What is music curation anyway?

by: Lethabo Bogatsu - 15 July 2015

What is music curation anyway?




Gone, are the days of sharing music in between lectures with friends on the bus with total strangers via Bluetooth. There was always that one person who had all the biggest memory card and the best music on his Samsung E250. That nostalgic feeling that came with writing the lyrics to our favourite songs and exchanging magazine posters and cut outs of our favourite bands and musicians to paste into the book, is long gone.

Nowadays, some of us look to music writers and bloggers for music recommendations, while others use music streaming platforms like Soundcloud, Spotify and more recently Deezer and Apple Music. But there’s just far too much music available out there today, that more and more of it is going undiscovered and unheard. That’s just one reason why music curation is so important. And I’m not talking simply about what the DJ chooses to play in the club versus what he plays on the radio, or which one of the  different stages at your favourite festival you choose to camp outside of. I’m talking about the experience you have when listening to music. Good music curation will most likely leave you feeling like you’ve just had an almost out-of-body experience, one that will have you scrolling the internet searching for the lyrics to that one song you heard faintly playing at a dinner party you attended months ago. While not so great music curation will  leave you dissatisfied and probably lead you to fall back on music you’re familiar with rather than finding something new to connect with.

But what is music curation, anyway? Let’s break it down to semantics, shall we?

Music is defined as vocal and/or instrumental sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion, and the science and art of composing or performing music.

Curation:  the selection, collection, organisation and/or presentation of items, typically with the use of particular expertise, to be featured in an exhibition, programme or performance.

With that said we could deduce that music curation is about what music to select, organise and/present to evoke emotion or express something. It’s about the experience behind music, the emotion evoked the story being told, the deeper meaning behind that dope beat you head on the radio or the lyrics you can’t get out of your head.

Music curation exists in many different spaces, from online radio like Jozi Maboneng Radio to fashion, like in spaces like Adidas’ Area 3 which recently moved to Braamfontein. In the same way that music doesn’t exist in a bubble on your iPod or on your radio, music affects and influences almost every facet of life especially that of young people. Just think about the many ways in which you experience and consume music. Those are the many ways in which music can be curated to ensure you have the best possible musical experience.

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As much as the term music curation is relatively new, people have been curating music for a very long time. Take for example the panellists at our next #CreativeHustles happening this Thursday:

Thris Tian is one of the original architects of Boiler Room, as well as the lead programmer/A&R, he’s responsible for the dynamic and eclectic line-ups of the sessions that have grown to be the most respected and popular underground shows. Thris has built a reputation as a passionate and exciting DJ and music selector which he brings to life every Sunday night on his Dark N’ Lovely Global Roots show on NTS Radio. Listeners have learnt to expect the unexpected, tuning in for his well-traveled selections – from West African grooves to Norwegian gospel.

Leslie Lee Kasumba began her career as a DJ and producer for the hip hop show Harambe on  YFM, South Africa’s first black post-apartheid radio station. The show grew to become one of the most popular youth radio shows to come out of South Africa. She then moved to media where she started writing for Y Magazine and later became the youngest and longest editor in the magazine’s history. Lee is revered as an advocate for the Africa’s hip hop scene having been a judge at the BET awards, South Africa Music Awards and Hype Magazine Hip Hop Awards.

Akio Kawahito , is an international DJ, event organiser/creative director for Kool Out concepts. He was nominated in the DJ of the year and promoter  of the year at the SA Hip Hop Awards in 2012. Akio has held residency in three cities, Japan, Amsterdam and Johannesburg. He hass played at many festivals including Oppikoppi, Rocking the Daisies and Cape Town Jazz Fest, and SXSW in Texas. And he’s also rapper Reason’s DJ and manager.

We also have other panellists from different fields who will share their expert opinions and insight on music curation in different spaces.

If you would like to join the conversation, be sure to register for our #CreativeHustles below:


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