The music industry has dramatically changed over the years. When we look back in the days of Mariam Makeba and the likes; musical artists sang from their souls and it was easy for the audience to be taken aback and relate to their songs because they created timeless music. Fast forward to this day and age, the music industry has drastically evolved. I find that most of the artists who are within the music industry are in it for the wrong reasons and mind sets.
Nowadays we’re flooded with songs that don’t necessarily relay positive messages to the listeners. I remember the legendary Quincy Jones once sung “What good is a song if it can’t inspire, if it has no message to bring?…”; not to advocate that every song should be of that nature but timeless music had a certain positive feel to it that wasn’t based on bashing, swearing and degrading a certain group. Can we agree that even the quality of productions to stage performances hasn’t been totally up to par? So in-turn it is very rare to find artists who are not fully focused on making hits and breaking bank but strive to give quality entertainment for music consumers.
South African musicians have been finding it hard to broaden their market due to the fact that the media has been giving preference to overseas artists versus our very own in the previous years. The media industry hasn’t been showcasing home bred talent for a number of reasons, be it that the quality, traction and the talent wasn’t as big.
Thank God for the new 90% local music onus placed by SABC on all its stations. We’ve witnessed a growth in the consumption of “local talent”, and an increase in the number of cross-border collaborations with African and oversees artists. But this is sorely based on how much effort an artist puts into perfecting their craft and how they capitalize on the powers of marketing especially on social media and other internet related platforms. A new breed of independent and creative artists has come and Eric Canham is one of these few artists. He works hard as an individual to promote his musical talents coupled up with the wonderful talent he trains and manages.
The 39 year old artist, manager and entrepreneur from Durban who is an exceptional vocalist and pianist comes from a musical family. Eric says that his journey in music began when he was only eight years old. His aunt was a music teacher in the primary school he attended and she taught piano, so during lunch breaks Eric would attend lessons to play the guitar. At the beginning of it all he really hated music because he could not freely be like other kids when growing up, he had to attend music lessons every lunch break and so he could not spend time with his peers and have fun like most of the kids in school. He never saw himself as a professional singer as yet, but at a later stage he found himself singing classical music as an Altor singer in the school choir.
Due to having a Christian family, he started singing at Sunday school so he ended up singing in the church choir and actually performing on stage and that was when he envisioned himself playing on TV screens and his love for music began ever since. His fondest memories were he a music director in church and for him having to go out for church retreats (youth retreats) at every end of the year.
Eric explained to us that 2003 was a challenging year for him because he was juggling attending music school and working for Nedbank internet banking division simultaneously. He recalls how it was very hard for him to manage the two roles so he was forced to swap shifts with friends for about 2-3 months just so he could attend music school. Things were not going well for him regarding his time management so he eventually dropped out from the music school.
As the years passed, he realised that singing is his main calling and he cannot ignore his purpose. So In 2006 Eric went back to singing and he became one of the background singers for the legendary Ernie Smith. In that same year Eric chose to go professionally with his music; he gave up his job at South African home loans and his lifestyle then had to change so much so that the bank nearly took his car since he could no longer afford to pay for it. With the support of his loving mother, she took care of him till he could get back on his feet again.
On the road traveling as a back-up singer he grew and learnt a lot; it was in that journey where he found one of he’s fondest moments in life and that was when he had to impromptu sing in Ernie’s Smith position on stage because Ernie’s microphone miraculously stopped working. He described then Ernie was so impressed with how he could seamlessly switch keys and roles at once.
Eric’s got his break when he performed on the main stage for the Durban July. He performed legendary music from Mariam Makeba, songs like Phatha Phatha, Mam’ uyajabula and a song by Joe Molefe: Congo. He told us that he was very ecstatic about performing for the audience and how it is an experience he would never trade, “For those who wish to be upcoming artists you have to put yourself in a position whereby you perform for an audience, that way you essentially equip yourself to becoming accustomed to performing for a larger crowd”. He went on to state that “as an artist you have to try divert to and explore other genres, you have to continuously train your voice and you have to accept that you will make mistakes whether you like it or not and you need to grow from those experiences”.
We inquired about his perspective on the 90% local rule. He said that “Musicians in South Africa have it hard before they make it, when you are an artist the audience needs to listen to your songs through the radio stations. Now that more artists are at a great advantage to be heard by the listeners, it will be easy for people who do not know you to actually listen to your songs and hire you if ever they want you as an artist to perform for them”.
Eric currently performs for corporate events and most of the time he performs at the Oyster Box hotel in uMhlanga on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sunday nights from 18:30pm to 21:30pm. He is soon to release his first ever 12 track cover album in 2016 titled “Love and Marriage”; in his cover album he includes the famously well-known song “Me and Mrs Jones” and a range of other great hits for musical geniuses.
Eric has been very strategic and very open minded on how he effectively uses his craft to earn a living. He works 9 hours a week for different sectors and manages to earn the salary of those music artists who work 5 days a week. He is not only an artist but he is also an MC, his talent has landed him bookings for 2017 already. He also has a campaign called “rising stars” that includes of 12 back ground singers to go on tour with him, some of the singers he has on his campaign are ex-idols contestants. With the campaign he will take the chance to develop and groom artists, by the time they turn 30 years of age, he intends to ensure that their musical careers will be up and running without them experiencing the same challenges he faced when he started in this industry.
With artist like Eric still around and kicking, perhaps the soul of our music will return. Giving music back its inspirational and groovy feel that makes the greats so timeless.