When the music's over, a family's suffering starts

THE most poignant moment of the musical tribute to the late guitar legend Errol Dyers was not a musical one. Instead, it was an impassioned call by guitarist-singer Tina Schouw for musicians to stop complaining and start taking matters into their own hands.

“We need to join associations and we need to fill in our performance sheets and send it to Samro (Southern African Music Rights Organisation) so that we can claim some money from them,” she said in between performing two songs in honour of the man whom she described as an elder brother who looked after her as a young musician. Samro is the organisation that manages copyright issues in the music industry.

Schouw was one of many top Cape Town musicians who either performed or were in the audience at a packed Kaleidoscope church/jazz venue in Claremont Main Road.

The place belongs to pastor Glenn Robertson, who also happens to be a veteran singer on the Cape jazz scene. That’s why it is church on Sunday morning, and a jazz club most of the other time. On Wednesday night, there were other calls for people to treasure our musicians a lot more but these were mainly from people representing associations performing various duties related to musicians. Schouw’s call was the only one from a musician. Most of the other musicians preferred to pay their tributes in the way that they know best: through music.

The evening was more of a jam session, with bands being made up on the spot and musicians lending each other their instruments.

We left just before midnight, with Hilton Schilder and his band performing, so I have no idea what time it ended. But Hilton did promise to play “maybe one, maybe two or maybe seven songs”. It was that kind of evening.

Earlier, a collaboration between Afrikaaps’ rapper Quintin “Jitsvinger” Goliath ended in partial disarray (but in a nice way) when the band that accompanied him, led by veteran pianist Mervin Africa and featuring a solo by Tony Cedras, decided to do their own thing and left the gifted rapper lost for words, for once.

Music is, of course, the best way to pay tribute to a fallen musician. But even musicians cannot live on music alone. Yes, musicians do not make a lot of money, but at least it’s sometimes enough to put bread and milk on the table and to keep the lights on. When this is taken away, families are often left destitute.

At the Dyers’s memorial, people who attended were expected to make donations, which were given to the family. According to Robertson, more than R12000 was raised in cash, but there were also bank transfers. On top of this, Robertson said, they had raised more than R32000 at a previous fundraiser and one of the trustees of the African Musicians Trust (which he heads) had paid R17000 for a painting and this money was handed to Dyers’s wife, Virginia.

“I just wish we could have bought Errol an oxygen machine. Maybe he would have still been alive,” said Robertson. Dyers died last Friday of emphysema. He was aged 65.

He was considered one of the masters of Cape jazz, a unique sound that has become popular over the past two decades or so. He released several albums and, from all accounts, was a prolific composer, not only of jazz music but also rock and pop. Dyers is to be laid to rest after a funeral service at the Good Hope Christian Centre in Ottery at 10am today.

I always wonder what happens to families after the funeral, when everyone has paid their last respects and gone home. This is when the real pain starts and the reality kicks in that your loved one is gone. When this is compounded by a sense of knowing this is the beginning of financial insecurity, it makes the situation even worse. For more than 30 years, I have heard the same story: musicians need to get together, to fight for their rights, they need funeral benefits, medical aid and a union.

There is something wrong with a society that derives so much pleasure from the work of musicians, but then allows them to die in poverty. If it is not the case with Errol Dyers, it will be the exception, not the rule. May he rest in peace.

(First published as a Thinking Allowed column in the Weekend Argus on Saturday 29 July 2017)