Billed as Three Tswana Tenors, Setso Kgabung, Boyce Batlang and Tshepiso Gaborone had stood regally under Maitisong’s limelight last September. In bedazzling white suits, the young men made a pleasing debut, singing Nessun Dorma, O Sole Mio and other tenor range staples.
They had, however, struck a contradictory youthful and leisurely disposition a few days earlier, as I gave Boyce and Tshepiso a pre-show interview, between last minute rehearsals and preparations.
We met again last Wednesday, sans Setso Kgabung, who had family business to attend to. The tenors exhibited the same youthful abandon as they spoke of last years hectic concert preparations, partying to the contentious Sister Bertina hit song during the festive season then almost immediately and simultaneously harmonising to Nessun Dorma.
A few days earlier, they have finalised negotiations and inked their contract with Small House Records to record three albums in three years, a contract that will also require Small House to distribute their albums. The young men seem to possess more ingenuity than their disposition lets on.
“They chose the classical recordings over going the theatre route,” David Slater, the tenors’ mentor and manager pointed out, “The theatre option,” he continued, “is quite challenging to get into for Batswana youngsters, because it requires arduous auditions to get into tertiary operatic training centres and opera houses.”
Instead, the young men, whose operatic talent was discovered by Choral and Classical music aficionado, Reggie Kopi, decided to brand themselves as Three Tswana Tenors at various corporate events, and to differentiate themselves from droves of ‘Three Tenors,’ by singing mainly in Setswana. “We are currently searching for a lyricist to translate some of our ‘Three Tenors’ standards, we are also looking for exceptional Setswana compositions to record,” Boyce said.
“There has never been a Classical recording artist in Botswana that we could use as a yardstick,” Small House Records manager, Sidney Baitsile, who is also the debut album’s project manager, told The Sunday Standard this past Friday, “Based on the following the Three Tswana Tenors have garnered over the period of three years that they have performed, which is actually more than the average kwaito or hip hop artist, signing them on is a high risk investment we are willing to take,” he said.
“Botswana can do classical,” Baitsile continued, “and by singing in Setswana, they may appeal to the international world music audience.”
“There has been an increase in appreciation for operatic singing in Botswana in the past few years,” David Slater observed, “We don’t expect the Tswana Tenors to sell like Vee, but we expect descent sales,” Slater concluded.
Near year end, Setso, Tshepiso and Boyce hope to release their debut album, which includes translation of Three Tenor songs, and original compositions in Setswana, some Italian opera standards all recorded with a full orchestra.
“It’s still early days yet, we will source suitable orchestra and conductor to work on the material for the album,” David Slater concluded.
Despite Small House Records’ hallowed quality, the Tswana Tenors material is to be recorded in South Africa because, Baitsile explained, “Our studios are not big enough to accommodate a grand piano alongside a full orchestra,” (and a possible choir as mentioned by the young tenors).
“We will seek out a studio acoustically appropriate to record classical music,” Baitsile concluded.