” Jehu said.
Audio recording and video production fees have since gone up after the war broke out. Currently, an artist needs between five thousand South Sudanese pounds to twenty thousand to record an audio.
While video production cost from one hundred USD to one thousand, depending on the kind of the video.
Video directors such as Obeezy said that he depends on doing documentaries for non-governmental organizations.
“Most of our musicians don’t have money and we cannot rely on them, we mainly depend on NGOs and just help the artists with whatever money they have,” Obeezy said.
The conflict has also made it hard for artists from other countries to hold musical concerts in South Sudan.
South Sudan music industry till date lacks a clear body to govern its affairs, and protect the rights of musicians.
Artist Ringoman told Juba Monitor that unless the musicians and artists unite to form up a working body that will unite them and fight for their rights, they should forget of benefiting from music.
Most musicians, dancers, artists, actors and actresses in the country will tell you that the conflict has killed their dreams.