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 Pop Idols / Idol Makers
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Pop Idols / Idol Makers should be ignored with the contempt it deserves, say most musicians - young & old. However given that the Pop Idol phenomena is as exploitive as it is abusive - the worst excesses of capitalism & democracy gone mad and aimed at an unsuspecting population that have been kept in the cultural dark for over 50 years - it would irresponsible not to join in. 3rd Ear Music have been saying our bit for many years - so we'll just post a few recent comments; it should help put a tiny area of this unleveled playing field - err...cratered & bombed out battle field - into perspective.

These comments were posted on Artslink by Des Lindberg, Peter Terry, Lindsay and David Marks & sent to 3rd Ear Music.

Original Message -----
From: "Des Lindberg" <[email protected]>
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 1:06 PM
Subject: Idle democracy gone mad

Idle Democracy Gone Mad
by Des Lindberg

I have, up to now zipped my lip, and kept discreetly quiet about the latest national hysteria: Pop Idols. Last night's miscarriage of taste and popular justice finally unleashed my disgust. Pop Idols eloquently raises the question, do the people really have tin ears? It would seem after last evening's travesty of choice, that the answer is "Oh yes".
The public judging process in Pop Idols is a kangaroo court presided over by pre-teens, prepaid phone cards and lounge lizards.

Auditions are a daily part of theatre life, and a cruel but chastening medium for hopefuls and would-be employers alike. The hopefuls get to find out how clumsy, wrong, and driven by personal agendas the "judges" of their talent can be. The "judges" get to find out how self-assured, self-promoting, or self-deluded the hopefuls can be. As we have seen on Pop Idols, auditions are as much a test of the judges as of the judged.

In Pop Idols, there are two sets of judges: the "panel of pain" on camera, and the body of "voters out there", who are encouraged in the interest of inflating their phone bills and those of their parents and eployers, to "vote as often as you wish". This seemingly Zimbabwean form of democracy is the fatal flaw in the Pop Idols machine. Sadly, the whole process is a spiral which ends by chasing itself up its own manifesto.

First the official judges comment, then the voters "out there" react with frenzied phoneaholic fury and blatantly culturally-biased malice aforethought, and the actuality is alarmingly reminiscent of the manipulated recent politics ruling the Western Cape.

Who are the "voters out there"? They are surely the people who have both the time and inclination to make multiple calls to the cell numbers on screen. If their recent choices they have made are anything to go by , grown-ups are seemingly not in the majority in this group. Nor are people who have ever conducted talent auditions with a view to employing the auditionees. And nor, I think, are people who actually go out and buy CD's. If the acid test was not to watch, but to listen with closed eyes to the singers, choices might and should have been very different.

Lest anyone mistake what I am saying, the final eleven contestants were all eventually seductively made-over and packaged, and diversely talented and determined. They are all good at cover versions of American, British and Europop songs. They may all have job offers in the performing arts. But they are not all potential "Idols". The official judges know that better than most, and each has have said so from time to time, despite the "Honeypots, Sex-pots and Jackpots, or having or not having the look", skewing the weekly election process.

But the Pop Idols panel of Judges does not, alas, have the final word. The "voters out there" do, and now the cell-phone brigade has spoken, by dismissing at least two contestants who have real star potential and quality. But wouldn't it be boring if everyone had good musical taste and, well informed judgment?

I have no doubt whatever that soaring careers await the "rejects". Theatre and recording colleagues have already signed some of them up for great things. I have a nagging doubt, however, about the shelf-life of the current survivors on this island of Popular idolatry.

Questions remain. Would the competition have been more valid had the contestants been required to deliver anything at all original! Where was the creativity and sense of being "Proudly South African"? Where was the spark that ignited so many South African Groups and Artistes and shot them into the world charts? And with the might of a well-known auditing firm on board, why could a voting system not have been devised which allows one person one vote, thereby preventing the cynical syndicates from stuffing the ballot-boxes, and assuring the triumph of mediocrity over true talent? I cannot help feeling that Pop Idols missed several points again and again.

Enjoy this coming Sunday evening, even though it will be an extravaganza with a cast of three. And watch our airwaves and stages for the performers wrongly relegated to climb their own beanstalks. Producers are jotting down their cell-phone numbers as we speak, Despite the best endeavours of the "voters out there", they, I assure you, will not be idle.

Des Lindberg
web: www.desdawn.co.za

Post message: [email protected]
Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

"Who are the "voters out there"? They are surely the people who have both the time and inclination to make multiple calls to the cell numbers on screen."
They are also the people who can afford to make multiple calls to cellphone numbers --- the whole voting process is geared to the more affluent classes, which is a fundamental flaw if the organisers are looking for a national idol, and expect us to believe that's what they've got.

