Tuesday, December 7, 2021

2015 Maitisong Festival- a recapitulation

They say time flies when you are having fun and there was a sizeable combination of mixed feelings when the week-long Maitisong Festival had to come to an end last Sunday, April 26.

Feelings of disappointment that after five days of pure entertainment bliss we are going back to business as usual; Feelings of appreciation for all the incredible performances we were blessed to bear witness to. It was clear from the opening night at Maitisong Theatre on Wednesday, April 22 that the public was in for a rollercoaster of artistic brilliance.

Mophato Dance Theatre, Tshenolo Batshogile, Dj La Timmy, New Moon, Kabo Leburu, Dash Kelly and others got the festival to a flying start with their respective performances on opening night.
American poet, Kelly, took the audience from an emotional extreme to another with her recitals. Mophato Dance Theatre outdid themselves with their contemporary and innovative dance routines that punctuated almost every act of the night. Opera singer Tshenolo Batshogile brought the opera home as she did an impressive rendition of the Setswana folk song, Mmamati.

Mike Sibanda, La Timmy, Leburu, Skit Kabomo and others combined for a live house mix that got the audience on their feet with popular tunes such as Beatenberg’s Pluto and La Timmy’s own Nanzala Vuke as Mophato dancers led the dance moves. To wrap up the night the audience were led outside to the garden where Moratiwa and her New Moon crew put up a delightful Jumbo Africa performance.

It was the kind of show you wish you could just take home with you and keep replaying over and over again. It had that rare spontaneous and telepathic chemistry between artists and the audience with the crowed singing or clapping right on cue. The second day of the festival saw again the return of Mophato Dance Theatre as they brought back to life the controversial story of Segametsi Mogomotsi. The teenager, from Mochudi, was allegedly murdered in what was a suspected ritual killing. The murder led to student riots in Mochudi and spread to other areas including Gaborone where the protests also led to looting and damage to property. Mophato’s play narrated the circumstances around her abduction, murder, and the subsequent protests.

Meanwhile, no one has been charged with the murder and the case remains unsolved. Earlier in the day Portuguese composer, lyricist, performer and multi-instrumentalist Luisa Sobral also did her thing at Thapong Visual Arts Centre. Friday 24th saw Channel O award winner Zeus getting ‘Unplugged’ at Maistisong Theater. Zeus and his live band took the audience through some of his hits including the very popular ‘Imagination’ that made him a household name. It was a simply incredible yet relaxed interactive session that gave the crowd an opportunity to have a deeper appreciation of the rapper’s music.

“Poetry is Bu*****t if it fails to convey the intended message.” That was TJ Dema’s parting message as she wrapped up her session on Saturday, April 25th. Dema, Kelly and others mesmerised the audience at the poetry show held at Matlwaneng Theater (Westwood International School).

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the 2015 Maitisong Festival, Donald Molosi’s ‘Today it’s me’ musical more than lived up to expectations. Based on the life story of Ugandan musician Philly Bongole Lutaaya, the musical tells the moving story of courage and determination that saved the lives of many. Lutaaya was the first famous African personality to publicly declare his HIV positive status back in 1988 when very little was known about the disease and many saw it as a death sentence. Molosi’s sublime portrayal of Lutaaya’s final moments, his Ugandan accent, as well as his renditions of the artist’s songs left the audience in awe. He almost brought the audience to tears at the end of the play when (on his deathbed) he asked his mother (played by Kgomotso Tshwenyego) to “lift my head so I can have a final look through the window and bid farewell to my beloved country.” For those who have seen firsthand what a full-blown AIDS patient looks like, the look on Molosi’s face was a sad reminder of just how the disease can rob one of their health and dignity; A reminder of the pre-ARV era. His supporting cast Teto Mokaila, Zanele Tumelo, Lebogang Motubudi, and American Donn Swaby, were just as brilliant. As if the musical had not been a revelation enough the Botswana HIV/AIDS facts and statistics slide-show played at the end of the musical took everyone by surprise. It was clear the audience had underestimated the prevalence of HIV in Botswana.

Sunday April 26 saw the curtain fall on Maitisong Festival with a jazz show featuring The Metrophones and Bhudaza among others at Molapo Piazza. Watching artists do their craft live on stage is absolutely priceless. It is a feeling you cannot experience on the CD or DVD. Credit has to go to the organizers for making sure that despite the different venues, the major shows did not coincide. Take our word for it, this festival is unlike any other local festival you have ever been to and if you missed it, the only question you should be asking right now is when is the next Maitisong Festival. 2015’s has surely been a festival to remember.

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