In as far as innovation goes, it is something that Michael Jackson (“HIStory”) and Common (“A Dream”) did before with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
In as far as Botswana’s political music goes, it is the first time that a politician’s speech has been sampled in an election song.
The one other parallel to draw here is that the Joe Morris song invokes the central message of the iconic speech (itself a masterful musical production) that the celebrated African-American leader gave 51 years ago.
Drawing on a stock of sermons he had delivered over a long period of ministry, King implored the Negro to “move down into the inner resources of his own soul and sign with a pen and ink of self-asserted manhood his own emancipation proclamation.”
He also invited his audience to imagine a time when freedom would ring out from every hill, molehill and mountainside in America.
On “Fetolang Puso”, Morris and his all-female back-up ensemble summarise such sentiments by urging the listener-voter to restore Botswana to its democratic promise by voting (signing with pen and ink as it were) for the Botswana Congress Party in this year’s general election.
Over sedate Afrobeat instrumentals, BCP leader Dumelang Saleshando, gets the party started by declaring in very well pronounced freedom-square cadences that his party will use social-democratic rule to engender transparency as well as economic rights and respect for the dignity of all citizens.
As his voice fades off to a drum pickup solo, there follows a brief instrumental interlude that is broken by background vocalists who lyrically lament unemployment, corruption and autocracy and urge the youth to vote for the BCP to change the status quo.
Gravelly-voiced, Morris comes in much later with the main message of the song: “Are fetole puso” which in translation means “let’s change the government”.
His main showcase is on the Setswana/Tsotsitaal rap segment in which he complains about stay-at-home graduates reduced to a life of unproductive hustle, water and power shortage and billions of construction pulas being repatriated to China.
Prefacing his rap with the obligatory “yo-yo”, this is how he flows:
Letlhoko la ditiro ke mathata
S’gela ke se tsene ga go thuse
D’grata ke di tshwere ke a sotlega
Ke blomile dladleng ke kashela
Motlakase metsi refifing
Matsentsebe madi ko China
Saleshando’s audio clip was recorded when the BCP launched its election manifesto earlier this year and riffing on the manifesto’s theme (“ready to lead”), the leader’s voice returns at another point in the song to declare readiness to do battle with the leader of the Botswana Democratic Party.
Saleshando’s Setswana first name (a greeting form which, unlike its English equivalents, is not time-bound) has plenty of room for creative use.
In 2004 when he first ran for parliament, he placed a billboard along a busy road on which “Dumelang” at once stated who he was and greeted voters. The election song invokes another meaning of the words: “have faith in”. The background vocalists ask voters to have faith in both Saleshando and the party that he leads.
BCP commissioned Morris, who already has a popular election song (“Ditlhopho di Tsile”) under his belt, to compose “Fetolang Puso”.