Reaching for the stars
Carien Marais brings her five young men with glorious voices to Chiang Mai
Events manager and founder of the South African music label Showtime Records Carien Marais was in Thailand in April to present her singing group Il Quinto to the crowds at the Chiang Mai Music Festival.
She also took time to sit down and talk about how the South African quintet is crossing borders with their recording of "Facing a Miracle" and the general state of the music business in South Africa.
Tell us about Showtime Records.
We started in 2006 and we mainly concentrate on classical music and classic pop crossover. We also give opportunities to young upcoming artists. I set up the label because I felt it would be a challenge to create something from nothing. For my artists, it's important to perform in as many countries as possible - not only to establish the brand in the country, but also to experience different cultures, music and people.
Are there a lot of independent music labels in South Africa?
Yes. I think it's the same all over the world because the biggest record companies don't sign artists so easily. The whole industry is in a very difficult situation financially because of economic recession. Only a very small percentage of artists really get an opportunity with a record label because the risk for the label is so big. I think the indie labels sometimes do much more for their artists than the big labels because there is so much competition in the market. We fit into that category.
For Il Quinto, Showtime's focus is the international market. We have to establish partnerships in different countries and in different industries and find media support to promote the music. My work is to establish those relationships to give my artists the opportunities for them to succeed.
How is South Africa's music industry right now?
It's quite big. The main market is the Afrikaans music. We have 11 different languages in our country and Afrikaans music is the most developed. The English market is more primitive.
Showtime Records has five artists because we are not booking agents. We also do that but it's a full time job to work with a group. It takes a lot of time, a lot of energy and a lot of focus.
What audience is the label is targeting?
Our group is from age 35 to 65-plus because we don't really do heavy pop or rock or electro music that targets younger people. If you look specifically at Il Quinto, you've got something like 74 per cent female, according to statistics on Facebook or YouTube.
Il Quinto is different in that it is made up of two black guys and three white guys who perform crossover music and mix African sound with classical. It's a unique concept.
How did you get the group together?
It was about three years ago. I wanted to do something different. When Il Divo started, there were a lot of copycats. We waited, then we advertised in newspapers and in different talent agencies.
Il Quinto is a group that has really deep bass. You usually get all tenors and a baritone at the most, but you never get a deep-bass singer and that makes all the difference.
In this group, we have David Phosphane on bass, Dick Moholane on classical tenor, Ferdinand Gernandt on theatrical tenor because he has a lot of theatre experience, Dihan Slabbert on pop tenor, and Emanuel Castis is like a baritone Michael Buble. The five members of the group give seriously different sounds.
We started working with songwriters from all over the world. Dihan is also vocal producer; he works on vocal arrangement. Everybody needs to sing and make the song interesting. They do new songs and a couple of covers. They try to make the vocal arrangements really different and interesting.
The focus has been international from the very beginning. We put the group together, work with them, do the original stuff, and focus on the international market.
They've recorded with British star Paul Potts, Taylor Dayne from the US and the Swedish soprano Hannah Holgersson.
Because of the association with those artists, doors have opened for the group - much quicker than they would otherwise have been.
The first album "Facing a Miracle" was released at the beginning of last year. We're working on the second album now.
What's your personal motto?
To set myself an impossible goal, then go for it and see whether I can make it happen - even if people say, 'No, it is not possible'.