Blend music with a social conscience and build positive change
Take a tot of noble Scots culture, blend with distinct African rhythms, then add a dash of social awareness and you have one of the most unlikely combinations possible on the local music scene – the good news is that it works.
To The Muffinz, a group of five 20-something musicians from Johannesburg, the association with Chivas Regal – one of Scotland’s best known whisky brands- made perfect sense. This came about by way of a series of events that invited party-goers with a social conscience to ‘party with a purpose’, with the Muffinz being the headline act.After all, if the central purpose of your art is to entertain and educate your audience about social issues, and you are supported by an organisation like Chivas Regal that underwrites your objectives, taking to the stage to raise funds for a cause works for everybody.
For the people living in the informal settlements that dot the outskirts of South Africa’s cities, the music is incidental. What counted most was that the Chivas Regal/Muffinz alliance showed something was being done to prevent the devastating and all-too-frequent fires that often sweep through informal communities.
The practical lifeline is a locally developed fire detection device created by Lumkani– a social enterprise identified through Chivas Regal’s inaugural The Venture competition. Essentially, the fire alarm is a heat detector that measures the rate-of-rise temperature in a room. In the event of fire, the device sounds an alarm,giving a family time to take action before the flames become unmanageable. After 20 seconds, the device transmits a signal, triggering neighbouring homes’ detectors up to a 60m radius, creating a community-wide response.
For the Muffinz, the fit and cause were perfect.“We believe in being proactive,” says guitarist and band spokesman Sifiso Mthae,who believes that the business of music and the ‘business of business’ meet easily at the point where the welfare of others is concerned. A communications graduate from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), he was considering a career in the public sector where his skills in communication and sociology could best be put to use.However, meeting with four like-minded friends at UJ put paid to these ambitions, and they channelled their efforts into using music and business partnerships to promote social awareness.
“I realised that I could make a bigger difference on stage through music than through working in government,” he says. “Music would give me the opportunity to reach and influence more people.”
The fact that the meeting of minds and talents took place back in 2010indicates that the band is on to a winning formula – they are planning a tour of the USA – and, according to Mr Mthae, it is ‘the message’ that has helpedtheir music stayrelevant, attracting fans and business partners.
“Our messages are for young people growing up in the township,” he continues. “We speak to boys, girls, single mothers and others who identify with the challenges we sing about. It is part of our belief to identify problems, pose solutions and, through music, raise awareness about South Africa’s socioeconomic ills.
“This is why the Chivas Regal/Lumkani project appealed to us. It addressed the tokenism that takes place after an event, like an informal settlement fire. People phone in to radio stations, express sympathy, promise funds and move on. This project did something real to address the danger and prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction.Together, we have the opportunity to change views, change lives and change the world one ear at a time.”
To Shelley Reeves, Marketing Manager: Scotch Whiskies at Chivas Regal, the results of the association with the Muffinz has lived up to the company’s vision.
“The idea of social entrepreneurship is using business as a force for good. This appeals to Chivas Regal in a meaningful, powerful way. We are always looking for like-minded partners, who align with our brand that sees itself as inspiring nobility and positive change. The results of this particular partnership have been very encouraging, with 460 Lumkani devices already having been installed in Naledi and Mamelodi,”she says.