Lockdown devastates Durban musicians

Sizwe Sibiya

Club DJ and electro music artist Sbi Techn moved from Krugersdorp to Durban to be closer to his fans.

After all, Durban, or eThekwini, has become a home for some of the most exciting music in SA.

But then the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown changed everything.

When he first got to Durban in January 2019, Sbi Techn’s biggest worry was that some believed his style of electro music wouldn’t make it in a city famous for Gqom dance music.

“But during my first week I had a gig in one of the biggest clubs,” he said. “Two weeks later I had four gigs in a weekend.

“I was doing great. I had Hunter’s and Durban Poison as my sponsors even though it had been only a year since I arrived,” said Sbi Techn, who was making close to R30,000 a month before lockdown.

Durban has become a home for music – from Gqom and Durban House to the lyrical Zulu folk sounds of Maskandi. 

Artists who have made it in Durban – such as Rudeboyz, Destruction Boyz, Nasty C, Black Coffee and DJ Lag – have all put SA on the world music map.

But the lockdown has driven many of the city’s talented young artists to hunger and poverty.

Last week 32 musicians appeared in court in Pinetown for violating lockdown regulations by protesting against club restrictions.

Sbi Techn now survives by transporting learners to school – and by doing IT jobs for neighbours in Klaarwater. 

He was forced to move out from his flat in the city centre in May after he could no longer afford to pay rent. He now lives with his recently found paternal family.

“I even had a plan to release an album. With sponsors ready to push it – but that all came crashing down.

“Events can’t be for more than 50 people – we won’t make any profit – in fact we will lose money. 

Musicians are demanding 70% venue capacity instead of just 50 people.

“Even the 70% capacity is still small,” said Sbi Techn.