If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On [opinion]

WILLIAM Shakespeare is acknowledged for the title of this week’s column. An English poet, playwright, and actor, Shakespeare’s work is known throughout the world and he is considered the greatest writer of all time in the English language.

In Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, Duke Orsino asks for more music because he is frustrated in his courtship of Countess Olivia. Orsino believes music played in abundance might cure his obsession with love, somewhat like eating tends to remove one’s craving for more food.

Enough about Shakespeare’s play centred around a love triangle between Orsino, Olivia and another character, Viola.

Art and culture is business too and is not only about entertaining and enjoyment. All too frequently the significant contribution that musicians, singers, songwriters, actors and artists generally make to a country’s economy is overlooked.

Take for example Swedish pop group ABBA, England’s The Beatles and the USA’s Elvis and Michael Jackson. Closer home there is South Africa’s late Miriam Makeba of Pata Pata fame, world-acclaimed jazz artist Hugh Masekela and Zimbabwe’s internationally renowned cultural icon, Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi.

Over the past weeks, leading up to the award ceremony held in Namibia’s premier tourism resort of Swakopmund last weekend, reports on and speculation about who will scoop the 2015 Namibian Annual Music Awards (NAMAs) hogged the local entertainment news. Annually the NAMAs serves to recognize groups and individuals in Namibia’s recording industry.

Congratulations to the winners in the more than 30 categories who were acknowledged and indeed recognized for their accomplishment. Their artistic and creative talents have been recognized. Just in case it might have been overlooked at the award ceremony, their contribution to Namibia’s economy is enthusiastically applauded.

The direct contribution by local artists to Namibia’s gross domestic product (GDP) from sales of CD’s, music D’s, films and television series, and the income derived from ticket sales at shows and concerts, is significant. Add paintings of visual artists, unique photographs, sculptures and other artistic creations sold locally and abroad, and the dollar amount balloons. Along the way jobs are created and the fiscus scores from taxes collected, including value added tax (VAT).

The contribution by this multi-million dollar artistic and cultural sector to Namibia’s GDP is mind-boggling when the indirect contribution is added. This spillover effect comes in the form of rental paid for venue, lighting and sound equipment hire, printing of posters, event aertising and the engagement of security services. Add to this catering service, costume and prop design and manufacture, transport and the sale of merchandise at events.

So don’t be surprised if you see finance minister Calle Schlettwein in the audience at a Gazza gig or attending a show of The Dogg or Big Ben. He might not be humming “If music be the food of love, play on” but crossing his mind could be the monetary contribution towards running Namibia. You might even see finance permanent secretary Ericah Shafudah in the background, applauding loudly to help those dollars role in.

Export earnings from the art and cultural sector must not be ignored. ABBA disbanded as a group decades ago, yet to date has sold close to 400 million albums and singles worldwide. Note not at home in Sweden, but in English speaking countries.

The music and songs of England’s Beatles and Rolling Stones, America’s Elvis and Michael Jackson keep money flowing back home. South African artists, especially the Afrikaans singers, have a huge following in Namibia and regularly make appearances at local expos and music festivals.

The challenge now is to get government ministries responsible for Namibia’s presence at foreign expositions and trade shows to facilitate participation by local singers, musicians and visual artists and in this way help expose their artistic talents to foreigners.

Source : The Namibian