Freedom Day 2015
Making Music Productions (MMP) was registered in 1991, and worked in what was then a marginal terrain – managing artists, who for the most part, had remained outside of the “music industry”, and presenting “alternative” shows as cultural activists. Founder members Christian Syren, Steve Gordon and Christopher de Vries set up what was South Africa’s first live music production house, and pushed new boundaries.
The company managed artists including Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Robbie Jansen, Jennifer Jones and Black Noise, and facilitated a host of voter education campaigns (for NGOs such as Idasa and Streetlaw) as the country moved beyond negotiations, and towards the first democratic elections. As barriers to movement eased, there were “Return of Exile” shows, and a flurry of tours of South Africans abroad. MMP helped open up public performance space in Cape Town, with shows on Greenmarket Square, the Company Gardens, and the Grand Parade.
Landmark events during our first decade included the Concert for President Elect Mandela (1994), the debut of the “Re-connection Africa” series with Manu Dibango (1993), the CT2004 Olympic Bid Roadshow and countdown concert (1996), and our participation in “Two Nations Celebrate Concert for President Mandela” as part of official State Visit to UK, also in 1996.
Making Music and its members also served as consultants in the music and cultural terrain – whether input to policy, helping establish the new Musicians’ Union, assisting the African Hip Hop Movement, or offering written inputs on music and tourism to Captour and the City of Cape Town. We helped formulate the Volkswagen Musicactive Series, and directed and produced the South African component of the Electrolux/ Global Youth Network world tour, coinciding with the UN50 celebrations.
With strong developmental ethos as a hallmark, MMP was privileged to handle the celebrations when Robben Island was transformed from prison to World Heritage site, and also initiated and directed the Youth Music Initiative (a Re-connection Project) which was the debut artist-in-residence programme at Robben Island. Other work with national government and its Department of Arts & Culture included the musical programme for President Mbeki’s Inauguration, the United Against Racism show, and the Millenium Concert on Robben Island on 31 December 1999.
As the new generation of South African jazz and hip hop artists came to the fore, MMP helped establish the early careers of Black Noise, Judith Sephuma, and Jimmy Dludlu. The “outward bound” touring increased substantially, and many months were spent on the road. The new millennium saw Making Music Agency handling repeat tours for Bongo Maffin, Amampondo, Heshoo Beshoo. MMP’s Chris Syren, with the late Hotep Galeta directed the “Eastern Cape Allstars”, a project-band which explored the musical repertoire and legacies of the region.
The new millennium saw major growth in the eventing industry, and founder member Christopher de Vries opted to go it alone with a new venture. MMP’s remaining partners focussed especially on their outbound work, building the export of South African musicians through tours and festivals in Africa, Europe, the Americans (North and central), and Asia. With a well exercised pan-African network of artist and venue contacts, MMP has grown to be the first port of call for festivals and bookers seeking African talent.
The company continues to innovate on the home front, and during 2012-2014 directed and produced the City Hall Sessions series for the Cape Town Partnership, and helped implement the “Concerts SA” project, an initiative of SAMRO and the Norwegian Concerts Institute, aimed to encourage the building of a live music circuit in South Africa.
In April 2015, the company welcomed two new members: media and audience development specialist Thabo Bopape, who joins after a two year stint at the Cape Town Carnival, and production specialist Rhoda Isaacs, who’s notable achievements include directing the Zanzibar "Sauti Za Busara" Festival.
With offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and frequent operations in West Africa – not least by virtue of African management for Malian superstar Salif Keita - MMP is at the forefront of circulating African musicians.