The first video that plays on Melodi ya Kgalaletso is shot at Grand Palm Hotel. The choreography is nothing to write home about.
However, compensation comes in the form of images in the background: the lush lawn of the hotel grounds and the majestic splendour of the Gaborone International Convention Centre.
The second video is shot at the Mass Media Complex ÔÇô or ‘Btv’, as this sprawling structure is more popularly known and as a Department of Roads signboard refers to it. If the choreography of the first was not exciting, this one is downright lethargic.
What saves this performance though is the view of the building in the background. Now the camera pans away from the choir stomping the ground to frame a really good shot of the beautiful building.
The opening shot in the third video shows a group of young people at the National Assembly pressing up against the rail that border the reflecting pool and peering into the still water. The next shot is of an outcrop surrounded by a pool of water and seconds later, that of the Gaborone dam.
Virtually all the songs, as the presenters’ comments share one common feature: an endless stream of end-of-days religious threats and morally-themed nostalgie de la boue.
This was only last week but there is hardly ever any variation. The choice of locations has to lead to one conclusion: if it weren’t for the architectural landmarks (the Grand Palm particularly) and nature’s beauty, Btv would find it extremely difficult to feature gospel music videos.
Melodi ya Kgalaletso comes only once a week and lasts for only one hour but do those who are featured make the most of it?
The results vary. Some church people (choir members included) are born-again Christians who used to visit places where you can find the most spectacular dance moves. What may be objectionable about the music played at such places is the lyrical content of such songs.
However, even by gospel standards, there is nothing wrong with the choreographic interpretation of such music and that has been confirmed in word and deed by gospel music greats like Kirk Franklin. He lyrically asserts that “there is nothing wrong with dancing for Jesus” and has his dancers do some acrobatic, nightclub-like dance on the video.
But for one video in last week’s Melodi ya Kgalaletso, the dance was pretty much limited to swaying from side to side and lifting hands to the sky.
If the day ever comes, it is going to be years before some pastors and gospel choirs wean themselves off Southern Sotho and find Setswana just as good to use.
One of the songs played last Sunday was chockfull with Sotho words: empa, jwale, khotso and lefu. There is also conscious effort to purposefully anglicise some Setswana words as when the youthful lead singer keeps referring to morwena ÔÇô Lord or morena in proper Setswana.
Of late, commercial religion has become one of Botswana’s growth industries, with tithe money filling up the bank accounts of some churches. However, not enough money is being spent on developing gospel music. The gospel music on Btv is good example that expense is spared even when singing praises of the Lord.
Somebody else’s expense has to make up for that.