Making Namibia proud with Jazz

By Jemima Beukes
March 2012
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Tracy Rose is just one of very few Namibian musicians who have managed to get their voices heard abroad.

Like a rose in full bloom, she cherishes her music and talks fondly of the instruments she plays completely as if they were her lovers. She realised this dream after moving to South Africa just less than five years ago.

The Swakopmund-born artist grew up never quite thinking of music as a long-term endevour but soon changed her tune just shortly after completing her studies.

She started playing the guitar officially in 2008 after a few fruitless and depressing attempts and soon managed to add percussions, djembe drum as well as the cow drum to the list. While she leans strongly towards jazz, she is capable of producing a fusion of different genres.

“I lean more towards contemporary jazz, blues and funk and would like to perform in Namibia as I have never had the chance to do so,” says Rose.

The reason as to why she has never performed in Namibia is because she started her music while living outside the country.

Apart from making beautiful music and entertaining guests, Rose spends her days earning bucks from events planning, events co-ordination as well as freelancing in the media. She is of the opinion that full-time artists find it difficult to make a living out of music.

“Those who live by the music should create a movement that can sustain them and others; we can all do with a little support,” she notes.

Rose further warns that music certainly is not much of a permanent job unless one spends all their time dedicated to it.

She adds that she receives a lot of support from musicians or artists from the South African community and praises MTC for its effort to uplift music in Namibia through the NAMAs.

“I am well respected for what I do and have much support from locals. One should find the niche in the market and learn how to turn heads by just being simple. More and more artists are coming to life. I just wish that there is and was a better support structure.

“Thanks to MTC who have actually taken on the Namibian Music Awards (Namas). I also know from many years ago that good artists were given bursaries to study music abroad,” she says.

However, according to her, such artists who study outside Namibia hardly ever return home, because of the mere fact that arts and music simply do not pay in Namibia.

Her breakthrough as an entertainer came when she closed herself off from the norm and opened up to the challenges she never thought she could master.

“Three years ago, I all of a sudden had new ears; jazz has certainly injected my music abilities with hope,” she beams.

Success, she notes, can only be attained when an artist has a good support system and networks with people in the know, pointing out well known jazz artists like Jimmy Dludlu, Simphiwe Dana as the network of friends who inspire her and keep her on her toes.

According to Rose, the survival of Namibian artists lies in the ability to look and dig deep into their cultures. This is an exercise, which is certain to offer the artist an ability to offer their audience a traditional and familiar sound to savour.

Development of artists is perhaps hampered by the tendency to concentrate on commercialised music, because it hides the true creativity of artists.

“Whenever I return home, I always hear commercialised tracks. I, in the same breath, am not against it. However, there is just so much to music! When last has a young upcoming talent hit it hard with jazz or blues in the Namibian market and then been exposed to SA markets or any other country in the world?” Rose asked mournfully. PF