Recently, local artists started complaining about the small amount of money they get paid for their performances. According to their reports, they are only given enough money to buy lunch and not enough to pay the bills and other important things, like the maintenance of their sound equipment and other performance gear. The artists also lament that South African artists are paid 1000 percent more than them…something they feel also disadvantages our economy as the money they are paid ends up circulating in the South African economy, therefore, boosting that economy instead of ours.
The issue that ignited the angry outbursts was the rumour circulating on social networks that South African singer Ringo, who hasn’t even released an album in the longest time, was paid P300 000 for performing at the recent sports awards.
Sunday Standard recently caught up with Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) Communications Manager, Pagson Ntsie, to let him clarify the rumours and set the whole story straight about the ins and outs of the Botswana’s music industry.
“We haven’t verified the amount Ringo was paid but we know that he was paid an amount not less than P100 000. And when he was told the event was going to be aired on TV, he demanded for a higher pay. That’s how South African artists are. They mean business and they are taken seriously here. So yes, they agreed to pay him more because it was going to be aired on TV, but when a local artist’s performance is aired on TV, they are told they are promoting themselves. Artists like Alfredo Mos have been in the industry for so many years, how long are they going to promote themselves?” said Ntsie.
Ntsie said that he cannot understand why local artists are not taken seriously. He dreamingly and proudly remembered a time when Odirile Sento, commonly known to his fans as Vee, was performing at the University of Botswana alongside South African heavyweights like Dj Cleo, Bojo Mujo and L’vovo Derango. He said that when Vee got off the stage the crowd started chanting, “We want Vee! We want Vee!”
Clearly, he said, the market is hungry for local artists and local artists can deliver. Something a lot of night crawlers can attest to.
Ntsie also went on to say that he is puzzled by the amount of idolization Batswana give South African artists when South Africans themselves do not give them that kind of idolization. Using the latest singing sensation Zahara as an example, Ntsie related information that might shock many Batswana.
According to him, unlike in Botswana where attending Zahara’s shows costs an arm and a leg, in South Africa seeing the youngster on stage only costs an equivalent of P80. Batswana are blindly being led to believe that the star only performs at luxurious places we see on TV but that is not the case, Ntsie assured. The eight-time award winning performer is said to perform at dingy little places we would never dream existed in the beautiful South Africa we see on TV shows like Generations. One dingy spot he talked of was a place commonly known as Ga Rankua in Pretoria.
To further prove his point of how simple the life of a South Africa artist really is, Ntsie went on to give an example of the Rhythmic Element’s Mr. Uptight video which took Botswana by storm last year. Ntsie revealed that the video was shot in a place he only termed as a Mukhukhu, a Setswana term loosely meaning a hut built by reeds. Something we do not realize while watching the mesmerizing video.
“We stay with those guys. They are just simple guys that you need not idolize so much.”
Ntsie then went on to cite Maxie as a perfect example of how really unfair the life of a Motswana musician can really get. According to Ntsie, when Maxie first hit the scenes and was very popular, she was paid P2000 by locals but when she moved to South Africa, and was signed by Chicco Twala, Twala demanded nothing less than P45 000 from the same people who used to pay her P2000 and they forked it out without question.
Asked what BOMU plans to do to fight what is clearly an unfair practice, Ntsie said that they were following all the necessary and relevant procedures to communicate their worries with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and they intend to exhaust all avenues before they can take any drastic steps. Ntsie also pointed out that he is very concerned that the President is not aware of what is going on. He, however, said that notifying the President will be his last resort. He also quickly added that if it is necessary, they will follow the example of South African artists, who rioted during the 2010 World Cup, when more international artists like Brandy Norwood were brought in to perform at the prestigious football competition. The artists rioted because they felt that South African artists had been sidelined because only a few of them were put on the line-up of those to perform in front of the millions of spectators. Something they felt was a bit unfair.
The South African artists threatened those in charge of organizing the 2010 football match by telling them that if they host a show without local acts, they were going to host another show right next door to teach them a lesson. And that caught the attention of those in charge. And a change was made.
Next week, BOMU on the Liquor Act.