Saturday, February 27, 2021

Clement the legend still wields magic touch

He is quick to make a clear point before answering any question. “I have never quit the studio per se, it’s just that I would be occasionally engaged in session work either adding guitar or saxophone for other predominantly younger artists in Eugene, Hellen, Capt. Dira inter alia.”

Clement Jackson says the title of his relatively new offering is ‘The Daze of The Weak’, a bilingual seven-track wholly live instrumentation work recorded at High Note Studios in Broadhurst, Gaborone.
He features on guitar, alto saxophone and vocals while Makhwenkwe, Brian, Eric and Gavin take care of the rest of the sounds.

“For me, music started off, like for many other boys in the neighbourhood, as a boyish pastime until the humble feed-back from peers and homesteaders changes one’s perception of oneself. What today’s often clueless music lover calls jazz is a far cry from what a prototype jazz head would mean their time on, most especially while sucking back on a glass of Chivas,” he says.

Jackson speaks of how he often chops and changes artists in a bid to breathe some fresh ideas into a project.

Sadly, discerning artists would be out of their wits if they hoped to find a musical joint as muso-friendly as some on offer in neighbouring countries, all thanks to the embryonic stage they find themselves in.

When Jackson initially embarked on this project, he would tell whoever cared to listen that he desired to come up with a work destined for the archives, a legacy for posterity. That desire is reflected on tracks 5, 6 and 7 of his latest offering.

Born in Francistown as Clement Njabulo Jackson, he grew up surrounded by various musical instruments.

Within the small Ndebele community that settled in Borolong, some two kilometres west of Francistown, strumming the guitar, the Spanish banjo or a few melodies from the accordion or the saxophone was the in-thing such that one had to really stand out in order to be distinguished from the many childhood minstrels. These instruments were part of his father’s late 1960s band, Vuk’uzenzele.

Although the young Jackson played the guitar more as a hobby, it was not until a music teacher in his school, Mater spei College, roped him into the school orchestra that he began to take his music prowess seriously.

He ganged up with school friends like Louis Mhlanga (currently with Vusi Mahlasela), Ndingo Johwa and Masilonyana Radinoga to establish The Black Serpents, a teeny-bopper band that became an instant household name.

Gaborone would naturally be the destination of choice as the band’s fame grew and in the process they collaborated with the likes of Tshepo Tshola, Malombo Mmereki, Tsilo Baitsile, and Socca Moruakgomo.

In the late 1970s, Jackson and Louis headed for Harare, Louis’ home town. Accompanied by the late great drummer, Jethro Shasha, and friends calling themselves Baked Beans, they became a support act for the revered comedian ‘Mkadota’, touring Zimbabwe extensively.

Still in search of horizons beyond, the young Jackson found his way to Cape Town where he joined the local gig circuit. However fearing his parents would track him down, he concealed his whereabouts by writing un-addressed letters.

They finally traced and forced him back home to get a decent job, given the precarious nature of the music industry. He was then enrolled among the first ever batch of locomotive and train drivers in Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Back home, the deep passion beckoned and he teamed up with Lister Boleseng, Masilo, the late Rampholo “Charmza” Molefe and a few South African exiles to found a jazz combo named Badiri.
Owing to frequent raids by the South African government on Botswana, Badiri was subsequently disbanded given its quasi-political inclination.

Clement then joined forces with Duncan Senyatso and toyed around with the idea of giving birth to Botswana’s doyens of traditional music, Kgwanyape. This band, lasting well over a decade and a half, commanded massive fanfare.

Their highlights will no doubt include performing with UB 40, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Shabba Ranks, Third World, Maxi Priest, Commodores, Mahlathini among hordes of other world greats.
Winning, via a Duncan Senyatso penned song, the coveted ‘SADC SONG AWARD’ in 1996 will no doubt find room in the annals of the country’s musical history.

With the finals staged in Harare’s plush Sheraton Hotel, the band stole the limelight from the likes of Jabu Khanyile of Bayete and Oliver Mtukudzi.

Jackson’s most treasured moment came when the two-time “World’s Best Guitarist Award” winning Eric Clapton, after hearing him play, exclaimed, “Young man , there’s so much of me (musical influence) in you!” Clapton offered him a top of the range guitar that he still cherishes to this day.
Kgwanyape released ‘Mephato Ya Maloba’ in 1985, accounting for one of the country’s earliest recordings.

Understandably the only radio station then turned down requests for air-play as it was unthinkable for local artists to venture into the preserve of predominantly South African musicians by writing their music.

After Kgwanyape folded in the 1990s, he teamed up with his son, Eugene Mxolisi Jackson, Hellen, Nutty Gal and Lexus to record the well received ‘Me, My Dear Son and Real Friends’. The group was contracted to upmarket hotels like the Gaborone Sun and the Cresta Group.

Father and son collaborated in the release of Eugene’s album which earned Eugene national recognition for winning the 2009 Afro-Pop Award. The duo still performs periodically, the latest being their brilliant showcasing during Zahara’s maiden show at The Gaborone International Conference Centre.

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