Monday, June 5, 2023

Music as socio-political commentary

Botswana has a rich musical heritage that was drawn on at a seminar held on Friday, 1st of February at the University of Botswana’s Library titled Lips and Pages: Botswana Traditional Music as Socio-Political Commentary.

Topics discussed ranged from effects of colonialism on Batswana women as signified in traditional song, the theology of Botswana’s common hymns and a look at Selelo sa Malema se Botlhoko; A song of popular resistance among the Babirwa. The material is also being collated for a book, also titled Lips and Pages, to be published by Pentagon Publishers who also sponsored the seminar.

Opening the seminar, the Director of the Department of Culture and Youth, Tlhabologo Nzinge, welcomed the initiative saying, “The goals of the National Policy on Culture recognise that cultural identity is one of the critical identity ingredients for nation-building and the attainment of national sovereignty.”

She also said, “Government, through my department, places great importance in the development of and promotion of arts and culture sector. We acknowledge the potential of the arts and culture in diversifying the economy.

“While I do appreciate the work you are undertaking on indigenous music, I wish to inform you that there is still a lot to be done since there are many areas that are lagging behind in terms of research and documentation. These include, among others, music, languages, and traditional medicine.”

Mrs Nzinge said there is need for baseline data needed for decision-making by the department and research and knowledge about Botswana culture at international, regional, national, district and local level is encouraged.
Among the eleven analysis presented, UB’s Ms Tumedi and Dr Mwikisa presented a study titled Working the Field Alone: Reflection of Women’s Experience of Colonial Rule in Botswana Traditional Songs. Mmamati and Mmangwane where observed as signifying the absence of men in the local economy hence women appealing to other women in these songs and assuming what was previously male obligations in the homestead.

Selelo Sa Malema se Botlhoko: A Song of Popular Resistance among the Babirwa was presented by Dr Bolaane. Mphoreng Malema’s who is in her eighties and famed as the composer of the song that laments Babirwa land lost in the 1919s during a repressive rule, when Babirwa were relocated to present day Bobonong making way for the British interest in carving a railway line headed up north.
The use of English in Botswana’s House and kwaito is another interesting topic visited by Dr Morapedi, who found that English words and phrases in local kwaito and house music were thrown in mostly in instances referring to love interests.

The Dean of Humanities, Dr Nobantu Rasebotsa, in closing the seminar said; “the seminar and impending publication are timely, as they come when the university is engaging with the outside world and promoting its cultural life and profile.”


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