Sunday, February 28, 2021

Gaborone Int’ Jazz Festival, and the Hamptons Festival – Counting loses or profits?

The music was excellent. Fans had the times of their lives and artists smiled all the way to the bank. What about the promoters? Was the juice worth the squeeze? Did they reap the rewards for all the hard work? On the surface it often looks like it is all smooth sailing but behind the scenes the promoters have to endure sleepless nights to ensure we all have a fantastic experience on that particular day.

Lifestyle got in touch with the women behind the two gigantic jazz events to discuss the intricacies behind organising festivals of that magnitude. Just what does it take to organise such a big event? “It takes passion, resources and a huge amount of patience,” says Lesedi Rakhudu. She is the woman behind the annual Gaborone International Jazz Festival (GIJF) that made its debut on Saturday, April 4.

The festival featured among others South Africa’s legendary acapella group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo who completely mesmerised fans with their incredibly powerful vocals and footwork.

Jimmy Dludlu both literally and metaphorically warmed up the crowd most of whom had braved the unexpected cold breeze that had engulfed the otherwise electric atmosphere at the Serokolwane Lawns. Shanti Lo also put up quite a performance, Lui Mlhanga was great, Mpho Sebina was just adorable, and what would Nnunu Ramogotsi’s performance be without her flamboyant wardrobe, British composer Atjazz performed way earlier in the afternoon due to his other commitments back home, and to wrap it up SA’s HHP and his choir wowed the crowd into the early hours of the morning.

Besides the music there were many other notable highlights at the festival. The security leading into the venue was top notch with multiple checks along the drive way while the many guys inside didn’t have much to do. After all, jazz music lovers are known for their good behavior. Notable were also the many mobile ablutions. The food stalls and trailers also provided some delicious culinary alternatives. The VIP area also looked the part with a couple of well-furnished marquees flanking the stage. Perhaps to top it off was the venue itself, Serokolwane.

You will hardly find a better place to host a jazz event. Jazz is a smooth yet vibrant art form that requires a relaxed atmosphere and what better way than to enjoy yourself relaxing on your camp chair with your cooler box doubling as your leg-rest on an open area with well-manicured lawns? But before we could enjoy such an experience someone had to put in the work and the organizer, Rakhudu, says it is no Childs play. “The pressure can be tremendously overwhelming and without the passion and patience it would have been easier to give up,” Rakhudu tells Lifetsyle.

With an original team of “only” seven people Rakhudu says putting together the festival was a challenge. “Now with the benefit of hindsight I will definitely have more people in the team next year.” She says one of their biggest challenges was finding sponsors for the event.

“We could not find enough sponsors for the festival hence we had to finance almost the whole project from our own pockets,” she says. “We had to learn to be creative enough to achieve the most with the limited funds we had.” Before the final line-up was announced Rakhudu says they had to change their original lineup several times due to various contractual issues.

“Artists can be primadonnas,” she says. She says some artists would come up with outrageously unreasonable demands some of which are in violation of existing laws. She says well established international artists do not come cheap either. But she would not disclose figures for specific artists due to contractual obligations suffice it to say they could go up to a couple of hundreds of thousands of pula per artist. Now the big question; after hosting such a relatively successful star studded event, is Rakhudu smiling all the way to the bank? “We have made enough to survive,” is all she says. The biggest reward from the festival, Rakhudu says, is the experience and lessons learned. “We are already planning the next festival which will be held on Saturday April 30, 2016. It is going to be bigger and better.”

Hamptons Live Jazz Festival: “In a nutshell, the show went well. We were humbled by the attendance. Most hotels in Gaborone were full for the whole weekend. This is what we want to see happen with music tourism in Botswana; making Botswana the place to be,” says Debbie Smith, the woman behind the Hamptons festival.

She hopes the festival continues to grow and bring growth in “our country which will benefit the local people, government, hotel industries, security officers, vendors, airlines, and the list is endless. We are definitely heading in the right direction.”

Returning for the second year, the festival celebrated all things jazz with a star-studded lineup that included South Africa’s Tsepo Tshola, Mahotela Queens, Stimela, Mango Grove and Zonke. Locals; Banjo Bosele,Metrophones, Hellen Dikobe, Dikakapa, Punah Gabasiane, Lister Boleseng and the Kalahari Jazz Quntet completed the lineup. Smith and her team also had their challenges with the festival starting later than the scheduled 1000hrs due to delays in the erection of the stage and preparation of the VIP area.

There was also a scare in the afternoon when the heavens opened up leading to some light showers that lasted for less than an hour. The festival, held at Duma FM grounds for the second year in a row, also provides a relaxing open atmosphere necessary for a jazz event with well-manicured lawns on a ground that also serves as a football pitch. Although admitting the attendance has surpassed that of the previous event the promoters would also not discuss the figures except to say it has been highly successful.

“Work has already commenced on the next event and we hope sponsors will work with us to make it successful,” Smith says. Perhaps more inspiring about the two festivals (which happened within a week of each other) is the cordial relationship and mutual support between the two promoters. “They invited us to their event and we have shared a few notes between us,” Rakhudu told Lifestyle. Smith, who also attended Rakhudu’s event, had prior to the festival posted a message on the Hamptons’ facebook page showing her support and encouraging fans to attend the GIJF.

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