"Keep doing your best, kids; you have a lot of potential. And make some MP3 files available as soon as possible." The musicians on the small public square are a bit flustered. Talent hunter Dave O'Jay left after only half an hour of watching and taping. A bit later he says: "They were certainly not bad, but the traditional dancing and those percussion instruments are nothing special. They need to work much more on developing their own style."
O'Jay works for Africa Unsigned, an organisation that strives to help talented young musicians earn an income. The organisation evolved from contact between the successful Sellaband from the Netherlands and the development aid organisation Up to You too in Kenya. "We will make a selection from the various tapes I have made. Those will be published on the Internet. Like with the Sellaband, you can buy a share in a band. The shares start at 5 dollars. Once a band has 5,000 believers, having collected 25,000 dollars, an album can be made. Each believer receives a CD through the mail."
In recent months O'Jay travelled through Mali, Senegal, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa. "South Africa's talent is surprising. Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia also have an enormous music culture. But the musical quality in South Africa is much higher, and the musicians seem to be more serious somehow. They are more eager."
O'Jay has great faith in the concept. "We work a lot with foundations for development aid, and also with studios and recording companies. If a band becomes successful, it generates a lot of activities. Performances have to be organised, equipment transported, recordings made. These are all matters in which the musicians need the help of others. This generates a lot more jobs."
Africa Unsigned is supported by the DOEN Foundation.