Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Sereetsi’s Four String Confessions – folk music made cool again!

Finally somebody has attempted to tap into our folk music without actually butchering it and leaving us wishing they had not even bothered. Four String Confessions is an album by Sereetsi and The Natives. Songwriter, producer, author Tomeletso Sereetsi serves us his first ever studio album and …damn! They just don’t make music like this anymore.

With some rich yet funny lyrics coupled with a refreshing and familiar traditional rhythm from his four string guitar, Sereetsi’s album brings home some nostalgic memories. It just hits the right spots. ‘Thaa Kokome’, third track on the album, challenges the ‘ancient’ old Setswana adage ‘Monna ke selepe waa adimanwa’ that justifies men’s infidelity. Loosely translated it means just like an axe, a man can be borrowed. The song relates the story of what now happens when the ‘borrower’ refuses to return it and lays claim to the axe. ‘Ntshadi o gana go se busa selepe sa moadimano …Are thaa kokome/ A nna gake mosadi/Are thaa kokome/selepe le nna ke same’.

If you are a regular facebookr you might have come across the kind of post that goes ‘A friend of mine has this kind of problem and they are looking for advice on how to handle the situation’ when in actual fact it is the writer who has the problem. Sereetsi’s track ‘Keboletsa Mongwe’ talks about those situations while also touching on the very sad reality of absent fathers.

Many locals especially those from the North East should be familiar with the sound of the seventh track in the album ‘Ngwana├í ngu Wa enda’ about a mother’s cry at the reality of having to part with her child. ‘Ngwana├í ngu Wa enda/ndo ko sala nani ko/Taboka wa enda/ndo ko sala nani ko ‘.

A former newspaper editor, Sereetsi’s ‘Headlines,Deadlines and Bylines’ was inspired by his days in media industry. It is the only track in the album devoid of vocals. It gives one the uninterrupted opportunity to enjoy the soothing melody of his guitar strings and admire the man’s dexterity. “This is an ode to years of chasing headlines and deadlines at various newspapers and radio newsrooms in Botswana,” he says of the song. “It celebrates the men and women who serve the truth through journalism despite the risks that come with this thankless vocation.”

Week in week out the Lifestyle desk is inundated with albums from all corners of the local music industry. Every artist wants to have their work reviewed but unfortunately not all can get that opportunity. So it was with a significant amount of reluctance that I slipped Sereetsi’s CD into the player. “What have I got to lose,” I thought to myself. It was not until the second track of the album, ‘Robete’, played that I began to drop everything and start paying attention. I would soon learn just how popular the song was with some media colleagues as I played the song out loud in my car stereo following press briefing. The song tackles the controversial (at least locally) subject of homosexuality. It is a hypothetical look at the scenario whereby a man would bring home to his parents a ‘bride’ in the form of another man.

‘Abuti Rankokwanyane … ore tletse motho Gauteng/Motho o theka lesesanyane/ mme are gase mosadi nkoko are se ke botlhodi /Botlhodi jwa nta ya tlhogo le kile la se bona kae/Ngwetsi e bidiwa Robete …’ Sereetsi describes his album as refreshing definitive reference in contemporisation of folk music in Botswana and a unique voice in the world music arena. Four Strings Confessions is undoubtedly a collector’s item. His music is timeless.

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