Name one local product, completely tswana-made – a product that exudes and epitomises the true essence of all things Setswana and contributes immensely to the positive growth of our nation (must be arts-inclined by the way). Our television adverts are lacking, borderline non-existent, our bill-boards are a visual nightmare, television shows are a pain to watch, radio shows are trying but are really centuries from reaching South African standards, our local producers are incompetency spelt backward (bet that is the one thing Apartheid got right – wince)…
I sat down and attempted to write a song in Setswana and well, conventionally – I failed – musically I was rather creative. It is a song with four words, very groovy and feel-good but if I was to explain what it meant, I would not know where to start. Typical of anyone, my age that is a ‘motswana’ and took French in high school because reading aloud in primary school had the whole class in stitches for two terrible minutes of your life – everyday – from Standard four to Standard seven – not cool.
The question, then or, answer depending on how you would want to phrase it – that is why Charmagirl, Slizer and all the others are selling. It is not because their strong command of our mother tongue or the deep meaning behind the song (count how many lines are in the song, which is 6 minutes long). It is due to the fact that there is a story being told, one that anyone can relate – Kulenyane – funny song about a husband that arrives home from the field and sees the foot steps that do not match his boot print leaving his house. He sends a warning that he knows who has been messing with his wife – Kulenyane – and ga a ka mo tshwara… hmmm…relating all this to my first point about originality – is the challenge a result from one monkey seeing and immediately doing what his fellow ape is doing. Think public pay phones, hot dogs stands, bo-mma seapei, print/copy shops… need I go on. It is a fungus that has spread fast into the arts industry, faster that it goes on toes – eeeuw.
Why are there no concrete market research tools that assess buying behaviour for these products which urban artists could benefit from. I would use the West as an example of imposed trends, but Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria, and South Africa are accelerating the ignorance, imitations being imitated and the kidnapping of our futures through the easy access to mass production - everyday. Granted I shop at machaeneng, not sure if I would buy music there though. It is legit, hologram and all, but it is an act of rebellion because the genre I would like to spend on is overpriced – if it is produced locally, the quality is horrible. Content, packaging, content, mastering quality and did I mention - content – is just too horrible.
On the other hand, as much as throwbacks, and chains, heavy low-lying denims are not local, look ridiculous on some negroes, I took the time to picture everyone around me walking around like the Culture Spears stage wear (you should give it a thought, especially when you are having a bad day ) - also known as traditional wear, and it was a somewhat different but not an acceptable picture.
Is there an implication that as I studied Paul Simon and Black Mambazo albums, wrote endless essays over Sarafina and Zakes Mda’s And the girls in their Sunday dresses, Peter Abrahams or Athol Fugard as primary sources – my daughter is going to study.. what? (couldn’t even think of a modern example) I am hoping Andreattah Chuma, Tjagwangwa Dema and Ngozi Chukura – not because I know and admire their work or that I will buy all their products, but rather because it is stocked in the libraries of her schools.
What is it that we want and how would we attempt to harness our style of music that is clearly sourced from various influences? Are we saying that I would sell more music if I sang in Setswana, never mind what I meant, than I wrote my songs in English, or Spanish or French? What makes Salif Keita, Youssou N’dour, Les Nubians, or Mozambiquan artists more appealing – 2face Idibia, Ice Prince or Oliver Mtukudzi more attractive to Batswana than local artists? I think it is because they are original. Are you an original artist? Think. Build. Be remembered. Still do you.