In fact, things were simpler when verses and song were all about love. These days, technique and mass appeal is what is foremost in people’s minds when songwriters are composing songs for famed artists. Songwriting is not an easy vocation, especially if the writer will not be singing the words he or she is writing. What makes matters worse is that writers are never in the forefront to lap up adulation for their creativity.
The Sanlam Sing It lyric competition is putting writers on the main stage. The competition invited South Africans over the age of 18 to submit their lyrics for top South African artists to record.
The third instalment of this competition, held annually, kicked off in August, with 900 amateur lyric writers submitting thousands of entries.
This year’s participating bands, AKA, BlackByrd, The Soil and Straatligkinders, had to face the daunting task of selecting only one lyric to turn into a song. And now it is up to the public to vote for their favourite track. The song with the most votes will win its lyricist R50 000. Sanlam Sing It will also sponsor the winning artist to record his or her song as a music video.
All four finalists’ songs will be aired on MTV (DStv channel 130) during November. The competition aims to showcase the work of amateur lyric writers and facilitates collaboration between top South African artists and talented writers, giving them exposure and helping them to enter the local music industry.
Songs written by finalists – Gioanni Coetzee, who wrote Freedom for AKA; Nothando Zungu, who penned Tap Tap for The Soil; Frans Van Wyk, who composed Plaasvervanger for Straatligkinders and Beaulah Lee Harris, who wrote You’re The One for Blackbyrd, vary and are not all concerned with romantic love.
“It is very challenging for people to write music from their own perspective for another artist,” says AKA.
“It is refreshing to hear hip hop music with a positive message. Giovanni’s song had the most structured and well-written lyrics.”
The Soil were similarly impressed with the contribution made by Zungu.
“We had already worked on the melody and we needed lyrics that would give the whole song a happy and playful feel, and Nothando Zungu’s lyrics provided that,” says The Soil’s Ntsika Ngxango.
“When we sang the lyrics it felt like we had written them they took us back into the Motown era and resonated with a nostalgia that we sometimes tap into.”
Zungu says this was the first time she had written sonmething destined for the public domain.
“It was the first time I allowed someone else to read it. I usually just write for myself in secret, ” she said.
“When I wrote the song I actually had The Soil in mind. I thought Tap Tap was the kind of song they could sing and that it would go far. I knew that the artists were allowed to interpret the song, but for me it is about my love for music and my secret affair with it. At times I find myself tapping my feet to a beat that I’ve made up in my head and people around can’t hear which I’m sure looks pretty weird.”
Coetzee chose a theme for AKA that would appeal to the nation.
“The song is about South Africa and its people,” he says.
“The inspiration for the song was Nelson Mandela. Thinking of the sacrifice he made and what he achieved for this country is amazing, and we are all reaping the reward of his labour. Beyond that, he chose peace and love over war and violence, and that’s totally awesome! For me, as a Christian, Jesus is the inspiration for everything I do and those elements also come through in the lyrics.”
Straatligkinders appreciated the fun nature of the song written by Van Wyk.
“The song is definitely one of the funnest and danciest songs we’ve done yet,” the group said.
“We wanted to do something different from before and this project was all about having fun and stretching ourselves and crossing borders within our own writing camp. The story behind the song is one of an underdog who lost a love and I think we can all relate to that at some point in our lives.”