Friday, January 15, 2021

Gaborone Singers Meet South Africans in Chorale

Bafitlhile joined in 2004 as they were preparing for the Old Mutual National Choir festival in South Africa. The choir was under the directorship of Reggie Kopi.

“I was a bass singer. In three months, they realised my capabilities and I was able to read music and I was selected into the technical team.

“I helped in the rehearsal of new songs in concert with other managers of the choir. I had also been a conductor at my church, the Roman Catholic Church, ‘Kriste Lefika’ at Old Naledi in Gaborone.

“I was not recruited to go to Gaborone Youth Singers. I participated in a workshop where some of them were present. I subsequently attended a practice session where they took different voices. My friend, Ernest Seleke, accompanied me in the bass voice section.

“That was the beginning of my partnership with the Youth Singers, after being introduced by Kopi.
He then proceeded to form the Botswana Chorus and I remained with the GYs. The first time I conducted the western song ‘Blessed Are the Men’ was at Serowe in 2007.

“My co-conductor, Samuel Samuel, conducted the African composition ‘Molelekeng’. We got position two in both presentations, which I do not consider doing well. We had just lost about 18 of our members who migrated to Botswana Chorus, so we were not as prepared as we would have liked to be.
“We were not disheartened …We recruited new members and rebuilt the choir. This enabled us to go and compete at the Old Mutual contest in 2007.

“We sang ‘Dinokeng Tsa Babelona’ as the African piece, and ‘Sanctus et Benedictus’ in Mafikeng. In 2010 we returned to Old Mutual and demonstrated that the choir continued to grow and mature.”
Samuel left the organisation soon thereafter to join Maikano Serenaders.

“I then remained with the Gaborone Youth Singers, also continuing to recruit new members. Many of them were scholars who came in and out as was determined by the places where they had to go for studies.

“In 2011, we entered for the Gaborone regional President’s Day competitions, when I was conductor for the song derived from the theme of “Towards Artistic Excellence”.

“We took first position and proceeded to the next round where we took Position 2 in the overall national competition,” he said.

“We are now preparing for the occasion of the convergence of local choirs and visitors from across the border on March 31 at the Gaborone Civic Centre.

Participants will be the Gaborone Youth Singers, Maikano Serenaders and the visitors Molopo Excellent Chorus from Mafikeng and Arts Revelation from Pretoria in South Africa.

“Digwana Traditional Group will also be our guests,” says Bafitlhile.

“I have had occasion to listen to Molopo Chorus in Mafikeng, and I can assure Batswana that they are a formidable choir. Our folk should not miss the chance to come and listen to this choir.
“Even as Gaborone Youth Choir, we have devoted at least three to four days to rehearsal at Ben Thema Primary School and I am happy that we will be well represented in this friendly cross border contest”.

“I had my first taste of choral singing at Mmanoko Primary School going to Molepolole in 1989 singing in the intermediates choir.

“We did not do well in competitions but we registered a name. I sang tenor as I progressed to Standard 7.

“There was no school choir at the junior secondary school that I attended. Because I was so attached to singing I joined the choir at Kgari Sechele where I was compelled by the maturation of my voice to graduate to the bass voice.

“There, I met Bushy Bogosing, a conductor, and Daniel Mogami, now at the Ministry of Education, both of whom enhanced my love for music.

“We were fortunate to be with these capable people. That helped us to achieve championship in 1996 at the national school competitions at Mahalapye, singing ‘Who Shall Win my Lady Fair’ and ‘Yekel’ a Mathwasa’ taking first prize in both songs.

“In 1998, the Roman Catholic Church prescribed ‘Karabo ke Bethele’ under the standard category. Kristie Lefika requested that I should assist with the song, after which I gained confidence in my skill of training.

“In the same year, I was selected to guide the choir and I was then referred to as a conductor. I noticed that there was a melodic horn that was made available for tuning.

“I did not have much use for it because I did not know how it was used. I trusted my ability to communicate with the choir in my own voice. It worked.

“I then grew to develop a wider repertoire in choir music. I then committed to studying the melodica and improving my skills in reading music.

“The Gaborone Youth Singers have built a reputation. When we sing, the audience is always pleased with our tonal colour. Some even suggest that we sound like the South Africans.

“Ours is to insist on the interpretation of the music as it comes, and we insist on growing artistically. We benchmark against the South Africans only so that we can improve the quality of our singing.

“We have also grown to realise that singing is not only about the use of the voice.
“I am pleased to say that in recent times it no longer takes a long time to get the choir to deliver on a song. Once the music is provided, the choristers are able to read the music and give it live. It is an exciting development which makes work much easier.

“I have also committed myself to study. From 2009 I was able to take Naledi Senior Secondary School, hardly recognised for its choral music, to take position 3 in the western piece at the national competitions.

In 2010, Naledi was in a position to take the championship in the ‘Happy, Happy Shall we be” by G.F. Handel and ‘Mokete’ by Lazarus Gadiinewe.

“I am of Ikalanga extraction from Maitengwe. I spent most of my youth in the southern part of Botswana, going to school in Molepolole. I also did television and video production in Bulawayo.
“My ambition is to further my studies in music together with mass communication,” concludes Bafitlhile.

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