A lot has been said about our ailing arts industry. A lot of suggestions have been thrown on the table, but very little is being done to make a significant change. Many of our talented ones are crossing the border for greener pastures in the less desert climate of South Africa.
Eric Ramco packed his bags and crossed the border. Kennedy Thal did the same. Eugene Jackson has followed suite. Slizer has made her name across borders. Culture Spears has, at times, represented our country in faraway countries. The Fergusons are amongst those we talk proudly about how they are making Batswana proud.
Game “Zeus” Bantsi is also currently in the conversations of many proud Batswana. Some of Batswana artists who are working on establishing their names in South Africa are being featured in GQ magazine, something emerging artists in Botswana can only dream about.
Asked if he would consider relocating to South Africa for the arts, Botswana rapper, Joseph “Jay Dot” Malapa said that he definitely would.
“Favouritism and nepotism have become the order of the day, and for such a small population like Botswana, it really hurts. It’s high time we learnt to appreciate talent irrespective of our affiliations or relations. Good music needs to be played and let’s not starve the innocent audience.”
Gauging the industry to assess whether it’d be best for an artist to relocate to South Africa in order to be taken more seriously, Malapa said that in SA you get so much more exposure considering their infrastructure.
“There is no reason one should be limited, unless their execution lacks precision. Zeus is doing his thing. Nomadic got his thing going down too. It really humbles us as Batswana just to learn that dudes got the continent’s eyes stuck on them like 24/7.”
On where he sees the industry in 10 years, he said that, “Without artists there’s no sound, and without audience, sound sounds irrelevant. Let’s support each other so that we grow together.”
He urged promoters to do their part and refrain from depending too much on South African artists.
“In 10 years’ time we should be far in all aspects of entertainment, provided we do the slight amendment to our current mentality.”
Recently, Thato “Scar” Matlhabaphiri, crossed the border courtesy of the Botswana Tourism, alongside Hotwire PRC. During the visit he performed to an enthusiastic South African crowd, which later asked for an encore. He talks about the experience.
He said that while in Cape Town they went to a popular place called Mzoli’s and one of the people in his group, Paki Lesejane, registered him to perform.
“He actually put me on the line up as ‘SCAR- A tourist from Botswana.’ They called out my name and dropped one of the instrumentals the other rappers had been using. That’s how impromptu the set was. I got a standing ovation and the organizers asked me to end the show. It was a good feeling.”
Asked if he thinks South Africans are more receptive of his work than Batswana, Matlhaphiri said that Batswana have been and will always be his primary audience.
“We all aspire to make music that goes cross borders, but I don’t want to alienate the audience that got me here in the first place. I’m happy about the reception from the SA masses because they have an abundance of talent and anyone should be happy to get a cheer, let alone being asked for an encore.”
On whether he would relocate to South Africa to explore his talents and his art further, he said that relocating to SA has never been part of his plans.
“I’ve managed to create a fan base across the continent, not only in South Africa, from right here in Gaborone. SA is a hub for entertainment in the region, but it’s not to say we can’t create one here in Botswana.”
He said that the problem is that in Botswana, music is still being seen as a hobby more than a career. But, he, however, pointed out that in his ten year career he has witnessed great strides being made from within our borders.
“We have won countless continental awards from here as well. We just need to buy in of both the government and the private sector.”
While in the country, recently, Game “Zeus” Bantsi, also took time to do an email interview about his new life in the neighbouring country. Asked what prompted him to relocate, he said his has always been an ambition to sell his business internationally.
“From day one I aimed to produce quality that can compete internationally whether in terms of songs for radio playlist, video broadcast or my LIVE performance with my band.”
Bantsi said that his event management company DIY Entertainment is also following suite in making a name for itself. Bantsi said that the reception of his work has been amazing, as he had previously put one foot in the door while he was pursuing his Business and Commerce Undergraduate Degree, which he earned in South Africa.
“Even during my days as a student, I was networking and getting my music into big SA media platforms like Y-FM, SABC radios and TV stations.”
He said that getting back to Jo’Burg mid last year saw him releasing a mixtape to create demand and re-establish his presence in the market.
“The project which featured headline SA acts like AKA and Tumi was a smash hit and landed me several big performance spots, including a tour with a leading brand to an opening slot at Kanye West’s South African concert earlier in the year.”
He said his biggest and most strategic achievement was his signing of a license deal with international recording label EMI’s South African division, together with establishing DIY as a publishing entity in that market. He said that this meant that they can work with other Batswana artists to help get their work used internationally so that it may earn royalties and increase streams of income for our infant market.
Bantsi said that his next album, which is due for release in August, is set for wide distribution and marketing in the SADC region.
“Given EMI’s worldwide reach, the ambition is to try get into other markets globally.” Asked whether he thinks the reception he received in South Africa is different from which he did while in Botswana.
“Unfortunately in Botswana our market still doesn’t fully understand and respect value in the entertainment industry. Promoters, agencies and other stakeholders would still rather opt for the cheaper act, than necessarily the better quality act. The audience has grown despondent and have branded all Botswana music and performance bad, which hurts even those individuals that put out great quality. It is like you are punished for selling a quality product because stakeholders place price over value. Whereas in South Africa the competitiveness means you don’t stand a chance if you aren’t bringing quality to stakeholders and audience alike. My time in that market is making me a better artist and entrepreneur.”
Asked if he would consider moving back to Botswana, Bantsi said that his relocation does not mean he would neglect his home market. He said that he is currently shooting a musical series pilot for his, “I Am,” developmental program using the sponsorship they got from the American Embassy.
“I still want to do more in Botswana and hope that our stakeholders start coming to the table so we stop going at it alone, which will increase Botswana’s impact on the African and international entertainment scene.”
Zeus said that those who would like to get in touch can contact his team at [email protected]
Commenting on the matter, BOMU Communications Manager, Pagson Ntsie, lamented lack of support and the lack of infrastructure.
He said that unlike in our motherland, South Africans budgets for the arts.
“They have annual shows that are sponsored by their municipalities and the department of arts and culture. The department has a performing arts budget.”