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As much as I abhor the national broadcaster’s 5FM radio station because of what I know to be their arrogant and condescending attitude towards South African music, there seems to be something in the project, The Mashlab.
It is the brainchild of musician, film producer and a former DJ on that station, Jon Savage (pictured).
Now in its fifth month, the project seems to be popular on 5FM.
“It’s designed to be a live radio drama,” said Savage. “It’s massively interactive.”
The Mashlab is a collaboration between two South African artists as voted for by 5FM’s audience. Once the artists have been finalised the audience can participate in creating the song.
Savage explained: “In week one, 5FM audiences vote for their favourite artists from a list of 20 that we create. The first artist was aKing and I wrote the song. Then we needed a rapper so we used Tumi (Molekane). Now it’s more of a collaboration between artists and the audience.”
In week two, a listener phones the artists live on Rob Vember’s show. They inform the two artists that they have been chosen to participate in The Mashlab.
“Listeners then send in any ideas, including completed songs. Many people write hectically personal stories. Like with aKing we took some lines straight from a girl who’d written about love lost.”
In week three, the artists go to the studio to write the song. The audience also participates as bits of the creative process are broadcast.
“Once we had an argument about a lyric and got the audience involved and had to change the lyric.”
In the fourth week, The Mashlab give out a brief for the artwork and listeners are invited to send in the artwork. On the last Thursday of that month Vember does a 40-minute interview with the artists and listeners. The song then goes onto iTunes.
Savage says that with every new project they invent new ways to make the show more interactive.
“We are busy with a collab between DJ Naaldekoker and Liquideep. We are creating track templates and playing them on air. Listeners will then have 24 hours to vote and then the next day we start working on the chosen templates.”
Other collaborations have been between Iso and JR, iScream and the Chocolate Stix and Savage, as well as The Parlotones and Khuli Chana. Savage has been the producer on all the tracks.
“There is a bigger picture. We are already speaking to international artists and hopefully The Mashlab will provide a platform to promote South African artists internationally.
“In the future we are hoping to find and create new stars next year by inviting them to collaborate with our established stars.”
Well, who would have thought? 5FM having the potential to promote South African artists abroad?