Mover groover: Moshito chairman Sipho Sithole has produced musical innovations throughout his career and has recently revamped the music conference’s configuration. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mover groover: Moshito chairman Sipho Sithole has produced musical innovations throughout his career and has recently revamped the music conference’s configuration. Picture: SUPPLIED

Concern has been expressed in music circles that SA’s premier music conference and showcase event, Moshito, is losing its focus.

At its launch at Constitution Hill in 2016, the then deputy director-general of the Department of Arts and Culture, Monica Newton, said the government as the funder of the event was worried about the future of Moshito at some stage.

There are also murmurs in music circles that Moshito is losing its momentum, as it is attracting smaller audiences every year.

It appears, though, that the event has again found its mojo, attracting participants this year from the international community. At least that is what its chairman, music executive and corporate executive Dr Sipho Sithole believes.

Moshito 2017 will take place at Newtown Music Factory in Johannesburg and at Soweto Theatre from September 6 to 9. This year’s programme is packed with exciting activities, ranging from panel discussions to music performances.

"When I took over Moshito as chairman in 2014, it was after I had been approached by the music industry to come and share my expertise. In fact, they voted for me in absentia," says Sithole, who this year graduated with a doctorate in anthropology from Wits University.

"I accepted the position on condition that we changed Moshito’s configuration, including drawing up a three-year business plan, and instead of having a board that changes every year, the term of the board had to run for three years.

"The problem with a board that changed every year was that it resulted in losing relationships with international role players as the board members had to start afresh."

Sithole has worn several hats in SA’s entertainment industry and in the corporate sector. He is respected as a music producer who successfully founded the independent label, Native Rhythm Productions, that has produced successful artists such as Afro-soul stars Tribute Mboweni, The Soul, Zulu Boy, Camagwini and Siphokazi among others.

While a former deputy MD at Gallo Music, Sithole groomed and produced successful musicians such as Simphiwe Dana, Thandiswa Mazwai and Skwatta Kamp among others. "I actually became a music producer by accident. It happened while I was a board member of Airports Company SA, the chairman of the board Mashudu Ramano was also the chairman of Johnnic Entertainment, which owned Gallo Music," he says.

"He casually complained that Gallo Music was losing money at the time. I responded that I could fix the problem and, a month later, I got a call from him offering me the position of deputy MD.

"Within two years, Gallo Music was making money again as I came up with marketing strategies that really worked, including signing artists such as Thandiswa Mazwai and Simphiwe Dana."

Moshito has decided to go back to the city’s creative centre, Newtown Music Factory [formerly Bassline], for the 2017 music conference and exhibition taking place from September 6 to 9

Sithole is currently a strategist at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA. He previously held a similar position at the SABC.

Visitors to the Moshito music showcase will this year be spoilt for choice as several entertainment activities are lined up, Sithole says.

"From theatres and jazz clubs, art galleries, craft and flea markets to museums and spectacular street art, Newtown will be alive with possibilities for even the most jaded traveller," Sithole says.

"Moshito has decided to go back to the city’s creative centre, Newtown Music Factory [formerly Bassline], for the 2017 music conference and exhibition taking place from September 6 to 9."

The theme for this year’s event is Rhythms of the Ancients with Dizu Plaatjies of Ama-mpondo and Candy "Tsamandebele" Mokwena as the faces of Moshito 2017.

With a programme that includes intriguing conference topics, networking sessions, music demo presentations and artists’ showcases, Moshito promises to live up to its brand promise of being Africa’s premier music market and event, according to Sithole.

"Having started off hosting less than five music markets, in the past three years we have seen the attendance of new markets and delegates coming from as far afield as China, India, North and South America, Europe, the Caribbean and those from our continent," he says.

Participants include the Doa Doa Music Market (Uganda), the Zanzibar Film Festival, Kenya Music Week, Bushfire (Swaziland), HIFA (Zimbabwe), MOMIX from Mauritius, the National Arts Council of Seychelles, Earth Synch (India), the Cross Cultural Festival ( Poland), Musica Minas (Brazil), Visa for Music (Morocco), Atlantic Music Expo (Cape Verde), and Moshito’s long-term strategic music market partner, the Indian Ocean Music Market of Reunion Island.

There will be more than 70 panellists participating, there will be breakaways and plenaries afterwards, demo presentation workshops and music showcases. Moshito 2017 is poised to be the place where music meets business, and music creates opportunities.

"This year’s theme, Rhythms of the Ancients, will look at how ancient rhythms and indigenous sounds that made African music great still find resonance in today’s music, be it gqom, hip-hop, jazz, soul or Shangaan electro," says Sithole.

SA is increasingly beginning to focus on cultural and creative industries as potential contributors to economic growth and job creation. Given the challenges of youth unemployment, the creative sector, particularly the music sector, has become an attractive value proposition for young people wanting to participate in the creative economy," says Department of Arts and Culture chief director Charles Mabaso.

"Today, young people own music labels, music production facilities and have become the source for broadcasters and promoters looking for fresh music to be played on radio, television and performed in public spaces.

"Moshito, therefore, is the obvious platform for music practitioners who want to engage, network and grow their business.

"We remain committed to ensuring that Moshito continues to perform its mandate for the benefit of the music industry as a whole."

• Moshito will start this year’s conference with an opening concert on September 6, at Newtown Music Factory followed by an Afro-World Night Music Concert on September 7 at the Soweto Theatre.

• It closes with the Urban World Music Street Festival at Newtown Junction Mall on September 9.

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