It is said that nothing worth having comes easily. Word N Sound’s five year milestone can definitely be seen as a victory, one that had its fair share of challenges and changes though. Our MD and CEO take a moment to reflect on the challenges, lessons learnt and growth over the past five years.
KG: What was the worst experience ever?
Qhakaza: I know exactly which one! I can tell you, in my life…
Afurakan: The First Festival!
Qhakaza: That first festival. That first festival was very nearly the death of me.
The First Word N Sound International Poetry and Live Music Festival was a very, very difficult thing to do because it was our first festival. We had never done a show of that scope before.
Venue was an issue, first and foremost. We ended up with the Con Cowan… not even. With the UJ Amphitheatre, which is an outside venue. So now you’ve got to have a rain plan, security. There was just a whole lot that went into it.
I’d never seen a budget as big as that for any of the shows. I had no idea where we were even going to start, you know.
Having then found AE Ballakisten who saved us… and then the electricity goes out when he is on stage!
Our performers weren’t there. One of the open mic performers fell off. She just decided that, oh, wait, she needed to go celebrate with her grandmother or something, on the day of the show. She had done her sound check and everything.
And the turnout was not as great as it could have been.
It was just a really challenging festival that had put us in a space that we had never been in, but, it was the best thing that would have happened to us because our festivals since then, I’m a lot calmer going into those and that’s great.
KG: From an audience of four to where Word N Sound is five years later, what has that growth meant for you?
Thabiso: The growth has meant a lot, and the first thing it shows me is that there are young people who want to be heard, with something to say, who want to contribute, who are talented, and who are putting in work and they just need platforms.
And also realising that there is a community here, more than just artists working in a silo there is a community feel. There’s artists who want to interact with their peers, who want to learn from their peers, share skills, share information.
It also showed me that, look, we can do things.
KG: Is there anything you would have done differently?
Thabiso: Woooooh! What would I have done differently? Actually, maybe how we designed the shows, but even that has been a learning curve. So, I don’t think I would have done anything differently because then I wouldn’t have learned and gone through this great journey of watching your vision become bigger than yourself, and having to manage and share that vision.
I think things would have been done differently if we had a lot more resources from the beginning. Maybe it would have given us a bigger start, but I’m not sure if we would have learned the same lessons.
Growing a brand and a company at the same time is difficult because when a company doesn’t have money the brand still looks like it’s bigger than life itself, so managing the expectations between those two… but I don’t think I would have done anything differently.
I’ve loved the journey, I’ve loved the pains and the victories, the people we’ve met, the people we’ve attracted. No, I wouldn’t have done anything different.
Qhakaza: It’s a bit difficult to say, would we have done anything differently because we have done the best we could with every step of the way. So it would be a bit difficult to say we’d have done things differently because honestly we would not have had the capacity or order to have done it. The way we have grown has also got merits of its own.
I love the fact that we’ve grown very organically and that we’ve done what needs to be done to get from point A to B and from B to C, so I don’t think we would do anything differently.
If we were to do it over again, I’d be like, great, let’s have more money this time ‘cause then things would be different. But I really love everything about where we are and it’s really taught us some really hard lessons we never would have learned had we started off with money.