VICE online magazine offers a fascinating bit of music history from South Africa with a story about the rise of Kwaito house music in the 1990s. Since emerging artists in this street-wise musical style couldn’t get on the radio, they would give their demos to taxi drivers to be heard. Taxis provide a primary means of transport in Johannesburg and surroundings, making taxi drivers and taxi stands hubs of cultural opportunity. And as a local transportation system driven by locals, the network offered a unique distribution system for local musicians.
Drivers with cutting-edge musical tastes would build a client base, and even get people to wait for them over other taxis. And artists would build a new channel to audiences with the cab driver as the curator, rather than the radio station or DJ.
Even today, in the age of the Internet, taxis in South Africa play a key role in music distribution. Says one artist in the video: “if a Soweto taxi driver is playing your song, then you know your song is big.”