Due to His Excellency Festus Gontabanye Mogae’s impending retirement from the presidency by March 31, 2008, the President’s Concert this year was bound to be the most sentimental. With members of the diplomatic corps and visiting delegates from South Africa’s North West Province in the audience, the entertainers set out to dazzle the president.
Opening the show was Ofentse Segatlhe with an operatic rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way, a song the president quoted to members of the Botswana Democratic Party as the theme of his presidential service when he announced his imminent retirement. Segatlhe, a music lecturer at Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, received applause every time he sang the line: I did it my way.
Following were Exodus Live Poets, reciting a combative poem about AIDS. The significance of the poem is Mogae’s known dedication to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
The highlight of the evening was a solo performance by gospel artist Kealeboga Tlhabiwe, who has recorded 8 gospel albums one of which was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. She made an impressive entrance walking down a flight of stairs and towards the solemn Mogae, serenading him. As she made one of the most remarkable vocal performances, singing “God bless you Mogae the Great,” the audience applauded and ululated.
The president, however, cracked a smile during Comfort ‘Big Fish’ Ramatebele intermissions. Big Fish, the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, related with the audience well. Bobo ‘Ribcracker’ Letsatsi, one of Maitisong’s stand up comedy graduates, performed. The Maitisong Comedy Club’s members have started being booked for corporate functions. Mogae cracked a smile at Bobo’s bold humour.
Choral and classical music is always a main feature of the President’s Concert and this year was no different. Four choirs turned in outstanding performances. Dinare Choristers, who have performed in South Africa and Lesotho, delivered their signature intricate performances. Also performing was the KTM Choir who performed their first complete classical work this year and also performed the popular Seretse Khama and Botswana written and conducted by Luka Disho. Maikano Serenaders, founded last year, also gave a good, solid performance.
The Gaborone Music Society, which goes back to the early days of Independence performed, giving two classical pieces one being a comic piece about a cricket insect.
Boipelo Seleke, and folk instrumentalists from Mogwana Traditional Dance Troupe, arranged her poem, Nko ga e dupelele, in a Setswana folksy style. She has in the past performed with Jazzy instrumentalists.
Tebogo Gaetsewe, a singer who performed in Bye Bye Birdie, and is becoming a regular at live shows performed a Whitney Houston ‘standard.’ Maipelo Segokgo, made her big stage debut after years of singing lead in the church choir, on the night performing Letta Mbulu’s Music in the Air, accompanied by Andy Batshogile on piano.
The finale was an interesting mixed-bag sight to behold. The audience enjoyed choral music fused with traditional instruments, contemporary poetry, rapping and operatic singing. Choreographed kwaito and traditional dances accompanied the music.
All proceeds from the show were to fund Masisi Organ Foundation. Formed after Hon. Thselang Masisi was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure and had a kidney transplant with his wife, Ntetleng Masisi, as the donor. The organisation’s aim is to sensitise Batswana to donate organs and eventually establish an organ bank and offer counselling to both patients and their support system.