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The African Music Store is a unique, exciting and vibrant shopping portal
The African Music Store, in the midst of negative perceptions of South Africa, acts as a positive ambassador for our continent. Over the last 13 years, this one-off-shop has injected Long Street with its creative heart and soul.
From an early age, owner, Mark Charnas was captivated by the strumming and singing of the Zulu caretakers who tended to his block of flats in Durban. Together with his partner Helen Rose-Innes and Trevor Rosenfield he started a small shop on Long Street. His staff, Khaya, Lelethu and Monhlanhla share Mark’s love for the genre and are learning new things every day.
"Listening to and buying music should be an experience"
Beckoned by the vibrant reggae music that spills out onto Cape Town's creative spine I've entered a musical treasure trove. There are racks of CDs spanning an impressive range of African music, documentary DVDs, t-shirts, traditional instruments and listening posts. The walls are adorned with posters signed by famous African musicians. Just ask the amiable staff to play anything you wish at the DJ booth.
"We cover the whole spectrum of African music including pop, gospel, reggae, jazz, traditional music, soul, RnB, kwaito, hip hop, lounge, rock and even African lullabies for children," Helen tells me, " We have a 'recommended' stand next to the counter which includes styles that we personally like, but over the years we have become accustomed to what our customers enjoy."
Some traditional genres are sadly dying out but the store is active in preserving them. I find a fantastic series compiled by local musicologist, Hugh Tracey, who went to the most remote parts of the Southern region of the African continent to record styles of music that simply aren't sung anymore. You'll also find music by celebrated local artists including jazz ambassador Abdullah Ibrahim and hip hop phenomenon Black Noise.
"Every kind of person shops here"
"Our customers are as far reaching as Europe and South America. Some have never experienced anything like this before," explains Helen, "My youngest customer was a seven-year-old boy from the US. He was the first of his classmates to travel to Africa and wanted some music to show to them."
Hip hop and house is popular amongst younger visitors, vocal Zulu and gospel are popular amongst tourists and cross-over mixtures of contemporary, traditional and pop also fly off the shelves. Their top seller is a double CD entitled: The Great South African Trip and consists of a diverse range of styles including; reggae, jazz, gospel, hip hop and kwaito. It's a great introduction to African music.
"We have a separate, highlighted section entitled: 'independent artists' for up and coming South African musicians who want to promote their CDs and any style of African music is welcome. We promote around 80 artists in this way," says Helen.
CDs at The African Music Store are priced between R60 and R200 and the store is open between 09:00 and 18:00 from Monday to Friday and between 09:00 and 14:00 on Saturdays.
By Lisa Nevitt
The African Music Store
134 Long Street | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 426 0857
Check out this awesome new highly-curated record store in Obs called The Other Records.
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