World Cup Bill Row Trumpets On

The ongoing argument about the lineup for the Kick-Off Concert that opens the World Cup soccer finals in South Africa will probably rumble on throughout the games.

U.S.-based Control Room, which is run by Emmy Award-winning producer Kevin Wall, is booking the talent with the help of some local experts.

The company has already taken flak from culture minister Lulu Xingwana because there isn’t enough South African talent in the lineup.

High-ranking execs at Big Concerts, the country’s major promoter, and Hazel Feldman from Showtime – which is working on the Kick-Off show’s logistics – are among those expressing sympathy for the fact the talent bookers have an impossible task of pleasing everyone.

Culture minister Xingwana had the support of many leading newspapers when she said she wanted to see a bigger platform for South African talent, although the leading national music biz chiefs also understand the June 10 show at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium needs the likes of Shakira, Black Eyed Peas and Alicia Keys to hold the attention of a global TV audience.

The pro-South African talent lobby has pretty much accused the bookers of being paranoid that the first time a local act appears on screen there will be a huge drain on global power, as the millions of international TV viewers simultaneously get up to switch the kettle on.

A couple of music columnists in English national papers have put forward their opinion that not only are there not enough SA acts, but they’ve also got the wrong acts.

Although acknowledging they’d always expected the bookers to err on the side of caution for the opening ceremony, they didn’t expect it to play as safe as putting on Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and, inevitably, the local Soweto Gospel Choir.

They say the only change that came from Xingwana and the national papers’ campaign for homegrown talent was the late inclusion of cheery afro-pop outfit Freshlyground, a poster band of boys and girls that will hopefully illustrate the pluralism of the rainbow nation.

Apparently the best lineup to show off contemporary South African talent and halt the global making of millions of cups of tea and coffee would have cutting-edge acts such as DJ Mujava, described as the dancefloor supremo who transformed kwaito – his home country’s “insular hip-hop sub-genre” – into something that punched at the same weight as Brazil’s favela funk. More than one or two of the taste-making journalists think DJ Mujava did pretty well.

Despite any debate about which acts are chosen and from which country, it’s likely that the part of South African musical culture that will fix in the minds of most of the worldwide viewing audience will be the incessant drone of the vuvuzela, a plastic trumpet that blows the same sort of noise as might come from a very sick elephant.

The South African soccer fans blow them tirelessly. They will be delivering constant irritation to living rooms worldwide beginning June 10.