While local artists aim to expand their music across African borders, the travel ban has affected a lot of those who have built international connections through their music.
Among those affected is Urban Village, a four-member music band that last travelled three years ago and has had its latest tour to France cancelled at the eleventh hour.
The crew was due to tour France from December 1 to 11, when they would have visited places such as Nantes and Cenon, and performed at the annual Les Rencontres Trans Musicales music festival, which normally lasts for 3 to 4 days.
The tour was to help promote their latest album, Udondolo, which, according to band member Lerato Lichaba, is doing well with international fans, but they can’t ignore the positive impact of promoting it, including tours and live performances.
“It is so bad for us that we are even starting to lose hope. We find ourselves in a very depressive state, we don’t know whether to quit music entirely. But that decision is not an easy one, again, when music is your life. So we are really stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
The band said their travels were cancelled as early as 2019, for other reasons, and – right when they thought things were looking up – the pandemic hit.
“This isn’t the first tour we’ve had to cancel. Even during the local travel ban, we’ve had to forgo two others, making this one the third one,” he said.
Udondolo is a 12-track album, released under the independent label No Format, based in Paris, but they have unfortunately never been able to promote it.
“South African art is a huge export to the world. We are not only making music for South Africans, but for the world. Travelling is important in advancing our craft. We learn, we grow and we are able to come back and impart knowledge to artists here. When we can’t travel, the rest of the world is progressing together without us. In music, we need global communities."
Lichaba said that not being able to work has been a huge challenge, especially when even government grants were not available to them.
“This is our source of income. It is just all so depressing to think about,” he added.
“The travel is important that we meet the crowds because it is a foreign language, interaction is needed. The financial loss incurred here is heartbreaking.”
Locally, there have been a growing number of events that had to be cancelled since the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, with organisers of the Kota Festival cancelling the Sunday part of the event.