Have you ever watched shows like Idols and been utterly flabbergasted or appalled when the judges don’t give a contestant you thought was really amazing the chance to move to the next stage of the competition? I think it’s safe to say, we have all had those moments while watching one of the numerous talent competitions that are aired on local television. While the selection processes for these shows, will at best remain a mystery, the deep pool of untapped musical, lyrical and comedic talent in South Africa has meant that performers have had to find alternative ways to showcase their gifts. One such way of breaking into the performance space is through open mic nights held at various bars, cafes and pubs weekly, monthly or occasionally.
Started by the Nardal Sisters, open mic events have afforded performers a platform to share their work with fellow artists and the public. While open mics during the 1930s were used by French-Black intellengnsia and writers of the Harlem Renaissance to share their prose and poems on colonialism, racism and what it means to be Black, nowadays these events have become a space where performers can put themselves out there, showcase their talents and perhaps become discovered. Naturally, open mics for performers can be an overwhelming experience that can be both exciting and scary at the same time, while, for audiences it is an opportunity to listen appreciatively and hang onto every beautiful note and lyric that undiscovered talent has to offer.
The underground music scene has always been rather appealing, and I honestly believe that the attraction has a lot to do with the rawness, humility, authenticity, and purity that fresher players and performers trying out new material perform with that make the experience so alluring and spectacular! It, therefore, goes without saying that establishments that get behind new performers looking to gain experience, try out new material and hopefully create a fan base through open mic events deserve some kudos and the Hard Rock Café – Menlyn deserves such praise. Thus hankering for some live music from rare and undiscovered gems I chose to mosey my way down on Thursday evening to the open mic session at the Menlyn Hard Rock Café. Unfortunately, the place was not packed with eager ears waiting to be impressed by talented unknowns nor was the lineup extensive on this particular Thursday, but I was assured that this was not always the case. Despite, these unfortunates, the night was definitely not wasted, with the band that performed delivering some hauntingly beautiful lyrics about love, loss and heartache and an impressive rendition of Adele’s Hello.
The Hard Rock Café, definitely has a potentially good thing going by hosting these open mic sessions every Thursday, all it needs to do is promote the night more to rear the heads of not only artists but also eager and educated ears. South Africa definitely has much to offer artistically and there is nothing as beautiful as watching an artist grow from strength to strength. So from an avid supporter of local entertainment, I would urge new and old professionals and songwriters to get in touch with the Hard Rock Café and other such establishments that offer open mic nights to take these events as an opportunity to develop their art. You may not be discovered, but you will definitely get your music out there and raise the antennas of music lovers who are always enthusiastically looking for the exceptional avant-garde sounds and artists.
As an artist, there is no thing such as a bad experience and open mic events are definitely a place that will enable you to hone your craft, network and perfect your artistry in front of an audience. Truly, open mic nights are an underrated art form that needs to be promoted as a safe platform where music lovers and artists can intimately meet to begin a musical journey that could be beneficial for both.