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Vusi Mahlasela Awarded Honorary Doctorate

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Thursday September 13, 2018

From The Daily Maverick

We all need to listen to the pleas of the music industry in our country
By: Vusi Mahlasela

An honorary doctorate was conferred on Vusi Mahlasela by the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday. He was recognised for his outstanding contribution to the betterment of South African society and to the global music industry. This is an edited version of Mahlasela’s acceptance speech.

“If music be the food of love, play on,” says Orsino to Curio in William Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night. Indeed, music is the food of love. Music excites the body. Music nourishes the soul. Music expands the brain. Music heals the sick. Music breeds and keeps together families, friends and communities. Music buries the dead. Music brings hope, peace and reconciliation in times of wars. Music does all of these things, and more, in conditions of peace, tranquillity and plenty.

But, is music capable of doing these in our country, South Africa, which is considered the most unequal society in the world? How is it possible for music to do all these if artists themselves die of hunger from exploitation – only to be remembered and celebrated by those who supposed to care for them, government in particular, when they are dead and given glowing obituaries plus, if fortunate, Special State Funerals? How are music lovers supposed to buy the music when they are unemployed? How do those who are fortunate to buy music contribute to the welfare of musicians when they purchase counterfeits in the streets.

[…] Musicians can only cook, dish and enjoy this food themselves together with those for whom they create it in the first instance if given genuine opportunities when those who have the means can – to use the pun – put their monies where their mouths are. On this note, I call upon all South Africans in the form of citizens, government, academia and business to invest in and support the arts in sustained, tangible and substantive manner.

Read the whole acceptance speech here