What is also irritating about Idols and other 'reality-type' shows like Big Brother is that the mainstream print media picks up on it with such glee.
One cannot turn one's TV off and simply choose not to watch, because the results (and farcical intrigues) shout from headline placards and front pages every week. One would think that those who are really interested would already know from watching the show. So what's that all about? We are victims of the most insipid and mind-numbing form of marketing in SA yet, and the newspapers play along. We, the general population, should be paid to be subjected to this, because someone, somewhere is making a lot of money off our peace of mind.

Oh, btw, good luck Brandon, Melanie and Heinz, I guess if you take the names - Brandon October Heinz Winckler Melanie Lowe and give each letter a value (a=1, b=2, c=3 etc) and add their numerical values and multiply by the number you first thought of; and if you read Nostradamus XVIII (3) (c); and if you play "The Seagull's Name Was Nelson" backwards at 78rpm, you will discover the message "Lucifer Made Des Lindberg Write About Worshipping False Idols".
But at least the truth is out at last : Idols is a White Conspiracy, masterminded by the Protocols Of The Elders Of Rhema.

Peter "Recycled Atheist" Terry

----- Original Message -----
From: "Des Lindberg" <[email protected]>
To: <[email protected]>; <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2002 9:48 AM
Subject: [artsz] Bone Idle Reborn Democracy?
Come now Lindsay,

Thank you for your national wake-up call and red alert on personal integrity... or do I misunderstand you?

Do I understand you to mean that its is "meet and right" that only charismatic church Christians should make it through? Or do I understand you to mean that the competition is blatantly unfairly rigged by a mafia of religious activists? Please clarify whether you condone rigging by anybody. Or please tell me that you are not in support of dishonest, bigoted, and manipulative public behaviour in order to justify a cause, however noble and good and passionately believed in.

What if Brandon was a Muslim, like Mohamed?
What if Mel was Jewish, like Jesus?
What if Heinz was a Catholic, like the Pope?

Are you really suggesting that reborn Christians know better how to rig votes than those subscribing to other religious convictions? Some of my reborn friends would be horrified if I told them that any Christian was publicly advocating cheating, or supporting those who rig votes. I would have thought that a believing Christian would be prepared to walk out there to compete using their own God-given talent.

We South Africans need to re-examine the values we profess to live by. Or have the Mugabes, Marais, Yengenis and Cronjes of this world so badly misled us that we now accept questionable means as the OK norm in our striving for dominance, fame and fortune?

I was suggesting that the system is fatally flawed. That does not mean it should be used to enable people to rig results. It should be exposed and fixed up to match the professed values of most South Africans. It seems that Broad Public Opinion is the only "constitutional court" to which we the viewers can appeal when injustice rears its head.

Help me understand your cryptic clues to your own ethical code.
Des Lindberg


I mean that the competition is "blatantly unfairly rigged by a mafia of religious activists" as you put it and, I do not "condone rigging by anybody and am not in support of dishonest, bigoted, and manipulative public behaviour in order to justify a cause, however noble and good and passionately believed in", to put it in your words.

The voting is clearly being manipulated, judging by the outrage at Bianca's, Ezra's and Ayanda's ousting. Whether it's privileged whiteys using their wealth to vote over and over again, or syndicates (including religious fanatics) that have rigged up some sort of computer system that votes continuously for their favourite idol, or whatever, the voting does not reflect what the people really want.

Enuf said

Dear Carte Blanche

Isn't the broadcast media supposed to reflect all sides of the story? With respect to Pop Idols, you are not doing SAfrican Music & Musicians any favours. By now you should be aware of the controversies surrounding this event? Pop Idols will do nothing for our ailing music industry. And although it will boost the coffers of the record & the Cell Phone industries (a few million voting calls & unit sales?) what will it do for the transformation & development of a SAfrican music industry? The damage that it could cause those poor unsuspecting participants, should also be of concern.

Also, please note that the "music industry" & the "record industry" are not one & the same industry. You wouldn't report on Theatre & claim it's the TV Industry? Same actors, same audience & sometimes the same sponsors, but totally different mediums & disciplines. Pop Idols is a record & broadcast industry product. It has nothing whatsoever to do with a South African Music Industry.
Enclosed are just a few points of view on the subject.

David Marks

----- Original Message -----
From: 3rd Ear Music / The Hidden Years Music Project
Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2002 4:35 PM
Subject: Craig Jacobs: Idol Maker? - Justice Malala: Foreign Invasion?

Re: Idols & Idol Makers - Justice Malala echoes the sentiments of many sane SAfricans on the editorial page " South Africa's Magic Sacrificed to Foreign Idols". Craig Jacobs drums up a cheap publicity shot with his sad piece "Battling Tragedy to Make The Big Time"? on page 8 of the same newspaper. Let me quote from the Sunday Times > http://www.3rdearmusic.com/forum/mediapow.html < Where do we stand?

"........foremost among (the reasons for newspapers not fulfilling their primary function of informing the public) has been the failure of the industry - or, at least the English-language newspaper industry - to train, nurture & reward journalists. English South Africa remains dominated by a mining man's culture that disdains intellectual life. The poor quality of Newspapers is accompanied by poor theatre audiences and poor support for the arts in general, and the question must be asked whether English South Africa has not been intellectually crippled by the emigration of so many of its finest sons & daughters during the apartheid years........"


