Tuesday, October 27, 2020

To hell with BOT50 as artists travel overseas

While other local artists and promoters continue to hang in there still hoping to nibble on the crumbs of what is left of the Bot50 cake, the Re-Batswana Music Ensemble (RBME) have set their sights overseas. 

In a move that demonstrates the Independence celebrations organisers’ failure to engage with local artists, RBME have sought to take their services to China, Germany, and Sweden over the course of September including on Independence Day.

The nation will be without some of the best jazz artists in the country including Nnunu Ramogotsi, Lister Boleseng, Ndingo Johwa, and Lekofi Sejeso come September 30.  

Although Streethorn Promotions Director Soares Katumbela insists the trip has nothing to do with the BOT50 snub, he admits they have never been engaged by the organisers for Independence celebrations.

He says experience has taught them that in order to get recognition from the government one has to be recognised beyond borders first. “We realize getting recognition from other countries is the only ticket to securing recognition here at home,” Katumbela told Lifestyle. 

He says artists feel more appreciated outside Botswana borders than within. Jazz artist, Kearoma Rantao shares Katumbela’s sentiments about artists’ treatment in Botswana. “Maybe our music does not appeal to their (BOT50) theme,” she says. “Or perhaps we should consider this to be feedback that we do not have what it takes as local artists.” 

Kearoma, whose most recent performance outside Botswana was in the US , says although she has contemplated selling herself solely as an artist because of her frustrations,  it has proven difficult to detach herself from her country.  She says she feels more appreciated across borders than she does at home. Like RBME, Kearoma also has plans to perform overseas during Independence Day.

The RBME is a colourful, spirited showcase of traditional, folk, Afro Jazz and modern music of Botswana presented in an enchanting musical. The ensemble is collectively led by Ramogotsi, Johwa and Sejeso, backed by Chedza Majwabe as the backing singer, Sakkie Nonong as the bassist, Andrew Chinganga on the saxophone, Kopano Mantswe on percussions and Leroy Nyoni on the drums. Audiences are transported firstly to ancient Tswana times through Accapella traditional songs, accompanied by clapping and dance, culminating in present day contemporary compositions that honour culturally inspired rhythms and expressions.The origin of the music and cultural exchange tour programme began in 2011 when producer Katumbela recognised the need and value in promoting local musicians abroad. 

Last year the band completed a successful tour of Sweden and Switzerland where they represented Batswana music and culture. The success of this tour has awarded RBME another opportunity to perform in China, Sweden and Germany. “As we prepare for the big tour RBME will be engaged in a number of performances to build momentum, share our journey with our country folk and raise funds for the mission,” Katumbela says. The performance at Gaborone International Music and Cultural week (GIMC) alongside Sereetsi & the Natives and Jonathan Butler on August 27 was part of their preparations. They also took part at the Dr. Kim’s Memorial Charity golf tournament in Selebi Phikwe on the July 30, 2016. 

RBME will host a farewell concert in Gaborone at Masa Square Hotel on September 17, 2016 before flying overseas two days later. Their activities will include a Gala Dinner (50th anniversary celebrations) hosted by the Botswana’s Ambassador to China in Beijing on September 23; a Music Workshop in Upplands Vasby (Sweden) on September 27; a performnace at Regina Theatre (Uppsala, Sweden) on September 28; a concert at Messingen Theatre (Upplands Vasby,Sweden); and Gala Dinner in Berlin (Germany), hosted by the Botswana Ambassador on September 30 (Botswana Independence Day). Their Europe, China tour is self-sponsored. They will return on October 5.

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The Telegraph October 28

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.