As I click the “Refresh” button on my Facebook page for the 62nd time, I feel more inadequate. No work can be done now that I’ve posted my first song. Courses cannot be “chowed” while the anxiety of feedback eats away at the hopes of a young artist. It’s great to be able to follow my heart while caught up in an Economics and Finance degree. However, as happy as I may be as a young artist in this city, my only hope is to grow to be the best in the industry.
I remember when I used to worry about my stage name; “Is “Sishii” good enough? Maybe I should change it.” These thoughts plagued the mind of 14-year-old Ntobeko Sishi when he finally decided to pursue his dreams. I sat there questioning the technicalities and possible routes I would need to take to become an established Singer-Songwriter. Now, at 18 years old, I realise that I still have these questions. I certainly consider myself to be a singer-songwriter, however, establishing myself continues to be a problem I face in this city.
Some people say that Cape Town is full of opportunities for young artists. Others say that, because it’s too established, it’s perfect for those artists who have already made a name for themselves on a national level. I say that the latter argument is the more believable of the two for me. This city boasts in open mic events and networking opportunities, but the efficiency of it all is very underwhelming. Having performed at various places in Observatory (“Obz”) and UCT, I’ve tried to seize the opportunities that Cape Town and UCT offer. My hunger to grow is so tangible that it may be mistaken for desperation and yet, the innumerable times I’ve said, “I’d love to work with you,” have left me with glimpses of hopelessness.
The networking platforms that I’ve used have left me feeling worse due to their lack of progressiveness. Performing at an open mic and having “jam sessions” shouldn’t always be once off occasions that lead to nothing. They should provide opportunities to work and grow with other artists.
The structures that are available for “up and coming” musicians should allow for a diversity in musical perspectives. Artists are too consumed with the idea of genre boundaries and this is due to the institutions offered. All credit is due to platforms like UCT Radio for their variety of talent that they showcase, however, the lack of broad music societies and events leaves a lot of musicians in the audience instead of on stage.
My hunger is yet to be satiated. I will continue to search for opportunities in a city that lacks the stepping stones I seek. One advantage I can take from this is that it has taught me to hustle on my own, and this is my advice for other artists who may not have the finances to purchase opportunities. Teach yourself on YouTube, be as interactive as you can be on the internet and most importantly, forget about the idea of a “scene”. Sing with your guitar at a Hip Hop open mic, rap at an Indie show, take every little opportunity and own it.