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Remembering jazz icon and trailblazer Katumbela

NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE
Katumbela was laid to rest last Saturday
September became a thorn in a lot of jazz music fanatics’ hearts after the industry lost an icon, a fighter, a legend and a force to reckon with. Not only did the country lose a good entertainer, it lost a loving and humble man. Mmegi correspondent NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE writes

Soares Kabumbela also known, as DJ SK was the jazz guru of all time whose passion and determination to grow the jazz industry in Botswana is visible from a distance.

Katumbela died aged 56, holding dearly a passion he developed in his early 20s. He was reported to have died in a burning car on Thursday, September 7 on the eve of the much-anticipated maiden Francistown Jazz Festival, a dream he has always held. Multitudes who flocked both his memorial service and funeral were a testimony of the man’s popularity. Many speakers described him as caring, humble, passionate, and a go-getter who was also patient and they vowed to keep his legacy and passion in grooming the jazz industry. According to Sidney Nzala, a member of Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA) also his nephew, music has always run in the family. He said his uncle was fond of a musical group called The Whispers in the early 1970s.

“The Good Old Song resonates to the people of Francistown. At the time, Francistown was a vibrant city. My uncle was one of the founders of Club Ritzmar, the club where legends were made. My uncle who became a local DJ at a tender age groomed some of the renowned DJs like DJ Fresh and others. The slogan The Beat Goes On defined the then Francistown,” he recalled. He said his uncle always spoke about the festival and that he chose to host the event at the old stadium because his intentions were to bring developments to the city.  “Uncle Soares wanted to move back to Francistown after the festival. He is a man who lived his life for music. He was a servant to this industry. He was an amazing individual. When I heard about how he departed, I asked myself how that was possible,” he said.

He further explained that Katumbela was initially an auto mechanic but he chose to follow music. “Lets not dwell on what if. Only he knows what happened on that day. God will reveal as he is the only one who knows what we don’t know,” he said. According to the deceased’s sister Elizabeth Muyengwa who spoke on behalf of the family, Katumbela was the sixth born.  “This is a painful day for us as I have lost my daughter 25 days ago. We are originally from Angola and were all born in Francistown. We were taught well by our parents and were members of Methodist Church. Our parents taught us the importance of family values. We believe that God’s will has been done,” she said emotionally. Joe Petro met Katumbela at Mater Spei College in the 70s as students, and would later introduce him to reggae music, festivals of which they would never miss. “Katumbela loved motor bikes and loved bike riding. He was a good rider. He influenced a lot of young people into riding,” he said. He was surprised when his friend shifted to jazz music, and becoming the pioneer jazz DJ in Francistown.

“I was surprised when Katumbela became a born again jazz fanatic. He was not playing any other, but jazz music. He played deep jazz. My friend even bought a saxophone and wanted to learn how to play it but I

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never saw it for a long time,” he said. He said he also brought jazz to Gaborone when it was not popular in the country’s capital city at the time opening jazz joints like JazzBrew and others. Georgina Sakarea from Duma FM described the deceased as a humble soul who was patient despite challenges he faced.  “Katumbela chose a very difficult career. When others chose to reap he chose to sow. We are gathered here for what he did for the music industry particularly jazz. Let his deeds not be downing. Katumbela was a dream chaser. We learnt a lot from him at Duma FM. He was passionate about radio and jazz,” she said. The president of BEPA Zenzele Hirschfield said a black cloud had fallen on the entertainment industry in Botswana after it lost great artists. “Katumbela was my campaign manager. He had a way of bringing different personalities, character, and talent, making them one. He was a symbol of hope, beauty and music. He represented a touch of Botswana music. Katumbela had been bestowed with another award in July during the President’s Day awards. BEPA will always be home as it was created by an icon also a music giant,” she said sadly. Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness Phillip Makgalemele who is the patron of BEPA said Katumbela was the master of music. “We must learn a lot from his life and make something of our lives. Music industry, more especially the promotion side is vital in our lives. I urge his family to write a book that shows the entertainment sector of our country and “Soares” contribution to the local music industry must be highlighted in that book. We will continue supporting the family and I agree that this show must go on,” he said. According to Beata Kasale of The Voice newspaper, Katumbela was a resilient person whose death shocked many. “For a man that has done so much for the local jazz music he passed on in a painful way. We may never know what happened that day, but I know he was frustrated,” she said. Kasale further said that many artists support their families through showbiz and Katumbela suffered many setbacks.

 

Katumbela’s role in music industry

Before he died, Katumbela was awarded the Presidential Award for Best in Mentorship for Performing Arts during the President’s Day award in July. He was awaiting Presidential Certificate of Honour award on Independence.  As a promoter, he coordinated and managed art, music and culture for various artists and launched Ndingo Johwa at Maitisong for his first album and gave him his first gig at Oodi Lodge. He also promoted and assisted Lister Boleseng, Abraxas Band, and managed jazz artists such as Shanti Lo and Nnunu Ramogotsi.

He worked with a lot of Botswana artists who performed around and abroad. He promoted shows featuring among others Steve Dyer, Hugh Masikela, Oliver Mtukudzi, late Sipho Gumede and others.

He operated The Village Gate, Jazz Brew and Club Take 5, Dukes Jazz Club and Santana nightclub. He was also the ambassador for showcasing Botswana music culture abroad when he toured Sweden with Shanti Lo and John Selolwane and later Nnunu Rammogotsi. He was also the founder and patron of BEPA.



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