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Hengari advocates for more local music content

2024-04-03  Aletta Shikololo

Hengari advocates for more local music content

Popular Democratic Movement lawmaker Inna Hengari will table a motion this week in parliament, seeking to address an “overwhelming influx” of foreign music at the expense of local music content saturating Namibian airwaves.

Speaking during a National Assembly session last week, Hengari said the country is confronted with a significant economic and cultural challenge, with over 80% of music aired on local radio stations originating from foreign artists.

She said this underscores the pressing necessity for decisive action to bolster the visibility and prominence of local content, drawing inspiration from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)’s successful localisation efforts.

“This trend directly contributes to a considerable outflow of royalties, resulting in the financial marginalisation of Namibian artists,” the MP added.

Hengari raised concern that the ramifications of this trend extend beyond mere financial losses, as it also impedes the growth and sustainability of “our vibrant local creative industry”.

By prioritising foreign content, the young politician said, “we restrict opportunities for job-creation within our borders.”

She also spoke about the cultural impact of foreign content, saying it diminishes the country’s identity.

“This erosion of cultural distinctiveness underscores the importance of parliamentary intervention to safeguard and celebrate Namibian culture,” Hengari stressed.


Recognise us

In recent years, there has been a call by the Oruuano of Namibia artists union for the implementation of the 70% rule across all local radio and TV stations to support the music and creative industries.

“By implementing a law that mandates local radio stations to play 70% local music, 15% international music and 15% African music, we can positively impact the current situation,” pleaded the union to the government.

Artist Maria-Lisa Immanuel, known as ML, described the motion as progressive.

“Personally, I have attended workshops where this matter was discussed. When you have an issue like this which requires regulation and legal provision, this is the platform. What Hengari is doing is elevating this discussion in the important House,” the ‘Ndota’ hitmaker said.

Just like any other sector, ML noted that the creative industry should also be taken seriously, and should have laws regulating it.

“The reason other industries are successful is because there are regulations that empower and enforce certain outcomes. So, my interest is that the matter is now elevated so that key stakeholders come together and take the industry seriously,” she noted.

With unemployment rampant in the country, the musician said it is time the creative industry is recognised as an industry which also creates employment opportunities.

“Culture and art are more than just music. It is a larger industry which speaks to employment, national identity and pride. Everywhere you go in the world, it is a key enabler of those targets,” emphasised ML.

Asked about radio stations’ preference for foreign music, ML applauded the national broadcaster for implementing a strategy which promotes local content.

However, she acknowledged that the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) constitutes only 1% of other broadcasters.

Presently, the NBC is the only broadcaster which pays royalties to artists for airing their music.

“I have had conversations with private radios, where I heard that some local music is not in alignment with their business goals. We can only impose certain things through legislation. So, if you mandate that every radio station registers and be monitored by a certain body to comply with certain laws, then you are addressing the issue, rather than simply encouraging them to do so. They will tell you their audience doesn’t align with local music,” she added. Agreeing with ML’s sentiments was Fidel Nambundunga, a member of the artists’ union and music business consultant, who said the lack of an Act which supports the interests of artists is one of the many issues holding back the growth of the industry. “In the absence of that Act, no private radio station is obliged to play local music. But once that Act is passed, it allows local radios to air local music,” he observed.

“Once local content is out there, we are given no choice but to consume it. The more we consume local content, the more the economy benefits, and the more money is generated through royalties’ collections, recognition, and obviously the Namibian people, club DJs and so forth would learn to appreciate or be forced to play and expose Namibian music to the masses,” he continued.


Music business

While the absence of a law is an issue, Nambundunga, who himself has been a radio presenter, said another major issue why radios only play certain music over others is due to a lack of music business in the country. “If I produce a song, there is no executive producer to ensure that this song meets the quality standards required for broadcasting on any radio station. We lack distributors; our quality is sub-par; and we don’t apply business principles to our music.

If I want my music to go viral, I should be able to write a good press release, conduct radio campaigns, or ensure that I produce high-quality music. Even if I submit a hip-hop song to radio stations, they should find a compelling reason to play it,” Nambundunga reasoned.

He said just like music is a business, so is radio, and they have audiences to serve. It is their right to ensure they play music based on the preferences of their listeners.

He continued: “While some don’t produce quality work, we also have talented individuals who lack basic business principles. We have talented lyricists, writers and so forth, but they don’t progress because they fail to follow proper channels to market themselves, and that is their downfall.”

Nambundunga also urged artists to always have a team pushing their brands.

“Our artists don’t want managers, they don’t want agents, and they don’t educate themselves on matters concerning them,” he said.

He hinted that he and others will host a music business workshop soon.


2024-04-03  Aletta Shikololo

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