Not Sorry Club: Promoting Inclusivity in South African Nightlife | Soundspace

Not Sorry Club: Promoting Inclusivity in South African Nightlife

Not Sorry Club

The dynamics of the global electronic music scene have become more complex than ever. With crazy things happening in the world of politics and business it is only fitting that we see shifts taking place within the arts. Through a variety of media, artists, promoters and collectives are unashamedly voicing the their concerns and making efforts to correct some of the wrongs that exist within our broader society today.

In the words of Tom Morello, “100% of music is political… music either supports the status quo or challenges the status quo; and so, every artist is political…” Given this, we cannot simply pass electronic music off as a hobby or trend void of any real-world impact. Beyond the glitz and glam of blockbuster festivals and millionaire DJs, there are roots that run deep. From Paradise Garage providing refuge for the New York queer community in the 70s and 80s to the recent protests of club shutdowns in Tbilisi, there has been no shortage of socio-political engagement within electronic music and clubbing in the course of the last few decades.

More recently though, the (mis)representation of women within this community has truly come to the fore as a concern of particular urgency. With Top 100 lists and club/festival rosters being undeniably male-orientated, a whole plethora of female-driven booking agencies and collectives have been making resilient pursuits for change. This has also given rise to groups representing people-of-colour, queer individuals and others that may have previously experienced forms of marginalization.

Not Sorry Club is one such collective based in the bourgeoning environment of South Africa. Led by three women, namely Stacy Renecke, Nadia Sanetra and Anthea Duce, their main agenda is ‘aimed at building a more inclusive rave community’. They have created a platform for artists to hone their skills, build networks and gain exposure, all with the end goal of assisting their entry into the professional music world with a strong foundation. Whilst all three of the founders come from different professional backgrounds, it is their deep passion for underground music and culture that drives their desire to inspire change – and as a collective that is ‘not sorry’, it is clear that their ethos is one of focused direction and no compromise.

Despite this, there will naturally be many challenges and difficulties to face when trying to disrupt the aforementioned status quo and Not Sorry Club has certainly experienced some of these in a relatively short space of time.

In September they are scheduled to host Discwoman members Umfang (co-founder) and Shyboi for shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively. Having previously organized a variety of shows at different venues around the country, they have had first hand experience with some of the complexities of organizing events that cater to a relatively niche audience but also aim to embrace newcomers of diverse backgrounds.

As Anthea explains, “we’ve encountered a variety of problems, from men not trusting our artists with the expensive DJ equipment to questioning us about our ability to host and promote a successful night”. Stacy elaborates on this and also notes how attendees need to be treated with care as well: “we also need to ensure that the space is respectful and safe for our artist and patrons. The aim of using different spaces is to challenge that, and through that hopefully affect change.” And in South Africa, a place where venues are highly limited, it is clear that these challenges are amplified. Yet, Not Sorry Club has a track record that indicates that they are by no means hindered by these hurdles. Instead, they are inspired to push harder by the small changes that they have seen coming to fruition – and as Nadia notes, “we have learnt by doing; booking emerging artists that are female, non-binary, queer and/or PoC alongside more established artists”.

However, they are still very much aware of the current trends taking place in the global market, ones where booking such artists has in many instances become a fickle attempt for promoters and club owners to deem themselves ‘inclusive’.  As Anthea explains, brands and festivals recognize the shift towards more inclusivity and equality and they can’t stay relevant if they continue to ignore it, so yes, they are cashing in on a trend for fear of becoming irrelevant but I think ultimately people see through those gimmicks and call it out if it isn’t authentic or meaningful. There is a social pressure and responsibility for the big guys to address the imbalance in a practical and transparent way and I think it still falls short in most instances.”

Given this, a simple modus operandi proposed by Not Sorry Club is to embrace collectivism and also for artists to start believing in their uniqueness. In addition, there needs to be proactivity from all angles. Artists need to network and graft without the expectation of things being owed to them by virtue of any external factors, whilst promoters still need to make the conscious effort to diversify. In addition, they believe that ‘those in power’ (i.e. brands, sponsors and corporations) need to be convinced by the intentions of strong collectives. In doing so, financial support can be funneled to the correct emerging channels.

At the end of the day, Not Sorry Club remains confident about the future of underground culture in South Africa and abroad. After an interactive workshop at CTEMF (Cape Town Electronic Music Festival) in which Stacy led a discussion group with a young, diverse audience she was left feeling positive. Though many concerns were raised around the harsh realities of the city and the dwindling opportunities it offers to young creatives, she reminisces about a hopeful conclusion: “the common ideals shared for the future of our electronic music scene was variety (of artists, genres, unknown DJs alongside known DJs), a respectful environment, treating artists equally and creating a welcoming atmosphere.” And with that, we can only aim to move forward with the same optimism…

Not Sorry Club hosts Umfang and Shyboi in South Africa on the following dates: Friday 28 Sept @ Mødular. (Cape Town) and Saturday 29 Sept @ The Tennis Club (Johannesburg). Find Not Sorry Club on Facebook HERE