Mmeli Hlanze, the founder of Antidote Culture Foundation says the conference went very well, and more than anything, it demonstrated that there is a need for similar workshops if artists are to reach their full potential in the country.

By Avite Mbabazi

The recently held inaugural Vukubone Music Conference 2022 was a resounding success that brought together thought leaders in Eswatini’s music industry, various artists, and even government representatives.

The attendance of the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture, Honorable Harris Madze Bulunga, was a positive indication that the government is behind local artists in their pursuit to monetize their craft and build sustainable careers from their craft.

The Honorable Minister delivered a keynote address on the first day of the Music Conference, which was hosted by the Antidote Culture Foundation, spanning over three days, from 25th to 27th August 2022, with the purpose of shedding light on the issues facing the music industry, while simultaneously exploring solutions to creating sustainable career pathways within the creative arts sector.

The first day, hosted at the Mbabane Theatre Club, centered on the role of property rights in music monetization where Samkeliso Nxumalo, chairperson of the newly formed Copyright Society; Dr. Ceculo Dludlu the registrar of Intellectual Property (IP) at the Ministry of Commerce and Trade; songwriter and music lecturer Velemseni Ndzimandze and IP expert Paul Tarvis (Dr. P); engaged in a panel conversation about intellectual property rights of artists in the country and the opportunities therein.

One of the issues raised that were well received was when the Chairperson of the Copyright Board presented an update on the introduction of the long-awaited Copyright Act. Mr. Nxumalo voiced to the attendees that the Copyright Board had been working in three phases which began with the hiring of a secretariat to manage day-to-day operations, which was already complete.

The second phase was the preparation of a conducive environment, which would speak to how royalties are tracked and collected, among other things. This, he mentioned, was an ongoing process that would take up to twelve months to conclude. The final phase would then be the implementation of the Act and its ancillary working bodies and mechanisms.

The second session of the day focused on empowering women to lead in music and the arts as well as the role men can play in creating an enabling environment for women to succeed in the arts. It consisted of a panel of women industry leaders including President of ACASWA, Phetsile Masilela, MTN Bushfire Firefly project manager Mrs. Penny Bouwer, SWAMA Public Relations Officer Zoe Genesis, and Velemseni; who detailed the different aspects and perspectives on the role of women in the music industry in Eswatini.

Day two was led by the co-founders of Antidote Music, Mmeli Hlanze and Sizo Hlophe, who analyzed how local artists can fully capitalize on the digital music value chain by taking advantage of opportunities brought by digital streaming, for instance, and the strategies artists had to implement in order to benefit from the digital value chain.

This was later followed by a session that included a diverse panel of industry players (including Swaziboy Entertainment Director Mthunzi Shadow Zwane, ENCAC’s Vusi Nkambule, performing artistes Thobile Makhoyane and Orginelle, producer Rendition, and moderated by Qibho Intellectual), who sought to answer the pertinent question, ‘’Where to from here?’’, examining, in particular, what the future holds for local artists and the industry at large.

The final day of the conference, held at the Alliance Francaise, discussed mental health in the music industry before performances by two legendary Swati Artists, Nana Magagula and Smiles Makama.

Speaking about the importance and impact of the conference, Antidote Culture Foundation co-founder Mmeli Hlanze said “the conference went very well and more than anything, it demonstrated that there is a need for similar workshops if artists are to reach their full potential in the country.”

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