Choral music has over the decades formed not just part of entertainment, but has also been used to celebrate, recognise, and take a satirical swipe at aspects of our culture and heritage.
More than just music, it is a form of communication.
For those of us who grew up listening to Radio Botswana (RB1), Sunday lunch would not be complete without the background sounds of Kgabo Mokgatla and other choral melodies that followed the afternoon news.
Yet if it was not on radio, it had to be at primary school. This was where most of us took part in the local and regional choral music competitions. It is where we got exposed to the more organised and structured aspect of the music.
With time, perhaps owing to the fusion of the genre with more sophisticated forms like opera and classical music, public interest has somehow waned.
But thanks to devotees like Tshepiso Marumo, the choral music flame will continue to burn. Marumo is organising a choral music concert set for April 12 at Baobab Primary School hall.
“I have been involved in choral music since I was 10 years old,” he says, “It was only after I turned 24 that I stopped participating as a vocalist.”
Marumo says while choral music has remained constant over centuries, its the presentation has developed into a surreal phenomenon.
“It is difficult to fathom how human beings are able to produce such an emotionally provocative sound, much to the pleasure of audiences,” he enthuses.
Locally, he says, the choral fraternity has made significant strides over the past 20 years. Its highlights have been formation of community choirs, churches recognizing the unifying potential of choral music, establishment choral music competitions and concerts, and schools seeking external assistance to deepen the benefit of choral music as an extra-curricular activity.
“Local community choirs have in this period even visited and participated in music events in countries such as China, Swaziland, Germany, Congo Brazzaville, Lesotho and South Africa,” he says, “It is this interaction with other countries that has enabled Botswana choirs to develop rapidly as we do not have institutions that provide opera, classical and choral music studies.”
Marumo says the past 10 years have seen the local choral music fraternity host impressive shows, competitions and festivals, as well as continually challenge some of their South African counterparts (who have been scholarly trained) at choral music competitions in South Africa.
The concert will feature one local choir, Adante Chorus from Ramotswa, and South Africa’s Voices of the Nation.
Adante Chorus was formed in 2012 by the duo of Kgotlaetsile Dingalo and Lefoko Moagi.
They won their first local competition the same year and went on to grab a third spot at SA’s acclaimed Old Mutual Choir Competition. In 2013, they competed again at Old Mutual and got second position.
“The music prescribed at this particular competition is challenging as it requires knowledge and understanding of opera and classical music written either in Italian or German,” Marumo explains.
He says it gets even more challenging for Botswana choirs handling South African compositions written in other Nguni languages are prescribed.
Batswana, he says, would have to compete with two prescriptions written in foreign languages. “They still do well,” he says.