The Soweto Gospel Choir is among many of the leading South African acts sidelined by foreign artists for the World Cup.
This year’s Soccer World Cup in South Africa will be kicked off by R&B singer Alicia Keys and the pop band Black Eyed Peas. Other artists performing at the opening ceremony include John Legend, Angelique Kidjo, Shakira and Juanes. The concert will take place on June 10 in the newly remodeled Orlando Stadium with more than 30,000 people expected to pack in to the arena.
The FIFA World Cup is one of the most watched sporting events with the 2006 World Cup boasting of a worldwide cumulative TV audience of 26.29 billion. The organisers believe it will be “the greatest entertainment event to date in Africa” and with such a talented lot of performers it is hard to believe otherwise.
FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke said, “We are thrilled to have a concert of such magnitude and performing talent raise the curtain on the first FIFA World Cup in Africa.”
South African artists however are not happy about being sidelined by foreign acts. Traditionally the inaugral ceremony of the World Cup has been used by the host nation to showcase local talent. The 1998 World Cup in France local singer Axelle Red sang alongside Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and the stars at the 2006 World Cup in Germany were tenor Herbert Grönemeyer and drummers from Upper Bavaria.
This year however, only three South African acts– progressive rock band BLK JKS, the Parlotones and singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela – have been lined up for the show at Soccer City, Soweto, on the eve of the opening match between the hosts and Mexico. Africa will be represented by acts from Mali and Benin, even though their countries have not qualified for the tournament.
Many local artists feel that the lack of local performers makes a mockery of the South African World Cup and are suggesting that the radio stations in South Africa only play African music for the duration of the tournament so the tourists might at least get to hear them on radio.
Actor Mabutho “Kid” Sithole, a spokesman for the Creative Workers’ Union said, “The culture and sports boycotts played a major role in the fight against apartheid. Inside the country, our artists gave us the strength to fight on. We had a chance to celebrate their historic role, but they are being treated with contempt.”
The South African department of arts and culture said it “supports the outcry from artists about the dearth of South African artists at the 10 June concert”, adding that the line-up was “not fair”.