David Marks
From: 3rd Ear Music / The Hidden Years Music Project
To: Sally Scott
Cc: Andre Le Roux ; Tebogo Alexander
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 5:11 PM
Subject: Fw: Idol Makers, Purse Strings & Puppets - A form of Child Abuse?

This may not be as serious as it all sounds; but I thought this enclosed letter may be of interest anyway - if for nothing else, just to let you know what many musicians feel about Pop Idols or Idol Makers or whatever. (See Artslink & various media debates.) Most of those young Pop Idol participants will end up on the Junkie heap. What a tragedy that we can't learn from or build on the past.

The record & music industry used to be the most integrated (and perhaps even the most progressive, to a point) during the "A" daze. But since 1990 it is the ONLY industry that has not come to the transformation & development ball; Editors, programmers & sponsors claim they can't afford it - no space, no time, no money? They have to stick to the shallow mainstream, we hear. I think we can understand that - to a point! However this doesn't (shouldn't) make Pop Idols or Idol Makers any less destructive or more legit.
What is going to happen to those poor kids? Isn't this a form of abuse?
David Groucho Marks

----- Original Message -----
From: 3rd Ear Music / The Hidden Years Music Project
To: Farook Khan
Sent: Monday, April 08, 2002 9:44 AM

Subject: Idol Makers, Purse Strings & Puppets - Splitting the Nation apart again

2 SAfrican songs out of 75 on MNet's Idol's show & it makes the news? Shows you just how deep apartheid dug. Probably far further than Alan Paton had warned us about in the 40's. Have we grown so ashamed of being South Africans that we can only praise & judge ourselves when we compare & copy multi-million dollar imported pop icons? Young musicians in the East, in the USA & Europe sing songs that are 20, 30, 40, 50, 200 years old - because they have pride & roots & they have a music foundation. We do not. And nobody with the power & the influence is even trying.

Firstly, one just has to see who it is that supports these Pop & Idol-Maker programmes & projects & who doesn't, to understand just how divided & out of touch this country remains - alienated & isolated from the world of performance for over 50 years. Just because the sponsors & the media can afford to pay the piper & pull the purse strings that make these poor young puppets jump to their tune, doesn't mean that they are helping South Africa music transform & develop. Exactly the opposite is true. It's sad to see young South Africans struggling to copy well-established multi-million dollar imported pop idols & icons & being judged by people who seem to have no idea who we are & where we come from. How then can they possibly know where we are going?

Secondly - if sponsors & the media have all this money, space & time to spend & really wish to serve the interests of local talent & develop a music industry as they claim - (as apposed to the well-established record & broadcast industries) - then perhaps they should have done what the sport media & industry started doing from 1990:- build the foundations first, before they try to put up the fancy good-looking rooms-with-an-impossible-view. The glee & determination with which the sponsors, the broadcast & print media have suddenly jumped in & promoted these events is cause for concern. After all these years of isolation musicians had expected some constructive assistance from the very same sponsors, the media & the record industry - to help transform & develop a music industry that has been in complete disarray since 1949.

And by no means last, but perhaps the most important point:- if these Idol-makers were interested in Nation Building & transformation - as they claim (it's only fun & entertainment after all), why do the participants have to sing & copy American or British songs? The world already has a hit parade filled with Brittany Spears & George Michael tunes....we don't need anymore perfect 10 vocal gymnasts doing the same old songs. Who are we fooling - just because the (so called) judges allow 2 great local songs into the (so called) contest? The sponsors & the record companies own all the rights - these young people own nothing.

The least that we would expect - if young people want to follow a particular international music style or idol - is for the sponsors to recognise that we have 11 official languages & countless colourful cultures & songs of our own. Shouldn't entrants perform a SAfrican song - whether written by themselves, their parents, their neighbours - any new or old local tune - whatever? Whether it's pop, rock, Maskandi, country, chutney, rap or hip hop - it should be SAfrican.

These pop idol projects are a slap in the face for the so-called African Renaissance & the (so called) creative pulse of Africa. We can't force people out there to listen & appreciate music & cultures they do not know about or don't want to know - it's a long process (and we tried with Capital 604 - remember the Afritude project? It didn't work.) But after 11 years one would think that just one hotel along Durban's golden mile would have had just one indigenous band - maybe sponsored by Coca Cola, supported by the Sunday Tribune & promoted by MNet? Tourists go to Mali or the Congo or Greece & India & they hear local indigenous music. What are we still so ashamed of?
We have to ask: Whose interests do these projects serve? Certainly not South Africa's as far as I can see / hear.

David Marks
3rd Ear Music Company est. 1969 (Pty)Ltd.

P.O.Box 50633
Musgrave 4062
South Africa
email: [email protected]

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