The South African delegation at MIDEM in Cannes has been discussing its plans to promote music at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

South Africa is the country of honor at the MIDEM 2010 trade fair and conference, which will be marked at the opening night party (Jan. 24) at the Martinez, with acts including Lira, Tidal Waves and ZuluBoy. It will be followed on Monday (Jan. 25) with a tribute to the late Miriam Makeba.

Lulu Xingwana, minister of arts and culture, told a press conference audience that South Africa was "indeed humbled to be the country of honor" and had a "deep sense of pride."

She described South Africa and other African countries as "important new markets" for music, and that MIDEM begins a year of "promoting South African culture to the world stage."

South Africa hosts the 2010 soccer FIFA World Cup in the summer, an event which will attract a huge global TV audience and many tourists, which provides a unique opportunity to promote the country's music and culture.

"Music is the golden thread that holds South African society together," said Xingwana. "We've brought to MIDEM a star-studded cast of the very best that South African music can offer."

"We are ready for the French!" she added in Cannes. France and South Africa meet in the group stage of the soccer tournament on June 22.

The best elements of South African arts and culture will be displayed to visitors and TV viewers during the World Cup, said Xingwana, and there will also be a celebration of the culture of the other African countries in the tournament. As well as entertainment surrounding the tournament, there will also be a legacy program to ensure that South African culture benefits in the long term, including development of arts centers and theaters.

Duduzile Mazibuko, 2010 project manager at the department of arts and culture (DAC), said there will be a focus on South African music at the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Cup (June 11 and July 11). There will also be fan parks where artists will be invited to perform from qualifying countries, and the DAC will develop a dedicated Web site and publish a brochure detailing all cultural events surrounding the tournament.

"There's just so much people are going to be able to do when they get here," said Mazibuko, who was wearing a yellow South African team shirt.

Reflecting on the cultural changes in South Africa since democratic elections in 1994, Xingwana said all culture was "liberated" as a result and that Afrikaans music is celebrated today as much as any other genre of music.

"The last 15 years there's been a new, burgeoning approach to music development in South Africa, particularly the last seven years that we've been coming to MIDEM," said Glenn Masokoane, director cultural development at the DAC. "That process is beginning to bear fruit and there is a definable market of South African music." He pointed out that South African bands are beginning to travel the world - such as BLK JKS and Tidal Waves - and that MIDEM was about building on "networking and distribution opportunities."