Film director bemoans challenge of accessing music by Mzansi icons
"Even songs by Miriam Makeba, we can’t access those songs because black artists at that time were exploited and their music sits with people we can’t get a hold of."
Soon Comes Night co-director Thabang Moleya. Picture: Supplied
Film director Thabang Moleya has complained about the challenges of accessing music by Mzansi artists in the making of Netflix series, Soon Comes Night.
“Something that we struggle with as filmmakers and storytellers is actually having access to that music. We have a lot of TKZee tracks, the Kwaito hits were challenging but easy to access,” said Moleya.
He co-directs the series with Sanele Zulu.
Soon Comes Night is a six-part crime drama produced by Ochre Moving Pictures telling the story of freedom fighter turned heist mastermind Alex Shabane. The series is set in the 90s, but the main character has flashbacks of his time in the 80s.
According to Moleya, it became challenging to acquire music of that time.
“The other icons like Brenda Fassie, it’s so hard to release her music because her music rights sit in the States [USA] they sit with different people,” said Moleya in an interview with Newzroom Afrika.
“Even songs by Miriam Makeba, we can’t access those songs because black artists at that time were exploited and their music sits with people we can’t get a hold of, someone who is sitting in London who doesn’t care and then gives you an invoice and says ‘well, if you want to use Brenda’s songs, Miraim’s songs, you have to pay X amount.”
“There’s a bigger conversation around our past icons and how they actually have to get their music rights back, they need to belong to their families,” bemoaned the director.
Moleya, who also directed telenovela Gomora, spoke about the challenges of depicting the time that the series is set in, especially on a limited budget.
“As a director and creatives, we really had to think about ways that we could maximise and be very true to the time period. So that people watching from those times would say ‘yes, those are the cars we drove…yes, those are the clothes that we wore and the music that we listened to.’”
He said the disparity of how the township looks now juxtaposed to how it looked in the 80s and 90s, presented itself as a challenge as well.
“A lot of our shoots were happening in Soweto. As a director I couldn’t see shooting for the 80s and 90s, I was very limited in how wide I could shoot the township, because the township has got satellites everywhere and we didn’t have those [in the 80s and 90s]”
Shabane’s character is depicted by The Wife actor Kwenzo Ngcobo who can’t recall some of the scenes he shot because of how immersed he was in his depiction of Shabane.
“I don’t remember doing those scenes, of which is very scary, I don’t know what happened,” said Ngcobo in the interview.
“As Kwenzo I’m an introvert, but Alex Chabane is a different beast on his own,” averred the actor.
“He is very introverted; he likes his own space when he’s on set. But the second the camera switches on, it’s like I’m working with a completely different person,” Moleya said of Ngcobo.
This series man😮💨😮💨 the research, plot lines, realism, MK POV, Soliders without a war to fight. It really placed things into perspective regarding post 1994, how cabinet came into leadership positions without ….🔥🔥🔥🔥man! Is S2 in the pipeline ? https://t.co/SoUrubtiYl— 👨🏾💻 (@karaboyabadimo) January 28, 2024
“When he says he watches some of the scenes and he actually doesn’t remember what happened, I can actually believe him, because I feel like something takes over his spirit when he’s in the moment,” said Moleya.
To prepare for the role, Ngcobo said he watched a lot of MK videos on YouTube. “I watched Chris Hani’s interview a lot. There are some inspirations and elements that I took from Chris Hani,” said Ngcobo.
A broken soldier
Shabane is a broken Apartheid cop seeking redemption, while the role of Detective Sakkie Oosthuizen, portrayed by Albert Pretorius.
“There’s a story behind those soldiers, there’s a story about people that came home in the belief that there was a promise and that promise wasn’t met. Kwenzo’s character take it into his own hands, he feel like the people have been forgotten,” said Moleya.
“But the actual truth is he’s a broke soldier without a war to fight because we have liberation.”
Although Soon Comes Night is a time-piece, Moleya believe the story is relatable to today’s South Africa as well.
“It’s still relevant in some of the themes and challenges that the country is facing right now,” averred Moleya. Thespians Kenneth Nkosi portrays Minister Zungu, and Sisanda Henna as Zungu’s right-hand man, Maseko. Additionally, Bahumi Mhlongo plays the character of a young, fearless journalist, Lesedi.